Hey guys 🙂 I can’t believe summer vacation is almost over… My school starts in THREE DAYS! Still can’t wrap my head around the fact that this is my last year in high school.
Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve done an update on my journey of overcoming social anxiety, so here it is!
A little over one year ago, I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD), which is intense and irrational fear of social situations, including (but not limited to) fear of public speaking, meeting new people, talking on the phone, the list goes on. During that time of my life, I was going through lots of self-esteem issues. As some of you guys may know, the knee injury that took me out of gymnastics bore not only physical, but also emotional and psychological ramifications, which gave rise to my social anxiety.
In the beginning, tackling social anxiety seemed like an utterly impossible task. Everything involving people was a challenge. I was so scared to take the first step… I didn’t think I could fight the battle alone.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to. With the proper emotional support, I was able to take the initial plunge into overcoming social anxiety. I started by setting daily goals for myself: speak up at least once in class; say hi to a teacher in the hallway; call a friend instead of texting him/her. As easy as such tasks seem to me now, I remember the days when they all proved to be challenging. The important lesson here is: every time you do something that scares you, no matter how seemingly trivial it is, AFFIRM IT. Allow yourself to be proud of yourself, because going against your instincts and doing things you fear is the most courageous thing anyone can do.
Going back to my journey- five months ago, I found ballroom dance. I quickly discovered that ballroom was something I enjoyed, something I had potential in. I fell in love with dancing from day one. What many don’t know is how scared I felt during the first few months upon entering the dance world. Every time I walked into the studio, my heart would pound against my chest, my palms would sweat, my muscles would clench up in anticipation. It was the social anxiety, the fear of evaluation, the utter self-consciousness. Ballroom dance was completely unfamiliar territory. Surrounded by beautiful experienced dancers, I, the neophyte, felt insecure while practicing… not sure whether or not I was doing the steps correctly, and most of all, worrying about what others would think. Looking back, I realize that even if you dance like a pig, NOBODY CARES! But it took a lot of time before I came to this realization… Ballroom dance, then, REALLY challenged my social anxiety. I took some social dance classes for the pure sake of challenging the anxiety, as social dance classes/parties force you to meet, interact, and dance with numerous strangers. Through dancing, I’ve met (and am still meeting) many passionate, skilled, and kind people with a myriad of backgrounds and stories. Ballroom dance has really given me a newfound confidence in myself and around people.
Aside from ballroom, I’ve challenged my social anxiety in other ways as well. Over the summer, I took a six week public speaking class at community college. I kid you not when I say that I nearly threw up the morning of the first day of class. Public speaking is by far the most difficult aspect of social anxiety to conquer, for me at least. To say those six weeks were nerve-racking is the understatement of the year. I dreaded class nearly every day, but in retrospect, I’m so glad I powered through it , as the long-term benefits of challenging myself definitely outweighed the transitory discomfort. After twenty-four two-hour long sessions of pure public speaking, I am so happy to say that I’ve emerged a more confident speaker. Don’t get me wrong- I still get nervous with oral presentations or speeches. Of course it takes more than six weeks to conquer an intense, deeply-rooted fear. But I’m glad to say that I’ve made great strides this summer and plan on furthering my progress by challenging myself even more. After all, the main way to continue growing is to keep pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.
Thus, I am currently taking semi-private acting lessons with a wonderful coach (see post entitled “First Day of Acting!!”). I strongly believe that acting will further boost my confidence around people. I’ve heard stories of painfully shy people taking up acting and emerging completely different people- confident, grounded, and even borderline arrogant. I observe the drama kids at my school. As far as outward appearances are concerned, most of them exude confidence around people. I long to have this confidence around people. I want to be able to let go of my self-judgement, forget about what other people think of me, feel completely comfortable Just. Being. Me. And I believe that if I stick with acting, I will be able to take large strides towards becoming the confident woman I aspire to be.
If acting is not enough, I have SO many resources to continue to challenge myself. I’m considering joining mock trial or debate this year at school. If time allows, I may look into Toastmasters, which is a global organization dedicated to helping people become better public speakers.
One year ago, I could not have imagined going up to a stranger and initiating conversation. One year ago, the mere thought of speaking in public was enough to make the panic set in. One year ago, I was so afraid of everyone and everything. I am proud to say that, through hard work, commitment, and a bit of courage, I have come out of this bad place and transformed myself. I still have a long way to go on the road to overcoming social anxiety, but I’ve gotten through the hardest part- the initial plunge.
I conclude this lengthy post with my favorite quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Whatever you fear, whatever is hindering you from reaching your greatest potential as a person- fight it. Fight it. If I can fight my social anxiety, I have full faith that everyone can fight their fears.
Wow, I just realized that what was supposed to be a little social anxiety update just became… a tirade. But I do hope it was an inspiring little tirade, at least to one person 🙂
Again, I am so grateful to all of you guys for reading. Your continual support means so much to me… Lots and lots of gratitude and love!! (*blows kisses through the computer screen).
Until next time,