Buendia asks: I’m very shy. I know I can talk with people at school and everything but I don’t know what I would do if I saw them outside of school. Let’s say I meet an acquaintance; what do I do? Do I talk with them or not? Do I completely avoid them or try to hide from them? Or what if I see my classmates outside? I would hate them seeing me. This fear of mine has made me come to such a point that I am scared of going out from my house. I am only comfortable going out with my parents and my close friends, (about 6 people). And another thing, I feel embarrassed about being seen with my brother. Like take today for instance, he wanted to go outside and it’s a beautiful day but want I don’t to go outside cause he dresses so loud. I always wanted to be not this person. Hanging out with people judging their looks. But unfortunately I am. I am no racist but I only hang out with people who have a good dressing sense, like my closest friends. So my questions are: What is this problem I have? How do I cure it, and is this just social anxiety? I am sick of living in fear of seeing people I sort of know outside and them seeing me, especially if they are in a group.
Hi Buendia –
I can only guess as to what’s really going on with you, but here are my top three guesses:
1) A famous US president once said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Most likely, this is your situation. You meet up with people in a place that isn’t normal for you (“normal” in the sense that you always see them at school), and you wonder what you should say. Then that makes you worry that maybe you’d say the wrong thing. Then that makes you worry that you aren’t saying enough. And that makes you worry that you might look wrong. And that makes you worry… and on and on. So the only thing that is truly worthy of your worrying about is all your crazy worrying! If this is the case, my advice is to listen to more conversations around you. Hear how empty and mundane most of them are. “Hey, what’s up?” “Hey not much, you?” “Nothin’ special. Cold out there.” “Yeah, brrrrrrr.” “Where you headed?” “Nowhere special.” “Cool.” Okay, that was a lot of conversation. What did any of them actually say or learn? NOTHING! And I have no doubt, from your letters, that you are capable of this, without even having to think! (We dogs are so much better at this – within a few seconds, we’ve sniffed each other, figured out if the other is a threat, sensed if they want to play, and progressed to the next level!) So you see, you could get away with having nothing at all to say, as long as you can just relax!
2) The next level up from Worry is Shame. And it sounds like you might be suffering from that. People see you out on the street and you feel there’s something bad about that, like they’ll feel you shouldn’t be there. Or you’re wearing the wrong clothes, or you’re standing the wrong way. It’s not just that you can’t think of anything to say, you’re just wrong for being what you are at that moment! If this is the case, my real answer is still the same (just try to relax and know those beliefs are nonsense), but it might be harder to follow. You might consider finding some sort of counselor to talk with, who can help you get past these wrong beliefs. (You might also find that, if you do, you’ll stop being so intolerant of your brother. After all, some people might think he looks cool in those loud outfits! I walk around wearing nothing but a collar, only get a few baths a year, and get complimented every single day for my beautiful looks!)
3) Okay, if it’s actually worse than this, you might be suffering from something called Agoraphobia. That’s a deep-seated fear of being out in open spaces. Some people with Agoraphobia never manage to leave their homes at all. This is another case where, if you have it, you really should talk with a therapist or counselor. You’re not “crazy,” but this is really messing with your life. And this is something that can absolutely be fixed, probably pretty quickly and easily. You just have to do the work.
So, Buendia, those are my main thoughts. The good news is that none of them would require enormous work or spending; the great news is that, once you are able to solve this, your life is going to become a thousand times more fun!
All my best,