How Social Anxiety Impacted My Life
For as long as I could remember, I’ve been hypersensitive. If I were misbehaving and a parent or babysitter spoke to me harshly I would break down in tears.
“Stop all that crying before I give you something to cry about!” I never understood that logic but I figured I better do something quick to hide my emotions. Entering into my teenage years caused my sensitivity to enhance with the help of those wonderful hormones I couldn’t control. Also being tall for my age and the only black girl in my grade at a majority white school caused me to stand out when all I wanted was to blend in.
After every conversation, I replayed the discussion in my mind to see how I could have said it better or if the other person was mad at me for saying something wrong. At times I would call and apologize for no reason. The fear that someone was upset with me or I was a disappointment would cause loss of sleep.
Social anxiety is commonly misunderstood and therefore many people with this anxiety choose to use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate before entering social settings.
After I graduated high school I knew I wanted to own an art gallery to display amazing artwork; helping art lovers and artists connect. This dream wouldn’t be a reality if I hadn’t overcome my anxieties.
Here is what I did.
First, I made the decision to act in-spite of my fears. I could’ve used excuses such as I’m shy or this is how I am. No, I believe we have the power to evolve every day.
Second, I took action. Waking up with the goal of speaking to a stranger at the checkout counter or restaurant bar. Also, attending social events alone with the mission to meet one new person.
This was not easy, at times I felt a lump in my throat and when I tried to talk my voice cracked.
Before long, I realized that all my fears were in my head and I wasn’t going to die or get yelled at for starting a conversation with a stranger. I also learned I didn’t need to use alcohol to relax and be myself.
This didn’t happen overnight. Every day I made the conscious effort to keep trying no matter how I felt and soon the discomfort subsided.
At times, I’ll continue to have a moment where I over analyze a situation but I’m proud I’m not frozen. I recognize it’s happening and adjust accordingly.
Three steps you can take to overcome social anxiety:
In a social setting, focus on your surroundings. Redirect the negative self-talk and concentrate on the fashion other people are wearing or admire the art or decorations of a room. If outside, deeply inhale the smell of the grass, flowers or fresh air.
Take an interest in others by asking questions and sincerely listen. It’s hard to worry about what people think of you when you’re discovering their interests and hobbies.
If you need to step away from the group to practice positive self-talk, go for it!
I’ve stepped into the ladies room and admired something that gave me a boost of confidence. “Carla, you are rocking those heels” I take a minute to smile and come out the ladies room prepared to mingle.
About the author:
Carla Bisong is the owner of Bisong Art Gallery located in downtown Houston Texas. She enjoys sharing her passion for art and self-improvement. Carla and her staff share a mission of making art accessible to everyone and providing a space for self-expression to thrive.