The door is open; he’s waiting for me to walk through it. I walk through it quickly, avoiding eye contact and mutter a barely audible “thanks”. Through his eyes, I am the rude girl who he opened the door for this morning, the one who barely acknowledged his existence.
But through my eyes, I am battling the nerves that accompany all my social interactions, the fear I get when attention is placed on me or when I have to make eye contact with another person. I have put up the facade of not caring because in my mind it’s better to look rude than embarrass myself.
Many people who live with social anxiety are seen as rude and standoffish or unapproachable. From the perspective of an outsider this is understandable, sometimes I act as if I don’t want anybody to approach me. I will cancel plans last minute or reject your invitations; I don’t speak up in conversations and ignore you when I see you in the streets. All these things make people think I don’t care but it’s the opposite I care too much. I fear that everything I say will come out wrong and every action I take will be embarrassing.
I cancel plans or reject invitations because sometimes just the thought of going to a party or social gathering fills my body with dread. To you, it may seem like a fun time, but to me, I have to be “on”, I have to be social and try to paste a smile on my face. I have to do this all while battling a storm of nerves inside and anxiety that crawls up my throat. Many times when I do accept your invitation I’ll take the smile off and sit in the corner munching on snacks, only giving one-word answers. Then you think why did you come if I wasn’t going to interact with you or anybody else at the party for that matter? I’m not ignoring you but sometimes going to that party or making that call takes the energy and courage that I don’t have.
When I ignore people or brush them off or just seem uninterested in socializing many take it as an offense. I’m sorry more often than not actions are not a reflection of my feelings towards you but of my own insecurity. For us to be friends you need to have patience and persistence to truly see me. I would rather avoid social interaction than be rejected and that is why I’m seem as cold and standoffish. Yet, to all my friends or potential friends just give time and please keep inviting me out even when I say no and please keep sending that text message, it makes a world of difference.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of social anxiety, there are lots of resources to help. To learn more about social anxiety disorder, please click here. For more detailed information, you can download the NHS Shyness and Social anxiety help-book here. For more immediate support, please see your GP as soon as possible.