Social Anxiety And Creating Connections Struggles

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Creating connections alone can be challenging enough. In today’s world finding people you are really comfortable with is without doubt difficult. However, if you add social anxiety into the mix things can seem impossible. 

Isolating from the rest of the world

As you will no doubt be aware, if you have read any of my articles, I struggled with some pretty serious social anxiety for many years. In that time part of me did its very best to isolate myself from the rest of the world. In many ways, it succeeded. I dragged myself into a very dark place for many years. It was a place, no one else was allowed to enter or even see.

Social anxiety sets you apart. You see yourself as different to every other person you meet. They are normal and you are abnormal. Part of you will tell you that you have no right to be around ‘normal’ people.

If you try, if you spend too long in their company, they will realise that you are not like them. They will in time see your abnormality and they will shun you, they will be embarrassed by you, they will be ashamed of you and in turn they will shame you.

With this in mind (literally!) I really had difficulty in making any true social connections (in the usual sense of the phrase) when I was struggling with social anxiety. I was scared to make them. With this voice in my head providing all the graphic details of the consequences if I did, it is no wonder that I didn’t.

That made life pretty tough. I was a teenager watching other teenagers doing the things teenagers do. I desperately wanted to be like them, be a part of what was happening. But I was simply unable to do it. 

No one knew ‘me’

I did have friends, yes, some you could consider quite close. People I had known for years, even people I had met at school. I was no social recluse, in the archetypal sense. The problem was no one actually knew me. The real me. They just knew the particular image I presented to them. It was the same with my family.

They just knew the image I portrayed as a son and as a brother. I had multiple images and used them with abandon. Each one was slightly different depending on the person or the situation. All however shared the same characteristic. To hide what was really going on with me. And to convince people that I was normal. So in a sense any connections I did have felt, just so fake or artificial.

Surprised 

How successful I was, I don’t really know. The fact that when I finally reached out for help, so many people were surprised, possibly says something, but I don’t know. Certainly at the time I felt I was very unconvincing. I was fully expecting to be found out at some point and totally humiliated or ostracised. Strange how I never once thought that I could have been treated with great empathy and compassion? Such was the power that anxiety held over me I suppose.

I do remember just how exhausting it all was. It was like constantly being on stage and playing multiple roles all at once. It was only when I retreated into that dark alone place that I could really be myself. The funny thing was I didn’t exactly make for great company. I spent most of that time alone either being jealous of others or lamenting the fact that I was not normal like them. It was pretty rough.

What I really needed at the time was some real connection with somebody I could be myself with. It would have been so comforting to have been able to open up and confide in someone. This finally dawned on me when I finally reached out for help but it came too late for my teenage years. 

In many ways that makes me feel sad. Especially when I think about the person I was, lost and alone. Yet in the years that followed because of all my experiences, because of the things I went through I was able to really develop social connections going forward. Develop and really appreciate and really understand them.

I realised that it is ok to wear your heart on your sleeve  and be your true self. Safe in the knowledge that people will accept you regardless. This realisation is so liberating  and so easy. What a relief it has been to stop with all the acting and just be me. 

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