Does this resonate with anyone? - Social Anxiety Forum
 
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-08-2021, 03:50 PM Thread Starter
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Does this resonate with anyone?


So I'm not sure if I'm posting this in the right place. But I've been a lurker on these types of forums since I discovered them as a teenager. I just turned 24 a few days ago and this will be my first time actually posting anything. So, hi everybody, and hello fellow lurkers.

Like so many people whose stories I've read on here and other places, my social anxiety has been something I've struggled with since childhood. It's such a familiar part of my life it's tempting to just think of it as a part of my personality. I'm a quiet person. I'm an introvert. But I'm sure you know just how crippling true social anxiety can be. Especially when you refuse to acknowledge it by using euphemisms like introvert, when you know full well it's nothing so benign.

What I'm really talking about here is denial. If I'm being honest with myself, avoidance and denial are pillars I've built my life on. They are the source and the root of almost everything I'm struggling with, including my social anxiety. It takes courage to look yourself in the eye and ask "What kind of person am I?" Maybe that's why so many of us struggle with eye contact. I've never liked the definition of social anxiety as an intense fear of embarrassment. For me it's the intense fear of being seen as I truly am.

It's much deeper than embarrassment. It's an inherent and pervasive sense of shame about being the person I am. It's not so much something that can be caused by social situations as it is unleashed by them. It's like being stripped naked by everyone you meet. And then feeling guilty that you're the only one without clothes.

It sounds silly because it is silly. Absurdity is a constant fact of life when living with this anxiety. I've been working at the same job now for over 3 years now specifically because it doesn't require me to socialize. And yet today is the first day in recent memory that I didn't hide in the bathroom stall until everyone else finished washing their hands, or skip my lunch just because there was someone else in the breakroom.

I'm not sure why I've been able to have these small ridiculous wins today. Part of it is the new year and my birthday being so close together. I always get an extra burst of energy this time of year, the small hope of reinventing myself for good this time around. But that's not to say there isn't a deep and strong undercurrent of pessimism and self-loathing beneath that. The fact is I don't trust myself.

I have far too much experience with the ebbs and flows of my emotions, my motivations-- let's just call it what it is, my depression-- to really trust that change is possible. Like I've hinted at already, this is extremely difficult for me to talk about. My instinct, my coping mechanism really, is always to dance around the actual issues, or to deny they exist. Even to myself.

But even though all of this is very hard to talk about, I feel strongly that these things need to be said and said in the right way. But at the same time, the desire to say things just right, that perfectionism, is a huge part of what's kept me silent for so long. It's interesting because I see the dichotomy there.

I'm simultaneously paralyzed by shame, which is the certainty that I'm not good enough, and the fear of failure. Why would I be afraid of failing if I already believe I'm not good enough? Failing shouldn't be so scary if it's just proving something I already believe about myself. So it's absurd. Beyond that, it's delusional.

The only reason I've been able to live this way for so long is denial, avoidance, and escapism. But it's not working. I don't want to live this way anymore. I read a quote that says at some point the pain of change becomes less than the pain of staying the same. Something like that. So for once I want to let myself feel the pain of staying the same. I don't want to deny and avoid it anymore. It's exhausting to be so terrified of catching a glimpse of who I really am, to always be jumping at my own shadow. And it's lonely.

There's an element of shouting into the void here posting on a forum like this. But I guess I just want to know if this resonates with anyone. There's so much that needs to be said. So many untold stories that make me who I am and how I got here. We all have stories to tell.

I guess I just need someone to talk to who understands.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-08-2021, 04:31 PM
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Welcome, silvermouse. You bring up a lot of interesting points, it's too bad you haven't been posting until now.

I don't usually think about it, but it's true that I fear being seen accurately as much as I fear being seen inaccurately. And I don't even hate myself. It's just so unnerving to actually express myself in a genuine way that allows other people to respond and form opinions that I can't escape. If humans were telepathic and all the misunderstandings and difficulties of phrasings were removed so everyone could just see the contents of each other's minds, it would actually be even more terrifying than it is now and I'd be wearing a tinfoil hat all the time.

The problem for me has always been finding a balance that works. The reason I didn't talk to anybody in school, or that I've never talked to my neighbors, wasn't that I couldn't handle a few conversations -- it was that nobody can get away with just a few conversations in that environment, once you speak you're required to continue speaking every day for years. I couldn't find a balance where I could participate without being swept away, so I opted out. And that's how it goes with a lot of things, I don't believe I can do them in a balanced controlled way so I opt out rather than risk becoming too exposed.

Maybe it's not that change is impossible. Maybe it's that change would be terrifyingly easy, and that's why we won't risk it -- because we want only little tiny safe changes, not to be swept into a torrent of change we can't control which leaves us exposed to the whims of other people and chance.

Play The Social Anxiety Game

"Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'" ― Kurt Vonnegut
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-08-2021, 09:56 PM
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Yes. Oh yeah and that quote about change is from Anais Nin.

