I’ve done plenty of things throughout my life that I thought was normal human behavior, albeit feeling uncomfortable at the time. I’ve always felt different and a bit wackier than the average person, but it never occurred to me that I was the poster child for social anxiety behavior. I honestly thought everyone reacted the same way in certain situations. Still, it’s only until I married the complete opposite of me that I finally saw that my way of doing things might seem strange or funny to others.
If you’re socially anxious, you’ll relate to this list, but if you’re not, then pay attention. We can’t be the only ones dealing with this nonsense, so you might as well be aware of what we’re going through, damn it!
10 ways Social Anxiety behavior shows up
1. Plan out each conversation in advance
If there’s a party to attend, a happy hour, a work function, or any other event where there are people involved, I plan out my topics of conversation. I play out all the scenarios in my head, from the hugs I’m going to give to the handshakes I’m going to extend. I think about how to start each conversation, and I memorize a bunch of questions to ask. For each person I know will be there. Should they deviate from my plan, I’m screwed. I sometimes role-play the whole conversation back and forth to have the upper hand and prepare myself. If that’s not social anxiety behavior 101, then I don’t know what is.
Sally, oh my goodness, I had NO IDEA you were competing in the world’s book of records for fastest sweater knitter. How on Earth did you get into that?!
Mark, what a COINCIDENCE. I was reading about cryptocurrency the other day. What are your thoughts on it? Do you think we are going back to the Gold standard?
Jimboooo, I HEARD you bought a camper and are planning to live out the #vanlife!
2. Make the mistake to wave at someone
I cannot explain to you how many times I’ve waved at someone from across the room, only to have them look perplexed at me. Or completely ignore me and keep going about their conversation. No big deal, right? Hello, social anxiety. The adjacent stares. The feeling of being seen as a waving weirdo. The total rejection burning straight through my skin, all the way to my racing heart and down to my sweaty feet. Why the hell did I wave? It’s not like I want to TALK to this person, so why am I subjecting myself to this? Probably safer next time to walk by without acknowledging them? Damn it. I don’t know what’s worse.
3. Run across the aisles to avoid someone
This is my favorite game to play. Peek-a-boo, you don’t see me. I can’t recall the number of times I’ve strolled into a store and, out of nowhere, launched myself behind a rack, or an aisle, for cover because I recognized someone. Did they see me? Oh God, I hope they didn’t see me. What if they saw me hide? What if they come my way now? What do I say? Oh God, why am I like this? Usually, I’m by myself, so I don’t have to feel extra stupid. But when I’m out with my husband, I have to deal with him too because he snickers and leaves me to my own insanity.
Let’s not deny that this is social anxiety behavior at its best. I trail slowly behind and intermittently ask him to check if the coast is clear. I keep track of that person’s whereabouts until they leave the store. Please don’t ask me how much time I’ve wasted doing this (I could have actually watched the entire Ugly Betty series).
4. Ask someone else to make calls on my behalf
I have a long to-do list. Schedule car maintenance, set up annual physical appointments, figure out why my bill is 2x the amount, and sign my kid up for soccer class. That’s just for today. Tomorrow I have ten more calls I need to make. How on Earth am I going to survive ALL these calls?! Hey Mom, can you come over and call for me, please? I know I’m 31 but pleeeeasseeeee?? There was a time that would have worked beautifully. I never had to make a call. These days, it sounds more like this…Honeyyyyy, can you call that guy for the car?? Babyyyyy, can you call the bank and ask them to refund the transfer fee? Sweetyyyyy, can you please call daycare to let them know we are coming in late?? I mean, that’s the number one reason I married an extrovert.
5. Ask a friend to ask someone to take a picture
I never ask anyone if they can take a picture. Nope. I’m not doing it. I’d much rather take a selfie, put a timer in, or lose my camera over the edge. Most of the time, though, I ask the person, I’m going to ask someone else to take a picture. I can’t put myself in that position where I have to:
1. Stop a stranger
2. Ask them to take a picture
3. Hand over my new unpaid phone
4. Walk all the way back
5. Take time to pose properly
6. get the phone from them
7. Check the picture
8. Acknowledge it’s good
8.1 Ask for another picture if it sucks
8.2 Accept the sucky picture
9. Say thank you.
That’s too many steps, too much involvement, and too much human contact. I’d rather stay at a distance while someone else handles all of that. I’ll happily do number 9. Thank you!
6. Refuse to call out a mistake
“Bob, I think you misspelled your name” is something I probably should blurt out. But I won’t because I’m not particularly eager to put people on the spot. Because that means I’m putting myself on the spot. So, sorry, Bob, you’re going to have to lead the meeting with your name spelled Boob on the board. Not sure what you were thinking there, but it sure as hell ain’t my problem. Just like it’s not my problem, the date is wrong on the report, or that you spelled my name wrong, or that I shouldn’t be in this meeting in the first place because you added the wrong Roxana to the meeting. I’ll sit here…
7. Ask questions
Hi, my name is Roxana, and it’s been 5 years since I’ve asked a question. Ok, let’s not exaggerate. It’s more like 3 years. Asking a question is scary for a socially anxious introvert. I mean, chances are pretty high that it won’t come out right, which means I’ll sound stupid so that people will roll their eyes, and then life is over. It usually goes like that. So, it’s much better to sit quietly and pray that someone else has the same question and that they actually go through the motion of asking it. Not sure what the chances usually are of that, but I’m doing just fine, blazing through life waiting for someone else to ask my questions. I can’t afford anyone thinking that I don’t know something, let alone something everyone else seems to know…
8. Accept an invite and hope the event gets canceled
I’ll be honest with you. I hate not being invited to events because it means I’m intentionally being left out. Yuck. But what I also hate is being asked to come because then I have to muster all the brain strength I have to prepare myself for social activities. The BEST outcome is for me to accept an invitation and then have you cancel it. So please only invite me when you know you’re going to shut the whole thing down. I get to say yes to your event and not come.
Tell me you can relate to this. You walk through the sliding doors of your building, walk up to the elevators and press the button to go up. There’s no one else around you. You look back at the sliding doors, the entrance and notice someone you know is about to come in simultaneously the elevator dings. You run into the elevator, start pressing the close button in a panicky maniacal way and manage to barely make it as you see their hand about to stop the elevator. Phew, they were too late. Holy shit, did they see me??
10. Go in the opposite direction I need to go in
I do this thing where I become overly polite at my own expense. For example, if I’m driving and I need to take a left across the median but there are 5 cars behind me waiting, and there’s a nonstop flow of cars coming my way, I’ll take a right instead and drive for 10 miles if I have not to be an “inconvenience” to the car behind me. I hate making people wait for me, so I’ll go in the opposite direction if I have to. Please don’t get out of your car and yell at me for not taking the initiative to go the moment I should have gone but too scared!
I’m sure plenty of other things I’ve done that scream social anxiety behavior, but these are the most prevalent and the ones I still catch myself doing. The easiest way to start conquering social anxiety is to laugh at what it makes you do and then take steps to work through it.
Social Anxiety is no joke, I know because I’ve lived with it for many years, but I can laugh at some of the things it made me do because if I don’t then, I’ll give it too much power over me.
What are some things you’ve done that are deemed socially anxious behavior that you can look back on and laugh at?
This article was featured in Introvert, Dear.