Why Am I Like This?
Why Can't I Have Friends and Feel Comfortable Hanging Out With Them?
I’m going to share my history of having social anxiety, learning to overcome it, and living a much happier life with more opportunities afterwards.
I would say middle school is when I started to notice a kind of nervous energy about myself in different situations at school. I would have a fast heart rate and sweat when finding a place to sit at lunch, or when deciding what to do at recess and who to hang out with.
High school came around and I seemed to be even quieter than I was in middle school. I didn’t think I had normal shyness because I noticed shy people seemed to have a calmer demeanor about them, and could just live in their own worlds and not be concerned with what others thought of them, but whenever I tried to do that it didn’t work.
I noticed the people around me having fun, and it seemed to come so naturally to them. The fact that it didn’t come naturally to me made me frustrated, and even though I tried to be more social and relaxed I just couldn’t seem to calm down in social encounters.
I was 17 and halfway through my junior year of high school when I ordered Dr. Richards' audio series, “Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step”. I was relieved to have discovered that the horrible symptoms I suffered from had been understood, and that there were others suffering the same things.
The CBT was not difficult to do, and I actually looked forward to doing it every day, as it calmed me down after a stressful day at school. I started to catch negative thoughts I had, and do anything I could to focus on other things. I learned how to calm my body down and do the opposite of what it was telling me to do when anxiety came around. I kept at this, and slowly began talking to people more often. I made small conversations whenever I could.
After graduating high school, I attended a community college and it seemed to go alright. I wasn’t super outgoing, but I did make a friend or two in my classes and did some homework together with them. I wasn’t calm enough to really just “hang out” and do purely social things with them at this time yet, though. I felt what was holding me back was an environment where I could be free to “test things out” and be more social, without risk of negative consequences.
That summer I applied for the International Group to work on the behavioral components more, and this really gave me the boost I needed. I learned to focus and listen to others in conversations better, make small talk, and calm down my stress and bodily anxiety in all kinds of different social situations. Hanging out with a group of 7 other people who had the same goal every day helped out a great deal. Engaging in social activities every day was a good experience, and I learned how to only expose myself to small feared situations when I was ready for them, in a step by step manner.
By practicing speaking in front of the group every day, I could physically FEEL my body experiencing less and less anxiety, whether it was reading something out loud to the group or introducing myself to others in a circle. I was becoming “ok” with doing these things, to the point where I started to actually look forward to “practicing” them each day. This provided me with a great boost and I went back to college and was able to make new friends, slowly engage in more social things, etc… it wasn’t all roses and rainbows, as nothing in life works magically like that, but I definitely felt myself getting better each day and engaging in more social things all the time.
If it weren’t for attending this international group, I don’t think I would have been able to get to the point I am at today, where I am in a community service group at the university with lots of friends, attend parties with them, and enjoy myself when hanging out with them. I was able to finish up my degree and graduate college, because having less anxiety allowed me to focus on my studies and future career and not be so worried about it. I would definitely recommend attending the international behavioral group if you can, as it will give you the tools you need to meet any future challenges social anxiety may pose in your lives.