I spent years lying because of social anxiety. Not in a malicious way or in a way to hurt and deceive people but because of the way that social anxiety had deceived me.
The truth is, social anxiety warps your perception of how people see you and how situations really are. It convinces you that every situation will have a terrible outcome. It convinces you that everyone sees you in the worst light.
At the very peak of it all, I was lying because of social anxiety on almost a daily basis.
The reason I lied because of anxiety wasn’t because it was one of my symptoms but because I wanted to hide my symptoms at any cost.
I also wanted to avoid all the situations that I thought would make my social anxiety worse and I wanted to protect myself from the shame and embarrassment that came with having a mental illness.
It’s been a fair few years now since I managed to overcome a great deal of my social anxiety, enough to live a comfortable life but I still have to stop myself from telling these lies from time to time.
Lies we tell because of social anxiety
I’m pretty sure every one of us with social anxiety tells one of these lies at some point, I think it’s just part and parcel of having an anxiety disorder.
Of course, lying isn’t the best way to deal with it because we’re not actually letting ourselves prove the anxiety wrong and it has the potential of hurting peoples feelings along the way.
BUT, when you’re struggling with a mental illness, which comes with it’s own set of challenges and it’s own stigma, it’s extremely hard to open up and be truthful about what we’re going through.
Here are some of the most common lies we tell because of social anxiety…
Pretending you’re fine
If “I’m fine” has been my response, the likelihood is, it’s a lie.
I wasn’t feeling fine, I was drowning in fear and low self-esteem. I desperately wanted to talk to someone about it, but I was too afraid to say something.
I still feel this way sometimes and I still lie about how I really feel. I think I’m scared of being a burden, and by lying I am trying to protect myself from being shut out and left behind, which ends up being exactly what I do to myself.
I used to also use this lie with my therapist because therapy was hard work. I tried not to face my fears by telling her that I was fine but of course that didn’t help me or my anxiety in the slightest.
Excuses not to go somewhere
One of the biggest lies we tell, are the lies about why we’re can’t turn up or why we don’t want to go somewhere.
We’d rather tell you that we have family visiting or we already have plans, instead of actually telling you we’ve had an anxiety attack.
I can’t count how many times I’ve made up stories about why I can’t make it out somewhere because there were too many times.
Trying to fit in
There are also the lies we tell so that we can fit in and feel accepted. For years in school I lied about my music taste because I was too afraid to be myself.
Or not wanting to actually reveal my true opinions on something I’m really passionate about because social anxiety makes me despise confrontation.
Masking your anxiety with a physical illness
Have you told people you have the flu, or a stomach bug or any physical illness just to avoid telling people you’re anxious? ‘Cause I sure have.
The misconceptions that come with having social anxiety often make it difficult to talk about it, so instead we mask our anxiety with lies about having some form of physical ailment.
Why lying makes social anxiety worse
Just like using safety behaviours, lying because of social anxiety leaves us in a vicious cycle of trying to protect ourselves but continuing the negative thought patterns.
Firstly, we think by lying or omitting the truth that we’re actually helping ourselves and protecting ourselves from the situation that we believe is harmful (being judged, being subjected to a situation we’re anxious of or having to open up to someone).
Secondly, we tell the lie and it gets easier for a bit.
Thirdly, we encounter the same situation again but because we didn’t prove to ourselves the last time, that we would be okay if we were honest, we now feel we have to lie again.
The cycle keeps turning and we don’t show ourselves that our anxiety is wrong. We don’t show ourselves that things aren’t always as bad as we think they’re going to be if people know the truth about us.
Of course you don’t need to tell everyone you have a social anxiety disorder and tell every person intimate details about your life. But I do think that if you tell your friends or family that you are either a) feeling quite anxious b) afraid of going to that place/event because of your anxiety or c) about your real interests rather than the interests you think you should have then you’ll open yourself up to having an actual support system.
And if they don’t support you, or they do judge you, then they are the ones with the problem. Not you.
If you need help being honest and want to open up more about your anxiety. Here are some resources:
The Anxiety Lounge – a friendly closed Facebook group to discuss anxiety.
How to explain social anxiety to someone that doesn’t have it. – an in depth post that will help you explain your social anxiety.
You don’t need to be everybody’s cup of tea. – A reminder of why it’s okay if people don’t like you.
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