Growing up in secondary school, I was the life of every conversation. I hardly thought before I spoke and I didn’t care about the consequences of my words. I was a care free child. I could fit into any social environment with no problems at all.
In the last three years, I saw a major change in myself socially. I’m a major believer in believing in your gut feelings and I’ve always been the type to read someone before opening up to them. I had noticed opening up to anyone was becoming almost impossible. Although a whole load of people know me or at least know who I am, I felt like no one really knew me for who I was. And not opening up to anyone was not helping at all.
This wasn’t a problem with people I already knew & was close with, but anyone new I’d meet – I’d literally not know what to say. I mean, what do you say to someone you know nothing about; right? I already hated small talk. Why ask how someone is if you know everyone always says they’re ‘fine’ or ‘good’, even if they’re in the worst mood. And I knew it was good manners to ask, so I always did. But the answers to the same question never did change, and I think when your uninterested it shows. It felt like the more anxious I became speaking to someone the more anxious I got because I was thinking too much about what to say – its the worst feeling ever.
It was never a confidence problem; I mean I think I have enough of that. And that’s where my problem started to grow. I had confidence. You could tell by the way I dress and even by the way I walked, but I didn’t know how to talk to anyone! So of course people thought I was stuck up, rude and that I ‘thought I was too nice’.
Over the years I’ve calculated (through different jobs and meeting people) it takes around a year to really get to know me or to get close to me. I know people who are an open book and you can get to know them in around an hour.
And this is something that I never had a problem with a work. I can hold meetings; speak to directors, lead projects, and no problem. But take me to a networking event? Let’s just say I would end up leaving early.
How I defeated this problem? I haven’t completely yet. I still sometimes feel uncomfortable during conversations. BUT I have a way around it that usually works. I see it like a game. Everyone’s brain in a puzzle. I find the way people work very interesting so I’m very good at getting people to talk about themselves. I ask questions, I give my view point on their opinion. Simple. I’ve also become a lot more comfortable speaking about myself. I’ve learnt to smile. And meditation is a life saver!
And the funniest thing is most people didn’t even know I suffered from this. My social anxiety isn’t as bad as some people’s. I would never describe myself as shy, but it’s still there and it’ still bothers my day to day life. It’s something I still plan to work on within myself. And I plan to update you guys along the way.
Thank you for reading!