I guess I’m having one of those nights where all I can think about is all the things that are upcoming in my life that I don’t want to deal with and/or the stuff I should get done but still makes me wonder if it will make a difference in my life if I do.
One of the biggest hang ups in my life now is being unemployed. I’ve been jobless for the last three years. I really have no idea what I was doing after graduating from medical billing school. First of all, I was completely unprepared for the job hunting aspect. I was assigned a career advisor in school then, but I was terrified about even sitting down and talking to someone face-to-face. Then there was the social anxiety aspect. I was always trying to keep it under wraps and not letting anyone know how anxious I was, at any and all costs. I can only recall one medical billing job that my advisor set me up with by sending my resume out to the job ad. The medical billing office called me to set up an interview and I remember trying to keep my cool as I went through the motions of responding with an appropriate interview time I would be available for. The day prior of the interview, I called to reschedule for another day. And then when that day came, just minutes before I was supposed to go there in-person, I couldn’t do it. I felt overwhelmed with anxiety, especially since I didn’t prepare for the interview at all. Back then, my way of dealing with anxiety was to just push it to the back of my head and distract myself by doing other things so I wouldn’t have to think about it at all. I couldn’t even bring myself to call the office again and tell them I couldn’t make it. Later I received an email from my career advisor , who wanted an explanation about why I was a no-show for the interview. I was a coward, and did not tell her the truth; that I have social anxiety. Instead I made up some lame excuse about having tried to go through the office phone line but it was busy so I wasn’t able to cancel the interview. My follow up communication with my advisor after this was sparse. To keep up appearances and further make myself look “normal”, I lied to her about applying to jobs and not receiving any responses, to which she suggested I do cold calling to see if people were hiring. I did not do this. I lived my life in constant fear. For the jobs I did apply to, they were half-hearted attempts to put my foot out there and face my social anxiety, but as soon as the phone would ring and I’d know it was someone calling to schedule an interview with me, I wouldn’t pick up. It was a vicious repeating cycle for me.
As of today, I still haven’t emailed my current career counselor to ask him for his availability so I can meet with him in-person and he can help me practice my job interview skills. I feel embarrassed. I assume I will do terrible in a mock interview. I just hate myself for automatically freezing up for 1-2 seconds when I’m asked a question. My body tends to react this way when I feel both anxiety and pressure to formulate an answer on the spot.
In a different setting, a prime example of this is on Thursday at my coloring book event. One guy, Garrett, asked me about why I decided to start hosting a coloring event in the social anxiety group. As soon as my brain processes these words as he said them, several things happened. First, the onset of discomfort in my position because he was looking at me expectantly as he waited for me to answer. I looked away briefly, my stomach clenching as I pondered if he could see the terror forming in my eyes. Secondly, my simultaneous reaction in feeling the weight of pressure to answer the question, and feeling even more pressure because the question had drawn the curious attention of the other 4-5 people who came to the event too.
The answer I meant to give him was already formulating in my brain. I wanted to say I began hosting as a way to get out of my comfort zone and to meet new people, and that I thought coloring would be a good activity to help people relax in a social setting without any pressure. However, a second after this answer popped into my head, immediately I gave myself negative feedback. I asked myself internally, “Are you sure you want to say that?” This is what happens everytime I want to say something and then I start doubting myself. I fear sounding stupid.
So after this internal struggle as the thrum of anxiety is still going, I tampered down my response in my head and gave a jumbled and vague answer about being interested in coloring. Ugh. What the hell is wrong with me?? Garett prompted me with more questions like, “So you were interested in hosting?” and “What do you like about coloring?” to get a better sense of what I meant. At this point, I’m so embarrassed by my stupid half-assed answer that I’m uncomfortable, and furthermore, wondering if everyone else around me who is listening is thinking I sound terribly wooden too. I answered his secondary questions with even more stiffness because I was so focused on feeling embarrassed and wanting the conversation to be over with as soon as possible.
This relates back to my job interview troubles, too. I know I’m capable of coming up with good answers. The problem isn’t my ability to formulate answers quickly in my brain. The issue is I always second guess my responses. Maybe in an interview setting, responses require a little more polishing, but in a social setting, I’m appalled that I’m so afraid of being negatively judged that I never say what I actually want to say. I used to think I tampered down my answers because I was afraid of being judged negatively by my peers. But now I see what I’m actually scared of is knowing I am being perceived by others around me as they listen to me talk, but that I have no idea how they are processing what I am saying, whether in a good or bad way.