If you’ve been following Authoring Arrowheads for a while, you may know that I’ve struggled with social anxiety since childhood.
Though I talked about it more around the time I released Speak Your Mind, my middle grade novel about a seventh grader who deals with extreme social anxiety, I’ve never really mentioned how this type of anxiety has affected my own life in my twenties.
Over the years, my social anxiety has lessened in some ways, and increased in others. Today, I just want to discuss how social anxiety has affected me personally throughout my first decade as an adult.
Dealing with social anxiety has always made it hard for me to make friends. In elementary and middle school, it seemed that, every time I finally made a new friend, they either ended up moving away or transferring schools, so it became difficult for me to get close to anyone, figuring they would just end up leaving.
Ninth grade was probably the prime time for my “friendship making skills”, because where I live, our high school combines three middle schools, which meant I met a lot of new people that year. Throughout high school, I maintained most of those friendships, but once graduation hit, again, those friendships dissolved due to distance, or butting heads over conflicting opinions, to be honest. It’s stupid, but that’s what happened.
The same thing happened when I moved on to community college, and the University I attended.
Now, at 28, I’ll be honest and say that I probably have two strong friendships outside of my immediate family: my best friend since pre-school (who, yes, also moved away at one point, but we’ve always been able to maintain our friendship), and my husband’s best friend who bowls on league with him, and who goes to the same church we do. Sure, Josh has more friends that we hang out with regularly, but I’ve never really been able to talk as comfortably around them.
At work, I keep to myself. My department is basically just me and my supervisor, and I’d rather just spend my breaks and lunches by myself to cool off from the daily stress of working in the IT department. I’ve never really felt like I fit in in the company anyway (most likely due to social anxiety, but there are also some other reasons), so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on any friendships there.
Back in October 2021, when we got back from our honeymoon, Josh and I started attending a different church in our area. No, there wasn’t any drama with our former church; we just felt that God was nudging us to try our current church, because our former church was mostly comprised of older people, and didn’t have a Sunday school program. Our current church has more people our age, and we feel it will be a better place for our future kids to attend, if that’s in God’s will for us. Going to this church has been a life-changing experience for both Josh and me (he got baptized last month!), and I feel that, if I’m going to make any more true friends as an adult, this will be the place to do so.
But, I’ve felt social anxiety gripping me there, too. I’ve been invited to attend the women’s retreat across the state later this year, but am scared to go, even though some of my cousins go to that church and may be going, because I’m afraid of being there without Josh (my current social cushion). People of all ages at this church have been extremely welcoming of us, and I love going there, but I still find myself holding back from opening up about myself. Josh and I have been trying to attend more events there though, so hopefully I’ll get more comfortable and will be able to make lifelong friends there.
Dealing with Conflict
This aspect of social anxiety has hit me like a bullet train in recent months. I’ve been dealing with immense frustrations in one aspect of my personal life, and it has not been going well at all.
Because I’m afraid of opening up to people, I find myself internalizing every single time someone talks to me in a harsh or condescending way. I “tally up” things that hurt me, and don’t voice my concerns until I’m on the point of exploding.
And, I’m not sure if it’s either because I’m so quiet on a regular basis, or if I’m just dealing with narcissists, but whenever I finally say my peace, my concerns are entirely ignored and are deemed as “unwarranted” or “drama-starting”. Since it’s hard enough for me to even stand up for myself against conflict, when my concerns are dismissed in such a way, it just makes me hole up and stew all the more.
Lately, the affects of social anxiety in this area of my life have caused me to become depressed in a way. I’ve found myself stewing over how unjust these people I’m conflicting with are, and it’s killed my motivation to write or do other things I love. This is the main reason I’ve been so far behind on pre-scheduling blog content. These conflicts have been sucking the life out of me, and I feel like I can’t say anything about it without being dismissed or punished for it. And, if I do get the courage to say something against it, I end up feeling bad for standing up for myself, even if it was justified. It’s just been really difficult for me lately, and I hope this explanation was not confusing for those of you who may not deal with social anxiety.
Going Out in Public to Do Normal, Adult Tasks
This, overall, has been the worst part of dealing with social anxiety as a newly-married adult: just the thought of having to go to a store alone sends my nerves into an uproar.
Honestly, y’all. The only time I set foot in a store, even ones in my hometown, is if Josh or a family member is with me. Thank the Lord that Josh has a job that allows him to get home before I do from work. He’s able to do our grocery shopping for us, and I am immensely grateful for that.
In our six months of marriage so far, I’ve only went to the grocery store by myself once, and thought I was going to have a heart attack. My pulse raced. My face was beet red. I was afraid everyone was judging me for taking too long to find what I needed. I felt like my cart was taking up too much room in the aisle. It was dark outside, and all of a sudden all I could think about was getting abducted by some creeper in the parking lot (episodes of attempted trafficking abductions has become rampant in our area over the past few years). I hoped and prayed I wouldn’t see anyone I knew in there, because I was terrified of having to talk to anyone and look spastic when I was already freaking out over the crowd of people.
To most people, this probably sounds insane. But, this is honestly what I go through every time I have to go somewhere alone. I’m a little better about going to appointments on my own, like for the dentist or the doctor, but if it’s anywhere where there will be a large crowd, I’d rather have someone with me.
Marketing My Books
Probably the most confusing way social anxiety has affected my life is that I feel extremely awkward marketing my books on social media.
I can talk about my struggles. I can post Reels on Instagram, making the stupidest faces imaginable. I can fangirl over other authors’ books… but, for some reason, I feel like I can’t talk about my own in a creative way.
Trying to post about my books in a way that makes other people want to read and/or buy them has always been difficult for me. Most often, I default to: 1) Here are the names of my books 2) Here are the genres of these books 3) Go check out my books at this link.
And, honestly, it doesn’t work well. Especially on my personal Facebook account, where, whenever I post about my books trying to sell copies, sometimes no one will even like my posts. This social dejection from my personal Facebook has seeped into my feelings for posting on my author platforms, and it’s just made my marketing fall flat in my opinion. I see all these other authors doing such creative things to market their books (especially Bethany Atazadeh! She is a marketing genius, and she’s so creative with her signed copy sales! I really admire her. 🙂 ) and at times, I’m so afraid of talking about my books only for no one to care.
In my five years as an indie author so far, I’ve been blessed to make many online friendships within the indie author community! Still, even though the friends I’ve made have been so, so supportive, I still find myself holding back from opening up about myself to them, or talking to them more than I do, due to social anxiety. Which, is crazy to me, because it’s not even verbal communication.
I love receiving comments on posts, but I feel like I never know how to answer comments. I feel myself resorting to generic replies, feeling weird if I try to be myself, even if I’m replying to one of my closest author friends. So, if y’all ever comment on something I post and it takes me half a decade to reply… I’m not mad with/tired of y’all. I’m probably just procrastinating on replying because my social anxiety has kicked in and I’m second-guessing how to respond.
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
So, that’s what it’s been like for me dealing with social anxiety throughout my twenties. Do you suffer from social anxiety? How has it affected your life?
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.