I’ve got another work story to tell. It’s one I feel less negative about than everything I wrote about yesterday, however, it’s still something that I’m only figuring out now has been a life-long habit I’ve developed.
On Saturdays I am mainly around one other coworker, Adele. She also works at the same site as me on Sundays where Jules is also there. Anyway, someone found a lost debit card during Saturday’s work shift and it was turned it into Adele, who was able to Google search the name on the card and find the person’s phone number to contact them.
Sunday went by even faster with Jules around. Jules had gotten to discussing how he prefers not to be tagged on social media posts even when he is tagged by friends as he would rather not have his identity floating around on the internet like that. During this I was actively listening and it was like fireworks went off in my brain as I was reminded of Saturday’s incident with the lost debit card. It was like I couldn’t get out the words fast enough and spoke rapidly to briefly explain what had happened. Jules hadn’t clearly heard the last bit I said about how Adele was able to track the person down and queried me. That seemed to paralyze me and bring me out and away from the wave of confidence I had. First I stiffened because of the eye contact and then I dove even deeper into that pit of ice because I felt scared that I would have to reexplain the story.
I felt like I had been struck dumb in the head from my adrenaline rush of speaking my mind right off the bat which rarely ever happens and could only nod at Adele, who then picked up the story where I had left it. It is moments like this where I wonder if my body and mind retained an echo of a time in my long ago childhood when I could speak with ease and that is why I got that ultra rare burst of spontaneity before it was snuffed out by the current and persistent fear of social pains.
I find it so hard to not want to physically bolt like a frightened animal. Since the social norms I learned in childhood taught me that reacting this way might be considered inappropriate, that is why throughout my aging from teenhood into adulthood I coped by having a freeze response instead in particularly anxiety-inducing situations. It’s slightly less worse now since I at least try to work past the initial freeze but it’s frustrating when I can’t just move on from it.
If I really think about it, social anxiety shouldn’t be so serious. When it comes down to it, all I am really doing during a social interaction is sharing information. It could be important or not important information to me, and it could be received by the other person as important or non important. But does it matter? I can’t expect to be liked by every person for every moment of the day. I also know I have a tendency to remember experiences that were perceived as bad by me, all the while for the other people involved they probably don’t even remember that happening as I remembered it happening.
I forget where I read this; it might’ve been another blog or a book I browsed through recently, but one story told of an experiment where a professor made some of his students arrive to class late dressed in eye catching shirts with slogans on them. The students who came in later recounted feeling self-conscious about arriving late into the classroom while class was already in session. The students who witnessed the latecomers walk in and navigate their way to their seats were asked to recall if they could name which students were late and what slogans were on their shirts. Less than half could correctly recall both the students and the shirt slogans, let alone name all of them with no errors in memory. The main thing I got from this story was that most people have so much stuff going on in their lives that they don’t remember every little thing from one day, much less an event as insignificant as other students walking in late to class.
I hope to keep this dose of reality in mind when I resume my college classes in the fall semester in a few weeks. Those courses will be in-person and at least one of those classes requires a 5 minute presentation and then a 15 minute presentation; both of which count towards my overall grade for the class. The best thing I can think of to try to alleviate some of the anxiety is hopefully I end up picking a presentation topic that I will enjoy sharing information on.
I have to admit, in the job I have now, it has been somewhat easier to talk and communicate ideas with people because I have a bit of passion for the environmental issues I am interested in. That doesn’t mean it isn’t daunting when some people challenge me on my ideas, but hey, I guess challenges make life less boring.
For now, I’d like to make a more conscious effort in my every day life to speak more slowly and with conviction even when I feel like my anxiety is a ticking time bomb. I deserve to be heard, though I don’t know why I think I don’t deserve it.