I was asked to participate in a mini play during church service a year ago. That was the day I realized I had social anxiety. We had two weeks to prepare and every time I practiced my heart would beat so hard I was surprised it wasn’t obvious. I would forget my lines even though I knew them. My voice became shaky, it was like I was verbally punishing myself. On the day of I was set to perform, I was trying to come up with every excuse in the book and honestly, the only thing stopping me was that I promised myself I would be more involved in anything church related. I didn’t care that I didn’t have an understudy or that my absence would have thrown everyone off. How could I when comments like “you’re probably going to make a fool out of yourself”, or  “make sure you don’t trip because that would be embarrassing. I kept thinking, “girl, what if you salivate too much and end up drooling”. To someone without social anxiety this probably sounds stupid, but to me, to it felt like it could have killed me.   

As I went on stage my face went into survival mode… survival from what, I’m not sure but I was tense. Thankfully my role was serious but I was counting down every second. I didn’t know where to look; matching the eyes of the audience terrified me. I forgot a couple lines but nobody could tell even though it felt like everyone knew. There were a couple funny parts in the play but my anxiety was telling me that they were laughing at me. After service, I sped home and for three days I would physically cringe and shutter, along with use self-punishing language that made me feel unworthy of social interaction. I prayed all day everyday for it to go away. I thought I was ill and researched my symptoms to figure out what these feelings were because I was beginning to worry. That’s when I knew. Around that time, God revealed to me my purpose and it terrified me and I just didn’t know why.  

Social anxiety is “the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. You could say social anxiety is the fear of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people.  It is a pervasive disorder and causes anxiety and fear in almost all areas of a person’s life – as documented by socialphobia.org. I always introduced myself as a “severely awkward introvert” to warn a person that’s the reason I’ll most likely say no to hanging out and avoid getting to know them because I hated small talk. In reality, yes I am an introvert, my personality type is INFP, and social interaction is draining to me if it’s not purposeful. I gain energy in solitude. I didn’t understand how to start up a random conversation for the sake of it, or when customers at work engage in small talk I was speechless because I didn’t know how to respond. I also tripped over my words a lot.  

After self-reflecting I realized I’m not built like this. I’ve been conditioned by hurtful relationships that belittled me during my childhood.  Another definition for social anxiety is giving your power of confidence to the opinion of others. Confidence is a superpower. Another word for social anxiety is insecurity. I couldn’t believe I was insecure! I always prided myself on not caring what people think. Nevertheless, it was clear that I had social anxiety.

I overcame two months ago after having a conversation with my accountability partner. She told me, and I’m telling you, an awkward person doesn’t have friends; they aren’t able to vocalize what they want from life and are typically lonely. I am none of those. She said I just know what I want and don’t waste time interacting in conversations I good and well know will not benefit me or another person. Being an introvert isn’t a downfall it’s another healthy form of expression. She told me I show signs of an insecure woman and if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s a woman who has tricked herself into believing she’s whole and secure. Then, she celebrated me and showed me myself in a different lens. I liked the way I looked in the shade stable. She showed me that this wasn’t something that would hold me back because I was so much more than my social anxiety. 

Ever since then my work relationships increased, I stopped tripping on my words as much, I’m more direct with my beliefs, I’m even a mild small talk starter, I raise my hand up and have taken public speaking roles at church! The constant shuttering, self-hate language and escapism has left. Don’t get me wrong, it still tries to steal my joy but now I celebrate myself through affirmations, laughing with myself and simply just not caring if I have bad timing with a hug or spit flies out of my mouth when I speak. I am who I am. I’m not awkward, I’m witty.  

My advice is getting an accountability partner, ask your friends their opinions of you, take a trip down memory lane and figure out where it came from. Accept the fact that you have insecurities. Write daily affirmations about how bomb.com you are. Journal the goals you could attain if it wasn’t for your social anxiety. Describe the type of woman you know you’re supposed to be in deliverance and the opportunities you missed out on because you’re not her yet. And take risks! Ask questions even if you think they’re stupid. There’s nothing more beautiful than a confident woman. You can drink all the lemon-cucumber infused water and soak yourself in coconut oil all you want but there’s nothing like confidence!