Sometimes the very thing that I tried protecting myself from – the judgement from others, appearing awkward and people not liking me – happened because I’d been protecting myself from it in the first place.
The behaviours that I adopted as I grew up with a social anxiety disorder, meant that quite often I’d seem distant and withdrawn. I would hardly speak and when I did speak, my replies were short and offered no opening for more conversation.
I didn’t look people in the eye because I thought that If I did, people would see that I was vulnerable and terrified. I didn’t say more than a couple of words because I thought if I stumbled on them, people would think I was stupid.
It wasn’t until I was recorded on camera, in a therapy session, having a conversation with one of the clinic staff (who I’d never met before) that I realised how I came off as completely rude and stuck-up. My replies to his questions were one-worded, I wasn’t even looking at him and I didn’t ask him any questions.
My therapist then asked me to try the conversation again but with eye contact, asking him more questions and trying my best to be more descriptive in my answers, while not playing with my hands or covering my face.
It was hard! This was a complete stranger and I wasn’t confident around people I actually knew well, never mind strangers. I did my best to do the things she asked and watching the video back I could tell a CLEAR difference. The second conversation, I seemed warm, confident (even if I wasn’t feeling it inside) and totally normal, like I was watching somebody else, someone who I wished I could be more like.
It was obvious that I hadn’t been giving a very good first impression and it was my own habits (no eye contact, looking around the room, short answers, playing on my phone, covering my face), that I thought were helping my social anxiety that were actually hindering it and created this problem to begin with.
I’ve since been told by a friend that they found me intimidating when they first met me and thought that I disliked THEM!
The truth is, behind my stern expression was a lot of mental anguish. I may have looked stuck-up and I may have come across as rude or arrogant but actually, there were a thousand thoughts flying around in my head, mostly negative thoughts about myself. I wanted to be liked, I wanted to have the social skills to interact like a regular human being but the constant battle going on inside my head caused me to retreat.
So if you meet someone who you think is being stuck-up, make sure there isn’t something deeper there before you completely write them off.
Pin it for later: