Social Anxiety and Social Awkwardness

AnxietyIf you met me in person, you’d never know that I struggled with social anxiety or what I’ve deemed social awkwardness.

I’m a pretty quiet and shy person at first but the more you get to know me, the more you get to love me! (Just kidding about the latter.) In all seriousness, the more I become comfortable in certain social situations or a group of people, I can be loud, outgoing, silly (zany if you’d like!), bubbly, and full of energy.

After close to a year of being at my current place of employment, I have yet to be fully comfortable. My personality comes out in short bursts but then I get quiet, withdraw, and “shut down,” keeping to myself and avoiding interaction with my coworkers if I can help it.

I assume—I don’t know for sure—that they have judged me negatively and for whatever reason don’t like me. In a previous post, I tossed around a couple of social situations where I felt like this before. I invent all sorts of reasons in my head:

  • I’m a freak
  • I’m a weirdo
  • I don’t interact much with them
  • I don’t have an immediate warm, outgoing personality
  • I don’t dress very fashionably
  • I have nervous habits that they probably don’t like
  • I am all-around irritating, grating, and annoying in some manner that I don’t know of

Most people struggle with this kind of thing without any real basis. My fear used to be completely unfounded and after the incident at my previous job, I am plagued by thoughts of social anxiety and awkwardness tenfold. I don’t know what I did at my last job to rub my coworkers the wrong way but I wish I knew so I could try to work on it and cut it out. Vague references of “immature” and “annoying” don’t help me much.

So here I throw out the detailed descriptions of social anxiety and social awkwardness. The first one was developed by the NIMH; the second is my own invention built off of the social anxiety description.

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Social Awkwardness revisited

I’m attempting to overcome social awkwardness but it’s something that I’m still dealing with. I’ve renamed it “social anxiety.” I mentioned it to my diagnosis to my doctor — OK, I admit — hoping for medication. You know what he prescribed?

CBT. (sigh) I was hoping for dulled emotions.

When I took Lexapro, my emotions were so dulled that I didn’t care much about anything. It was frustrating but within my fogginess, it was freeing to not worry about what people thought of me. Unfortunately, Lamictal doesn’t have that effect on me. So while my mixed-mood, manic, and depressive episodes are under control, my anxieties about social situations persist. I’m still paralyzed by what occurred at my last job.

I struggle with a variety of things:

  1. If others are speaking in hushed voices, I worry that they’re talking about me.
  2. When I don’t get invited to events, I think they’re purposely excluding me.
  3. If I respond to mass emails at work, I wonder whether they start shooting emails to each other behind my back, talking about how much of a loser I am.
  4. In the midst of a conversation, I wonder if my thoughts are coherent and if they understood what I was trying to say in the midst of my stutter. (I only have mild stuttering around people I don’t know or am not comfortable with. Selective stutterism?)
  5. If I’m in a conversation with acquaintances and mention something that I have heard or know of, I worry that they think I’m a “know-it-all.”
  6. Because I often walk with my head down and a serious look on my face, people probably think I’m weird.
  7. Because I have occasional bursts of talkativeness but seem mostly quiet, my coworkers probably think I’m odd. (I’m only gregarious with people I know or am comfortable with.)
  8. If I say something, I immediately wonder if it was a stupid thing to say.
  9. I’m not that interesting so there’s no point in talking to other people. (How egocentric.)
  10. There’s no sense in inviting people to lunch  because that would give me the potential to humiliate myself and get them to dislike me. (Once again, narcissistic.)

I’m likely no different than the majority of people. The difference between those who struggle with social awkwardness and other people is how these situations are handled.

I came across a post from The Simple Dollar on Seven Ways to Overcome Social Awkwardness. Fear holds me back from actually employing these things (something else I need to work on), but let me know if any of those principles actually work for you.

Social Awkwardness

Being smart hardly puts people in the most popular situation. My geekiness gained me more enemies than friends. (Oddly enough, my rival Danielle turned into one of my good friends shortly after fifth grade.) Another friend I’d had since first grade — a person I’d considered my best friend — spread vicious rumors around school about me and caused me trouble with parents and college guys when I was at 12 years old. The unfolding years became no better as teasing from classmates and soon, teachers, intensified. By high school, I shut myself off from other people and making new friends. I built an armor of self-rejection around myself so the darts of rejection thrown at me could not pierce my skin. I continued to hope that my intelligence would garner social points but I quickly learned that my popularity immensely increased with tests and quizzes and then sharply declined until the next time. My social awkwardness continues to this day — in my head, I overanalyze the implications of a new friendship or conjure reasons why a stranger probably dislikes me. Such is the life of a perfectionistic, socially awkward, depressed person.