I can change day-to-day with how I act socially, and it can become very frustrating for me as I feel limited by myself in making new friends, meeting new people and creating new experiences.
A lot of my shyness and social anxiety derives from two things (which I believe to be true of all of us) firstly, from the way other people have treated me in the past. By this I mean people who have ended up hurting me in the past. As well as unkindly people who have been rude and dismissive towards me for no real reason.
I have had issues with bullying in the past, both online and in person but it’s important to remind yourself that with people who do bully there is more than meets the eye and it’s almost never about the ‘victim’ themselves.
This social anxiety can affect me daily, sometimes occasionally – honestly it depends on which head I’ve got on that day, by this I really mean how you see yourself.
If I have my confident and outgoing, happy head on – nothing really causes me any internal anxious dialogue. But if I do not, then my internal anxious dialogue is all that runs through my mind and this presents itself in how I deal with people and how I express myself through speech and body language.
A lot of how you see yourself can reflect in personal relationships and how you present yourself to others.
Imagine two universes in which I exist in both. Let’s say I’m at Vondelpark in Amsterdam for the first time, on my own or with friends, and two tourists approach me to say ‘Hello’.
I’m feeling unconfident today; I’m rather fidgety and unable to focus on anything, my thoughts are spinning through my mind but none of them are positive. I’m highly concerned with my appearance physically and how others may perceive me. I’m feeling a lack of self-love today.
When they come over to say ‘Hey!’
I go in on myself and ask myself a thousand questions before even responding back
‘why are they talking to me?’
‘are they taking the mick out of me’
‘maybe they think I’m someone else’
with these thoughts my body language appears rather unwelcoming:
I’m avoiding eye contact, I’m talking quieter and I’m dismissive and short in response.
‘Hi’, I respond.
I start playing with my hair (this is something I tend to do should I feel nervous in social situations; even bite my nails when it’s very extreme)
‘How are you? Where are you from?’, they ask
‘Good thank you, um… from Birmingham in England’
Notice how I fail to ask them questions about themselves, it’s not that I’m not interested it’s that I’m defensive.
Eventually they leave – making conversation with someone who’s confident and gives back.
I’m feeling good today, I’m not too bothered about my appearance. I’m enjoying music. Excited about not knowing where I am. I’m feeling good!
When they come over
Without thinking, I notice that these are just people and I respond to a potential new memorable experience.
‘Hey I’m Tazmin, what’s your name?’
(They introduce themselves)
‘Great where are you from? I’m from England and it’s my first full day in Amsterdam – have you been here before?’
‘Ah we’re from Canada! Yes we have but only for a few days so we’re back again and this is our first time in Vondelpark.’
‘That’s so funny, me too! What you guys up to today, fancy getting a drink together?’
The conversation begins, not too much small talk – but honest, flowing and natural conversation and maybe even a fun day out with two new people!
In scenario number one I would have come across as cold, rude and dismissive.
In scenario number two warm, friendly and interested.
The interesting thing is I know I can be both but I’m the same person.
Social anxiety or general shyness can limit you – but this is nothing to get angry about, which I am guilty of sometimes, but understand and work to change in small steps.
The first way of working on changing this is by understanding this is caused by one or both things.
1) How you see yourself at any moment
2) How you think people perceive you, may hurt you – based on previous experiences.
Please note that it’s important to understand they do go in this particular order; how you see yourself trumps how you worry about how other people may see you or how you may hold onto the bad things that may have happened to you, to cause you to become standoffish when meeting and connecting in new social situations.
How you see yourself is the most crucial thing when understanding your shyness or social anxiety. If you do not like or believe in yourself; if you question everything that happens to you in an anxious frame of mind, then you will confirm your beliefs by isolating yourself.