Am I socially anxious or just really bad at small talk?

I do not want to label myself as having ‘social anxiety’. I do not get panic attacks when in crowded places, I do not faint, I do not even throw up; I do not want to exaggerate anything and label myself with something serious. However something that has developed more as my self-esteem’s gone down, and my age has gone up, is a chronic shyness that affects my social interactions. I guess I’ve always been shy. I remember hiding behind my parents when I was little, or being generally very uncomfortable when talking to new people all through my life. But isn’t everyone like that? I think the majority of people are shy on some level. Normally within the first five minutes of meeting and talking to someone new I am fine and feel comfortable, ut not any more. And since starting university it’s become apparent just how much this is affecting my social life. Now I’m not comfortable in myself, but I am perfectly confident in my personality. Sure, I make bad jokes or seem narcissistic when I’m uncomfortable, and I’m overly sarcastic and most of the time people admit they don’t know if I’m just patronising and sarcastic, or if I’m genuinely mean… but I like myself. I think I’m quirky, I have a lot of passions and interests, I can hold an intelligent conversation and I can express my views and opinions articulately. But when it comes to trying to talk to new people, I freeze up. Don’t get me wrong, I have always preferred my own company. I’d much rather spend seven nights a week in bed with pizza, bingewatching TV shows, so I’m not the most social of people, but in recent months I’ve become ridiculously anti-social. I used to think it was because of my depression, and it partly was; I’d avoid speaking face-to-face with friends or relatives, I’d make up excuses to get out of meeting up with people, and my worst nightmare was a whole day or night spent entirely with someone else (the number of people didn’t really affect how I felt, whether it was one or twenty). My parents and friends, noticed this and specified to my psychologist and psychiatrist that it was a problem, so I began forcing myself to go out and see people. As my medication and therapy sessions kicked in, these feelings faded and I was quite happy to hang out with people a few times a week. I knew I’d always have fun ‘when I got there’. However over my last summer I can count on one hand how many times I saw my friends. Now this is partly because of the big break-up I had, but it’s also, I believe, due to self-esteem. I simply don’t like people seeing me. That is why I will talk for hours with people on Skype or Facebook, all day and night, every week. But I don’t like seeing people in person. And if I do, I must be showered that day, have make-up on and one of very few outfits on that I feel okay in. Being at university the main ‘student’ thing is to befriend all your flatmates and people on your course, to go out drinking or partying every night and spend all your free-time in the shared kitchen. And everyone I knew seemed to have made best friends in the first week. But I just don’t understand this. My flatmates and people on my course are absolutely lovely, and I’ve told some I’m shy, and they’re all fine with it. Yet I still dread any interaction with them because I’m just so awkward in person. (It’s even worse when people you barely know see you in pyjamas or with unwashed hair and no make-up, but that’s another story). Now it’s nothing they do, it’s just this fear I have of seeming rude or disinterested when really I’m just trying desperately to just not burst into tears. For me this is worsened by my intolerance with alcohol. I’ve spoken about my feelings on alcohol before here, but in recent months especially, I’ve noticed that whenever I drink more than half a pint I’ll feel really nauseous, my heart will start beating really fast, I’ll get a terrible headache and my face will flush bright red. My dad gets migraines if he drinks more than a couple, so I realised straight away it could be some form of intolerance (read about alcohol intolerance here) and to be honest I like being this way. It saves so much money. But it is strange ‘going out’ with people and not drinking. It feels like yet another thing that makes me seem weird. Small talk is the main thing I can’t do. Once I get past the ‘hi, how are you’, my brain can produce hundreds of questions but trying to physically say them just doesn’t happen. But give me a decent topic to discuss and I’ll tell you my thoughts all night long. To sum up a weird, rambling post, I suck at small talk, I prefer being by myself but do want friends, and the only people I consistently feel comfortable being with is my mum and best friend, Katie. I don’t quite know what the point of this was, but hey, it gives an insight into my brain and allows me to work through some inner-thoughts… Riot ❤ Lorelei

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One comment

  1. It is entirely possible that you have social anxiety. You don’t have to get panic attacks to have it. I used to get so confused because I thought that I needed to have them to have social anxiety but it turns out that’s not true. 😉

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