DailyRi 024: Surviving (& Thriving) Through Social Anxiety
MOST PEOPLE WHO KNOW ME ARE SHOOK WHEN I SAY I DEAL WITH SOCIAL ANXIETY.
i mean, even i didn’t realize i dealt with social anxiety until one of our first SHAI series coffee chats. one of our hot topics was on mental health, & many of the women in the space expressed that they dealt with social anxiety. because i knew some of these women personally, i was a bit surprised by their confessions. i realized that my surprise came from a cookie-cutter image of what it looks like to be “socially anxious.”
just because we are not visibly timid, nervous, stressed or constantly drained by social interactions does not mean we don’t deal with social anxiety. i can be a social butterfly. while i am an ambivert who absolutely prefers time & space to process most of the time, i have extroverted tendencies & have been called a vibrant social butterfly on many occasions.
BUT I STILL DEAL WITH SERIOUS SOCIAL ANXIETY, & HERE’S WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE IN MY WORLD:
when i’m in class, & i raise my hand to contribute to class discussion, my entire body tenses up, my heart rate flies through the roof (i can literally hear my heart pounding through my chest), & i have to make a conscious effort to project my voice so that others can’t hear the nerves take over my vocal chords. it doesn’t matter how confident i am about my contribution, how well i know the material, or how “liked” i know i may be by my classmates, this happens to me in every single academic/professional setting. every time. what’s worse is that it takes a whole minute after i’ve already contributed & the class has directed their attention to someone else for my heart rate to finally climb back down & my body to loosen up.
i realized this during my consortium interview weekend at ross last february. i was in a room of other prospective business students. like me, the vast majority of the people in the room were also people of color who cared deeply about serving communities of color (this matters because up until this experience, i thought it was just white people that made me nervous lol), & there was a pretty even split between men & women in the room, so it’s definitely not a gender thing. sure enough, i was scared to raise my hand & contribute during our workshops/lectures. me. ya girl. loud af. scared. yup.
during the entire weekend of panels, workshops & lectures, i was terrified to raise my hand. when i had a question i just needed to ask, i would scribble it down on my notepad before feeling okay speaking up. & sure enough, when i spoke up, my body still froze up, my heart rate still skyrocketed, & i would still feel my face getting hot. after the speaker answered my question & called on someone else, i sat there wondering if i sounded stupid. if the other prospectives saw me for the less qualified candidate whom i believed i was at the time.
IT WAS THEN WHEN I REALIZED THAT I STRUGGLE WITH THE IMPOSTER SYNDROME ALL THE TIME. & THAT IT IS PRECISELY THESE MOMENTS THAT MAKE MY SOCIAL ANXIETY KICK IN.
which sucks. because the only time i don’t feel like an imposter is when i’m in dearborn. during those shai series coffee chats, i feel like i’m home. i feel heard & seen & understood. so when i speak up, i don’t experience any of that analysis paralysis or self deprecating self talk. & maybe that’s why i want to nurture & give back to dearborn in the same ways i feel it has nurtured & poured into me. but i can’t stay in dearborn forever ya know.
IT WAS DURING MY TIME INTERVIEWING AT ROSS WHEN I REALIZED I WASN’T ABOUT TO START THIS NEXT CHAPTER OF MY LIFE BEING SCARED AF TO RAISE MY HAND.
if not for myself, then for my amazing ass parents who didn’t raise a lil b&TCH.
which is why this post isn’t about me “suffering” with social anxiety. hell na. it’s about how i’m thriving regardless. because i am. in an ideal world, i would tell you that i spent my summer leading up to business school entirely uprooting these anxieties. completely destroying the imposter syndrome. & one day, i will do both of those things. but i’m going to thrive while i’m still writing this story.
i am still reworking the wiring in my brain to assure me every single day that i am enough & that i am never an imposter in god’s eyes (& arguably will always be an imposter if i’m seeking validation from anyone else). i am still raising my hand & powering through a question or a comment. I am still assuring myself that i am worthy of being here, that I am extremely unique & creative & insightful. & that the things i say - especially in those settings where i don’t see myself represented - are important.