Social anxiety is a thing that a lot of people experience. Those who don’t have any mental illness often experience it as well. I struggle with meeting new people and wanting them to have a good first impression of who I am. Often I put others’ opinions of me to affect how I see myself. My worth is assumed by how people treat me, if I think they don’t like me or approve of what I do then I feel like I am failing.
This mindset is unhealthy, but true for many people. It can be so exhausting, especially at a networking event that requires you to meet a lot of people at once. The event I attended was with mostly James Madison University alumni. I wanted them to think that JMU has continually improved with their programs; I was representing my university. Within a couple of hours I was worn out and tired. My brain seemed to stop working and I knew I would start to stutter. I kept quiet and did my best to keep going.
It was going well up until I had to go up and speak. I went up, froze and uttered about ten seconds of words when I was supposed to be up there for a minute. I sat down, partly embarrassed and partly just wanted to get the hell out. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the event, I just wish I could have left when I felt ready to. The event was a grade for my entrepreneurship class so I sucked it up and did my best.
Since it was business-oriented most people wanted to be impressed by how others spoke and the things they did. I was supposed to maintain my “extrovertness” and be my best, but I literally could not do that. I had woken up with anxious thoughts that day and the long hours of talking didn’t help. Has this ever happened to you?
If you experience social anxiety I want you to know that is okay and normal. If you can network for hours and be completely fine then that is great. Maybe that is too hard and leaving early is the best option, that is okay too! The best way to network is to find a way that works for YOU. Be confident in what you can handle. Those types of events are meant to help professional growth, but if it is too difficult then leave when you are ready to.
Never did I think I would freeze up the way I did. All of those people just stared and I was beyond embarrassed. It’s pretty on-brand though, the mental health blogger who freaks out during a presentation because of social anxiety. Seems pretty accurate. Before I have always been able to handle myself and represent what I do proudly. That day was just different and a lot of factors played into that.
Something I realized that day is that I cannot let one moment, especially one that lasted less than a minute, ruin my entire day. It was not my best moment, but that doesn’t matter. Lots of good things happened that day including meeting my mentor who I have been talking to for a couple of weeks. I was so excited about it and the fact that my social anxiety got the best of me that day is okay.
There is always a next time and if there isn’t then at least I know I tried my best. One bad moment due to my social anxiety does not define the entire day. Way back I wrote a post called “strong as hell” and I think it fits perfectly for this topic. Being strong as hell means accepting your fears, trying your best, and knowing that you are amazing with or without a mental illness. Keep working hard and hustling; you got this!