If you suffer from social anxiety disorder, chances are, your anxiety is written all over your face. Personally, I always try to hide it, but this becomes impossible in some social situations. Most people dont really know what anxiety looks like, therefore, they are more likely to regard me as an anti-social, pissed-off, mean, cruel, little man – obviously someone to avoid.
This is a huge problem. In fact, it is one of the biggest problems we face as sufferers of social anxiety. Without a super-human effort, it is difficult to come off as friendly and relaxed. Behind the scenes, our minds are racing – worrying about how we look, what people are thinking of us, and what we are going to say next. Add to this, a little voice telling us how much we suck at everything, and there is no way to pretend everything is fine.
Of course, Im speaking for myself. I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve as they say. My facial expression doesnt lie – if Im anxious, it will be quite obvious.
To further complicate things, people usually react negatively to my anxiety face and this, in turn, causes more distress in my mind. Ultimately, this causes more anxiety and, hence, a more troubled look. I have been in situations where Ive had to leave after succumbing to this runaway effect.
After all the progress Ive made, I still end up like this sometimes. Unfortunately, the only solution is to make a quick exit. There is no way I can fake a friendly, carefree appearance unless I am truly happy. My emotions will always dictate my expression.
The good news is that my emotional state is improving when Im around people and I have noticed that the runaway effect can also work in reverse. If I start off feeling good, I tend to smile and have a friendlier disposition. People pick up on this quickly and they react positively towards me. That positive feedback enhances my good mood and I get to a point where Im almost impervious to any social negativity that comes my way.
I have experienced this many times lately, so I know there is something to it.
I believe the turning point came after a few years of social exposures. I failed and stumbled a lot at first, but somehow I managed to get a foothold. I could sense a little boost in self-esteem after a while and I was also able to handle negativity a little better. A thicker skin, if you will.
Whats the significance of all this? Well, with my little boost in self-esteem, I was able to smile a little more and things didnt get to me as quickly. I was less likely to be wearing my anxiety face in public and, because of this, I was accepted by others.
The hardest part about getting to this point is that I have gone through a lot of embarrassing and terrifying social exposures to toughen up and boost my fragile self-esteem. However, every time I screwed up and made a fool of myself, I knew I was a step closer to a normal life. Im not saying that you should dive in with your eyes closed, hoping for the best, but I dont know if there is any other way to get started. At least, for me, nothing else seemed to work.