The Forgotten Quality

Hi Friends!

Today we’re going to talk about social anxiety! Yay!!! Because I don’t talk about that enough on here… or something.

I don’t know how familiar you are with the concept of social anxiety, er social anxiety disorder (SAD)–I usually just say social anxiety even though that’s longer than its abbreviation, but whatever–but if you need a quick briefing: social anxiety is, essentially, like it sounds–feelings of anxiousness in social settings. But there’s more to it than that. A lot more. But in recent months, as I’ve become more open about my social anxiety, I’ve gotten the impression that people don’t see all parts of the picture, don’t realize why social situations make the socially anxious so socially anxious in the first place.

It’s not always new situations. It’s not always new people. It’s not always scrounging for something even remotely intriguing to say. And it certainly isn’t hating social situations or people or conversing. Though all these things are known for raising levels of discomfort for the anxious. No. Rather, the true trigger of our bouts of social anxiety (for me, anyway), is the judgment. The judgment that takes place in those new situations, from those new people, after saying those “intriguing” things. The judgement, er, the fear of judgment is what ultimately triggers my discomfort in social situations. The fear of judgment is the aspect of social anxiety that is so real and inescapable, yet is often the aspect that is most forgotten.

Sure, most anyone can feel a bit anxious in new situations with new people–that’s “normal”. Being unsure of what to say sometimes, that can be “normal”. And even worrying about what others think is “normal”. Great, yeah, I get it. Solidarity in not being alone with this anxiety, right? Okay… But is it “normal” to feel this way with family I live with (with whom I live 🙂 )? Close friends, who undeniably support me no matter what? People I’ve known most of if not all of my life? These aren’t new people or extremely new situations. Still with me? Or, how about this:

Just the other day I was putting together a late dinner for myself in our kitchen as my Mom was getting ready to leave for work. As I’m preparing my food for eating, I see her body stop and stand still, facing my direction. The more normal aspect of me assumes she wants to tell me something while anxious self assumes she’s totally making fun of the way I’m prepping my food. Either way, I turn to her and ask, “What?” She’s looking down at my food with an amused smile on her face and just says, “Nothing.” Her nonverbal communication tells me all I need to know; my anxiety fears are completely confirmed. I’m eating too muchI’m not letting my food cool down long enoughI’m doing everything wrong. So, again, let me ask how about now? Would you feel the same way in this situation? Have the same thought process?

I’m not trying to turn this into an “I-have-social-anxiety-and-can-be-the-only-one-I’m-so-unique” tirade. That’s not it at all (Side note: there’s my social anxiety right here–I’m worried about how my dear readers are judging me. If I’m coming on too strong, defensive. You see?). But I mean, how many people are likely to feel this same way in this situation (to some degree)? Worrying about what their mother is thinking of them and their cooking ability as they prepare a meal for one? Actually, that’s probably a bad example. I suspect this has potential to be sort of universal. I mean, don’t we all want to impress our moms with phenomenal cooking abilities? Let’s try something a little less so. How many of you worrying about what other people think of you? Worry that everyone in the room is watching you, judging your every move?Worry the waiter thinks you’re incompetent when you stumble over your order? Worry about your friend’s comment on our tardiness days after the accusation was made? As far as I know, these aren’t regular thoughts for most people. But, oh, for the socially anxious, these are very real and very regular (though I suspect the degree of worrying depends upon the person).

Social anxiety is so, so much more than the basic fear of people and new things and social interaction. So much more. And I hope you Friends begin to realize that if you haven’t already…

So, the next time you see or hear some socially anxious-related blip along the lines of:

 

SAD_Funny1

That’s not totally true… It’s more of a dislike as to how you feel when people talk to you. There’s a difference!

