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Philipp

Sharing my story of social anxiety

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Hey, if anyone else is struggling with a similar issue here I wanted to share my quest to overcome social anxiety, which already goes on for years and now that I quit gaming I want to make the next steps and I'm also looking for advice on how to do that next steps (therapy isn't an option for me).

 

My situation a few years back:

- Whenever I was around people I didn't know (didn't matter if anyone accompanied me or not) I couldn't even speak a word

- When going to a restaurant with family I always just told my parents what I wanted soo that I didn't have to order myself

- When walking down a corridor and there were people around I had shivers and constantly feared that they all were watching me

- Never really had more than one friend

- Even feared someone AT HOME could hear me playing piano (I sucked at it - obviously - because I never learned at home because of this) - until I totally quit and turned completely to video games

- Was the outsider in school

- Couldn't even go shopping for groceries

- Couldn't talk to girls

 

My progress so far in overcoming my fear of strangers:

- When I graduated from secondary school and had to go to a new school I was sick of being afread of looking stupid while WALKING - so I started to train running (with headphones first and without later - within a few months I was used to running and walking in front of others. So one shitty situation less to worry about

- Used that newfound motivation to start working out at home - even though there were some stupid commentaries about how stupid I looked nearly dying while doing push-ups (reached a point where I just shut the door to my room), I pushed through and got a little into shape.
Still didn't talk to people at school, but when we one day went arching and other outdoor-sports some classmates found out that I had arching skills and I eventually got to talking with two other (extremely silent) guys - about video games. From that point on I started playing even more video games but we also met to go to the cinema together. I was literally FORCED to talk to receptionist and so on to buy movie tickets. At some point I became comfortable talking to people that I knew I'd never see again and that were paid to talk to me.

- After graduating from that school I had to do civil service at the red cross as paramedic. Most of the time I just sat in the back of the car and looked out for our patients (mostly very old people). The first few months were like hell to me. Even developed a nasty rash because of stress (at least that's the only explanation my doctor had). But after that few months once again I started to get used to being in a small space with patients. I started to like them and talk to them. Mostly about what there problems were, how they felt that day and small unimportant stuff. So once more problem dealt with. I could talk to people as long as there weren't more than 2 strangers at once and they were older or significantly younger than me.

- At the same time I started to challenge myself going to weekend seminars about swordfighting. Didn't really talk to the people there (just a little bit about current exercises) but I enjoyed being part of a nice community and eventually became sort of friends (I don't see any of them more then twice a year on some seminar). I started realizing that there's so much more than video games in life and found that common interests were a good way to get in contact with people and lost fear of other that shared the same interest as me.

- Somehow began to not give a shit about what people (that I didn't talk to) think about me - can just lay down on the floor in the middle of the street to take a photograph without fearing anyone will judge me for being a weirdo

 

My current situation:

Still freeze in place when I think about talking to someone (even a trainingspartner) about anything else than the current action. I want to learn to start a conversation with strangers in ANY situation (not just if we're doing something together) and how to make close friends. Currently reading "Painfully Shy - How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life" but don't know if it will help - will try the exercises once I reach that chapter - for now it was mostly about what social anxiety is and where it comes from.

 

If you made it this far: thanks for reading

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Wow @Philipp, that is really tough. I'm glad to see you're still plugging away at it. If you're taking just one small step a day, no matter how small it is, it is still a step in the right direction. Gaming forces you to not take that step because you're escaping. You have the right mindset, keep it up!

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Indeed, how much someone progresses is mostly about the mindset. The exercises from the book also seem to help - was having dinner with the two people of my HEMA-Group that I most of the time train with and their parents and I was able to participate in the conversation (a bit).

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@Cindpline After this last three months, from experience I can tell you, if you continue working on yourself, if you start gaining life experience and if you put yourself out there, it gets better - slowly, but it does. Just don't stop working on it.
It's kind of interesting to read my old Posts. It makes you realize the Progress you made.
I still suck at talking to strangers, but I have a few (new and old) Friends that I actively talk with. Over the past month I got some incredible invitations to random-sleepovers, took some Hitchhikers from one place to another, got invited to weekend-trips, I had a photoshoot with a busdriver I didn't even know and I got invited on a Holiday trip to China next year by a restaurant owner and now good friend. --> All of These things I wouldn't have dared to dream of a few months before.

But this is nothing but the tip of the iceberg. Hope you'll see progress yourself soon.

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I'm really impressed with the progress you made, Philip.  What you did was smart.  You put yourself in situations that forced you to socialize.

Folks, socializing is not a skill we are born with.  That's a fact.  You must put yourself out there where you're forced to talk to others.  You'll fumble and bounce around the right words to say, but over time, and through many encounters with strangers, you will create a certain 'script' in your mind that you can easily whip up to engage other people in a conversation.  You can be creative too.  One tip I use is to focus on something I admire about the person.  Their appearance, the way they talk, the way they share a story.  And then I comment about it, and say something positive about it to them.  A genuine and nice comment.  Open questions are great as well to keep the conversation going.  Don't worry, you'll feel like a weirdo doing this, but over time and with practice, it will be easier.

We don't just talk with our voices.  We communicate with our bodies too, and our facial expressions.  The thing is, when people succumb to the 'easier' route of socializing online with people, especially in a video game, you are losing out on practicing  so many other social cues and you are short-changing yourself. 

So, kudos to you for acting brave and facing those anxieties straight-on!  I could use the same advice myself, especially when it comes to the dating scene in my future.  There's a person I have a crush on at work, but I'm too shy to even make eye contact.  It's that bad. :(  Anyway......that's another story, and I won't hijack your thread.

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@DanniganI don't mind a little thread-hijacking - that's what this thread is here for anyway - sharing stories of dealing with social situations.

I'm hitting another Milestone tomorrow - I was invited to a Dance-Workshop by a friend. Oo there'll be strangers and I'm supposed to dance (I just had my first Group dance last weekend) The only comfort is that the girl that invited me is the host/Trainer and some fencing friends will be there too. I'm nervous as f*** atm.

Wish me luck - will post how it went the next day.

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Hey,

So, I just got home from an amazing evening trying to not fall over my own feet with a bunch of strangers………………………. and I enjoyed it!!! damn I'm soooo proud of myself at the moment for going there.
To sum it up real quick: Strangers, Partnerdances, Dancing while NOT being drunk, In public --> A few months back I'd have rather killed myself instead of doing this!

This will be my last entry in this thread, so if anyone else want to take over and share his journey, feel free to do so. I'm hopeful that this gives hope to People who are stuck in the same crappy Situation and show that it's possible to deal with your anxiety.

Hugs to all of you!

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