“I don’t belong,” “Why am I so awkward,” “Everyone is looking at me” are just some of the thoughts a person with social anxiety wrestles with. Social anxiety is the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated and, as a result, leads to avoidance.
Imagine going to eat in a crowded school cafeteria. As soon as you enter, you see multiple people laughing and talking and you suddenly start to feel like something is choking you. You become increasingly tense and begin to look at the various people wondering if they’re snickering at you, judging you or worse, see you as you see yourself. Social anxiety involves a nagging conviction that society does not like you. This conviction was born out of feeling out of sync with those around you. Therefore, small tasks like going to parties, restaurants or standing in a lunch line can cause paranoia and fear.
As humans, we all want to belong. We all want to feel like we are a part of a group. When one is unable to form meaningful connections with people, he or she becomes a recluse of sorts. You retreat to your own world where you become indifferent to the “others”. In a sense, socially anxious individuals are awkward. Awkward people feel a strong connection with their internal world as opposed to the external world.
In addition, socially inept individuals are unable to conform to the outside world. When common and persistent, the following are some of the most common signs of social anxiety. They are:
- You only feel comfortable with select people.
- You feel judged in public.
- You imagine embarrassment.
- You’re critical of yourself.
- You obsess over specific social fears.
- You’re prone to panic attacks.
Through no fault of their own, these individuals, in a sense, see the worst in humanity and develop a paranoia that they will be persecuted. An example of a stereotype of the socially unequipped is the character from the movie with the same name, Napoleon Dynamite. He was someone who was odd and could not follow social cues correctly. However, having social anxiety is nothing to feel ashamed of. Not everyone likes to be social and nothing is wrong with that.