The denial can be intense with SA. Like, we’re so busy just trying to get through “normal” life tasks that we don’t stop to think “Wow, SA has taken a huge hit on my life.” We don’t grapple with the reality because it hurts too much. So we cover reality with excuses, changing the subject, minimization, endless distractions, etc. Even with language itself. For example, when I was in therapy, instead of saying “I have no friends” I would say “I don’t have a social life.” It lessened the embarrassment somehow. In your post you mention the feeling of being naked and vulnerable... I think... this is what SA is. We’re scared to let anyone see the real us. We’re scared to reveal anything about ourselves that would make us look “bad.”

Also, welcome to the forum.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-09-2021, 03:09 AM
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Great post. And welcome to the forum.

Quote:
Originally Posted by silvermouse View Post
I've never liked the definition of social anxiety as an intense fear of embarrassment. For me it's the intense fear of being seen as I truly am.
I think SAD is better understood as a particular strategy for dealing with being seen. (In this case, not being seen.)

I think that for a person to be mentally healthy, they need at least two things: they need to be seen as they truly are, and who they truly are has to meet with acceptance (by at least one other person). The first is necessary because it's only when we are seen as we truly are that we can experience a real connection with another person. It's the only way we can avoid feeling isolated and alone. Being seen as something that we aren't (being misunderstood) fails to create this connection, which is why you can be alone in a crowd. You can know a lot of people and still be invisible. If no one at all knows who you are, you can start to feel unreal and like you don't even exist. This is why this:

 




is the basis of all romance, and partly why romance has become a "religion" in our culture.

I would go so far as to say that it is better to be seen as you truly are, even if what you truly are doesn't meet with approval, than to be invisible. It is better, from a mental health standpoint, to be known and disapproved of than to not be known at all. But it takes some people a long time to figure that out. I know this issue from the inside, as it were, because this is exactly the predicament LGBTQ people are in. You can only stay in the closet for so long before being in the closet becomes toxic for your mental health. At some point, almost everyone in the closet snaps and "comes out", because they would rather be seen and hated than invisible and completely cut off from everyone else. (Ofc, being alive is even more important than being seen, so people will stay in the closet if they think coming out will lead to actual death.)

I don't think a person can be healthy or happy if no one sees who they truly are, so hiding from other people isn't a solution. That's why people come to a place like this to tell the truth about themselves. They wouldn't do that if there wasn't a very strong psychological need. They just wouldn't bother to say anything. What they're looking for, ofc, is acceptance. They want to be understood. They want people to say it's okay for them to be them. Because if they can find even one person who thinks it's okay for them to be exactly what they are, it makes it possible for them to give themselves permission to be exactly what they are. And you can only be mentally healthy when you are capable of being exactly what you are and being okay with it.

Exposing yourself on an anonymous forum (as you have done) helps meet this need, but it isn't terribly satisfying, either. It's like trying to live on nothing but bread and water. For real health and happiness, I think people need at least one real relationship IRL with a person who knows and accepts them. I think there are probably physiological reasons for this. This is why therapy (with a good therapist) helps people. A therapist is a person you can tell your truth to who will accept you as you are. (That's the ideal, anyway.) Unfortunately, it takes a long time for most people to develop a real relationship with a therapist, so most therapy doesn't provide this kind of benefit. (You won't get it from brief CBT therapy, for example.) This is also why support groups benefit many people.

This is also why having a true friend is so important. Most people don't need to go to therapists because they know at least one person they can be (at least mostly) honest with (for a lot of people, especially men, that's their spouse). Being seen by that person, and being accepted, allows them to accept themselves, and that self-acceptance helps them avoid developing psychological disorders. This is partly why you see a strong correlation between social isolation and mental illness. This is also why people can spontaneously overcome disorders without therapy. They just manage to meet someone IRL who could provide that support. (This all ties back in to attachment theory.)

Ofc, this is a gross simplification, and it's all actually quite tricky in practice. For example, a lot of people have very distorted self-concepts, and it's often necessary to work through those distortions before they give themselves permission to be themselves. Just being seen and accepted isn't always enough on its own.

Beauty isn't everything. It's the only thing.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-09-2021, 02:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silvermouse View Post
It's an inherent and pervasive sense of shame about being the person I am.
Preach! I really do think that, at the very heart of my SAD, is the unconscious belief that I'm not good enough or somehow "lesser" than other people. That being truly 100% authentically myself is somehow the worst thing there is to be. Almost to the point where anything that becomes associated or affiliated with me becomes "tainted" by my inherent badness. That's the best way I can explain it. Obviously I don't consciously believe that, but the unconscious mind is a powerful thing. And I am working very hard to improve it.

I used to be a lurker myself until a month or so ago. Trust me, I know it's easier to lurk and not have to open your mouth, just like in real-life social situations. Thank you for having the courage to post!
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