I think all the time about poor choices I made 2, 3, even 4 years ago and how they impacted me in the long run. I feel weaker for all the things I ran from, and how if only I had pushed forward like I could have, I wouldn’t be in the position I am now. In truth, change in myself is difficult to see day to day.
I would like to think that it is only through repetition and exposure that I can get better. Sometimes I think I am wrong about this, as with some things it seems like no matter how many times I do it, I still feel just as much anxiety as usual.
Maybe I am not really trying in the situation enough times for the exposure to set in and for me to learn that what I am afraid of isn’t that scary after all. Or maybe I don’t truly want to overcome the fear at all. Doing it once and then avoiding it like the plague at all costs doesn’t encourage improvement.
That is why I avoided what felt hard; because going through the motions of struggling every day is easier said than done. Every second of anxiety, of fear, of saying or doing the wrong thing.
As a final assignment in my hotel hospitality course back in June, I had a group project with two other classmates where we had to research a hotel and then give an presentation on it. Now, prior to this, the last class presentation I ever gave was in 6th or 7th grade which is quite a significant gap. I pled to one of my group members via email; asking to do more research for the hotel project to compensate for not speaking during the presentation. My team was fine with that, but then I forgoed my decision because everyone, no matter how much talking they did for their group, still had to stand up there.
Despite making it through my part of the presentation as best as I could muster, it was like barely squeaking by. I mostly read off of projector slides and could barely bring myself to look at my classmates. I knew I looked and sounded visibly nervous and that was the part I couldn’t let go of in the aftermath; reliving it over and over even though other people seemed nervous too. If I had to do another presentation today, I would likely be just as anxious and scared and try to find ANY way to worm out of the situation like I did with the last one.
It is convenient that I stay afraid since I don’t envision myself giving speeches or performing in front of large audiences in my day-to-day life. Therefore, I also don’t aspire to conquer the fear and it was only by circumstance that I could force myself to do public speaking (albeit very poorly, since I am not a practiced speaker) before gtfo and swearing in my mind that I never want do that again.
While being an excellent oral speaker is not a prequisite in life, I feel I continue to struggle with the simplest of social interactions. The idea of having a job doesn’t scare me, it’s having to communicate with people that does. Eating out is fine, but if I am waited on by a hostess or need to get a clerk to service my meal to me, it’s uncomfortable. I pretend and pretend it doesn’t bother me, even mustering a smile or a faux relaxed pose with a hand on my hip, because this is my learned method of coping in this world. I look fine but I am not. Does that mean the more practice I get to adjusting to anxiety-inducing situations, the more I lose my genuinity and trade it for layers of fraud?
3 thoughts on “Out of Practice”
Yes, yes, yes to this whole post. I found it nearly impossible to do proper exposures and exposure therapy without the help of a psychologist. Working with her has been amazing. But I still get crazy anxiety with public speaking despite having given quite a few talks now since I work in science research. Ugh, I hate it.
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I am glad you have found improvement in your life with help you got from a psychologist. That’s interesting to hear you still get a lot of anxiety from public speaking. May I ask if this is something you’ve worked on in therapy? If so, do you find the anxiety is more manageable even though you get very anxious?
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I have worked on it quite a bit in therapy, and I also took a class for people with public speaking anxiety. Both were helpful, but the most helpful has probably been having the option to take klonopin (an anti-anxiety drug) if needed. It brings down the anxiety enough that I can use the tools and strategies I worked on in therapy and in the class to make it through a talk without having a complete meltdown.