Social anxiety is commonly mistaken for shyness. Even if you Google definitions of ‘social anxiety’, you’ll see that there.
People who have social anxiety have a fear of being judged negatively by their peers, so they tend to be quiet.
I can’t make mistakes if I don’t speak.
But I’m not shy. I’ve even been told that I’m a social butterfly, though I don’t know that I agree with that.
The fact is, I know people. On the outside, I’m not afraid to talk to people. On the inside, I’m a hot mess, but on the outside, I seem like a confident person.
Today I want to talk about that conflict: what it’s like to appear confident, while actually being the complete opposite.
First, my children give me confidence. When I’m with them, I am a mom first, and someone who suffers anxiety second.
I don’t know if this is the maternal instinct taking over, but that’s how it is.
This means that I have an easier time talking to other parents, when I’m with my kids. Having that one thing in common, we both have kids, helps a little.
Even in Comfortable Surroundings, Anxiety Wins
Using this example of meeting another parent and having a conversation about our respective children is easier when I’m with my children. Let’s say I’m not.
Let’s say I run into a parent who I know, who I’ve met before, but the kids are not around.
Picture this: I’m at the grocery store by myself, trying to focus on a list when there are so many choices, and I bump into another parent.
The conversation from the outside appears relatively normal.
How are you?
How’s that thing you do/like?
How are the kids?
Nice bumping into you.
Okay, have a good night.
I followed a standard, typical format. I asked questions as well as answered some. I kept it brief, then continued on with my groceries.
Should be good, right?
Nope. I spend the rest replaying the conversation in my head, over, and over, and over again.
- Did I say too much?
- Did I ask the right questions?
- Did I answer the questions in a normal way?
- Could I have said something differently?
- Should I have said that one particular thing?
Sadly, the only way this cycle ends is when I bump into the next person, or when I make it home to my children, who offer so much more noise that it generally cancels out the noise in my head.
The longer our conversation is, the more follow up questions I ask myself after.
Can You Have Social Anxiety and Still Remain Confident?
As I replay the conversation in my head, I wonder if I’ve said too much, or if I’ve given the person too much information.
For example, we all know that it’s not socially acceptable to talk about what happens in the bathroom.
Yet, there are some really close friends that we can say anything to, including the taboo bathroom talk.
So you tell a funny story, maybe a little taboo, it gets great response from that close friend, and now, you want to tell it again.
How do you know who to tell it to? How do you know when a good time to tell it is? How do you know that the next person will respond the same way that first person did?
Maybe someone who doesn’t suffer social anxiety asks themselves these questions too. Maybe not.
Regardless, they tell their story. Whether or not it gets a good response that second time, it doesn’t stop them from moving on with their day.
They get over it. It doesn’t take up space in their minds. It doesn’t stop them from moving on.
For me, it does.
I have a constant fear of saying the wrong thing, but it doesn’t stop me from speaking.
I appear confident, but it’s a façade. On the outside, I can have conversations, but on the inside, I have a constant fear that I’m doing it wrong.
The bottom line is, I’m not shy. But that doesn’t mean I’m not suffering.