Social Anxiety in a Social Job

I like to think that I’m a pretty self-observant person. Sure, there are things people bring up about me that I never noticed about myself, but I think I have a pretty good grasp on all my traits and ticks and quirks. And because of this, I like to analyze every detail of myself. It can be self-destructive, of course. Analyze oneself could end up becoming critiquing oneself. But personally, I like to think of it in that, I’m trying to find the roots of why I am the way I am. The age-old “Nature vs Nurture” paradigm. Today, I’m choosing to analyze my social anxiety.

Apparently, my social anxiety stems even into childhood. A lot of kids become nervous or anxious around adults or other kids they don’t know; according to my parents, I used to scream. I needed to adjust to new people or large crowds slowly, so my parents had to arrive to parties early on so I could watch new people come in.

To say this has changed, would be lying.

Obviously, I don’t scream any more. I just become super nervous when people enter a party or a room and I don’t know them. Or when I go places I’m unfamiliar, I become anxious and frantic about everything going on.

A recent example of this happened at work: my boss told me she wanted me to start attending a networking meeting every Thursday morning, and my first instinct was to ask if she would be there too. I “need” to have someone I know there, in order to feel comfortable. Last week (my first week), she was there. But this week, she wasn’t. Had she said she wasn’t showing up for my first meeting, I don’t think I would have gone either. The thought that I would show up without a “sponsor”, terrified me. What if everyone whispered behind my back because I had done something wrong? What if no one wanted me there? The endless list of questions went through my head as I sat through today’s meeting, wondering if they accepted my presence.

Being the public face for a shop when you have social anxiety, sounds like the biggest contradiction in the world. And really, it is. But the rest of the world isn’t going to stop and give me time, just because I get anxious around other people. It’s terrifying. It’s frustrating. It’s crippling at times, because on one hand, I want to be this marketing powerhouse that everyone respects and reveres. But on the other hand, if someone looks at me a little funny, I may go home and cry about it.

April marks my 3rd month here as the ice cream shop “point of contact”/everything, and the marketing director for the realty company. I’ve been thinking about just how much I’ve improved in social situations, and I hope it just continues in an upward motion. Some days are harder than others, but I’m trying to be better than my anxiety.

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