Know that that’s not the whole story. There are reasons behind the apparent nervousness and refusal to attend social events and talk to people. Now, if you want to get down to the science behind this–why we think this way–I don’t have an answer for that. But I can tell you it’s not a conscious choice. I don’t choose to think this way–it just kind of happens. And it’s not something that can be easily reversed. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing. Maybe that’ll be my basis for next week’s post, if I haven’t bored you already…

Social anxiety for the win!!! …Right?

 

Oh, That’s Not Normal? I Guess I’ll Go… Question My Actions Now…

What is “normal” anyway? That’s a pretty subjective term, anyway. Reminds me of that joke about society urging people to be themselves, and then when they become brave enough to do so, are judged for it… because it’s not “normal”. You’re probably wondering what I’m talking (writing) about, what evoked this train of thought. Well…

I was at work, and had taken a break to talk to a co-worker (GASP! Shocking I know…) and as is per usual in human conversation, I was asked about my plans for that day after work.

Ever since I came home from Italy, I’ve been making the effort to be a better daughter/sister/friend/worker/etc. (if you recall my Selfishness post) by my standards. Part of this involves hanging out with my dear younger brother. Now, we’ve gotten closer over the years as he’s gotten older and so we would hang out (watch movies, take walks, play cards, etc.) pretty regularly. But after I began college, I wasn’t around as much to do that. And when I was home, I was often too busy to spend much time with him–especially recently as I finished finals and have begun to move closer and closer to graduation and all that entails. So basically for me being a full-time student and devoted sister-friend doesn’t always work out. But with moving home and having time off of school, I planned for things to change.

Even with my jobs, I do have a bit of free time some days. And on those more open days, I leave my free time free for my dearest, now 15-year-old (yikes) brother, for whatever he wants to do (if he wants to do anything in particular, sometimes he doesn’t, but it’s nice to have that option 🙂 ). Anyways, the particular day I was asked about my after-work plans was an open-Max-hang-out day. I related a condensed version of the above while another co-worker entered the conversation and listened. When it became clear I was finished talking I was met with a comment along the lines of “Not many 15-year-olds want to hang out with their college-age sisters.”

Now, the comment wasn’t unkind; in fact, if what communication expertise I’ve gathered from my studies were any indication, I’d say the remark was made with admiration. Like what I’m doing is just so worthwhile… yet, different.

Different_Ash

Fantastic Mr. Fox… Anyone?

I don’t remember how I responded. But I remember my internal reaction–a jumble of thoughts flew through my head at once: Why not? Why wouldn’t a younger kid want to hang out with their older sibling? Is that not something siblings do? Not at this age? Should my younger brother not want to hang out with me? Is this not considered normal? This was one of those instances where I was so used to a certain aspect of my life, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of another reality.

What if? What if my brother weren’t who I know him to be? What if we didn’t have the bond we do? Didn’t spend time together like we do? Anything aside from what I have now didn’t occur to me, and that was so grounding, gratifying. What if I didn’t have what I have now? Had something else? I don’t know how things would be different, but I know there would be pros and cons to the situation just as there are in my current sibling bond. I think you know where I’m going with this, and I think you know it’s going to be terribly cliché but c’mon, I can’t not; even with all the rough patches–including a rather field-y patch at that–I wouldn’t change a thing. Because, let’s be honest, my brother nor I nor all the other individuals close in his life would not be the same if he were different.

“The crisis might be what sticks in my mind, but the in-between moments are the ones I would not have missed for the world.” –Jodi Picoult, House Rules

So yes, admiring co-worker, maybe 15-year-olds don’t typically hang out with college-age siblings. Maybe it’s not normal. But mine does. And it’s my normal. And we have a pretty smashing time. You know, most of the time…

Love your siblings. And your parents–particularly your father today, as society demands. But if you remember my Mother’s Day comment, don’t show appreciation for loved ones just on their acclaimed holiday, but everyday–explicitly and implicitly… in your own way. Happy Father’s Day (if applicable). 🙂

Also, is anyone impressed by abilities to cram the weirdest, opposing references into my posts? I think it’s my new talent…