Many of you don’t know this about me.
I didn’t know this about me.
In fact, I didn’t realise there’s a term for the uneasiness I feel when I step out my door, or even when you step into my life.
A friend once hid behind a car when she recognized someone on the road. She had nothing against him; she just wasn’t prepared to run into anyone she knew. I heard this story when a bunch of folks were laughing about it. I couldn’t, because I knew exactly how she felt.
When I tried explaining my uneasiness, I thought, ‘We all go through the same thing’.
Apparently, social anxiety isn’t normal.
What makes it deceptively worse is that I’ve successfully acted in theater, moderated CIO panel discussions and even spoken at events. It seems that no trace of fear is visible.
It’s laughable- yes. But it isn’t silly. Let me tell you how it works. When you introduce me to someone and say, “She’s a biker,” my palms start sweating like it has guilty blood.
All I want to say in response is:
“Oh boy… Why are you still looking at me?”
Instead, I blink four times.
Then I nod.
And then, just to be polite, I say, “Yeah I ride a bike. This salad is awesome!”
If you want to be kind to me, please pretend I don’t exist. I’m a great listener and I’m happiest being in the background.
And do NOT compliment me when there’s a third person – that’s the worst. Just yesterday, a cousin commented on a Facebook snap saying, “Whoa, how cool are you!”. To make things worse, my sister replied to it: “She’s the coolest-that-ever-lived.”
It took me 18 hours to figure out how to respond. I know you guys love me, but you have no idea what you did to me.
Yes, I realise how ridiculous it sounds and my anxiety tends to confuse people around me. My husband took a while to figure out how I can be super-confident while on work calls, and flip to the other side when I order in. He obviously doesn’t realise how intense the pressure is!
This is how it plays in my mind:
Me: “Hi, I’d like to order a large Veggie Delight for home delivery.”
Random Pizza Guy: “We’re out of Veggie Delight. Would you like to order something else instead?”
Uhm… Vegetables… I need a pizza. He said no. Now what? What’s the right response? There’s too little time to check up on Google. What has vegetables in it and is a pizza? Oh crap. It’s already been 5 seconds. Now the pizza guy will think I’m an idiot. Quick! Say Something! Anything! What’s next on the menu below Veggie Delight?
Me: “Well, do you have the Pepperoni pizza”
Crap. I wanted veggies today. Olives! I’ll miss those olives. And mushrooms. Now it’s too late to change the order. If I change my mind, he’ll think I’m dumb. Don’t sound dumb.
Random Pizza Guy: “Yes, we do”
Daaaamn! They have it. Olives vs sounding intelligent. This is a pickle!
Me: “Well, in that case, I’ll have large a Pepperoni pizza. Thank you.”
I get a feeling that my husband asks me to order home deliveries just to watch me and amuse himself. Thank god for apps!
So, in case you find me taking long to respond to something you just said, please understand – it’s not me being arrogant or lost, it’s you. Because, well… you exist in my life.
And if you have any tips for people like me to feel better, do share! Do not include ‘Hide’, ‘Pretend’ or ‘Meditate’ because none of these work.