One of the more prominent aspects of my anxiety is my difficulty with conversation. Most of that stems from social anxiety, which (according to the National Institute of Mental Health) is “an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others.” Having conversations with others, especially people I don’t know all that well, can make me very nervous. I’m often worried I’ll say the ‘wrong thing’ and ruin a conversation, which is why I often avoid them. The biggest reason I end up in these situations is that I have an unrealistic view that every interaction I have with someone should be ‘perfect’ – which is what I want to talk about today.
One of the ways my anxiety manifests in conversations is that I believe that everything that comes out of my mouth has to be the right thing to say. It’s relevant, it’s helpful, it’s witty, etc. Basically, I don’t want to add anything to a conversation that, in my head, doesn’t bring value.
Though this line of thinking is flawed, I don’t think it’s that uncommon. Everyone wants to be able to say the right thing when they speak, and we want to have good conversations that lead to good relationship with others. That being said, what I would like to change is the pressure I put on every word I say.
When I say something out loud, it’s likely that I’ve said it to myself at least once in my head, and I’ve run over a few different ways I could phrase something before I put it into the world. I’m working on improving at this and taking less pressure off the things I say, but it’s where I’m at right now. Sure, there are situations where I’m not overthinking, but they are far and few between. Most of the time, I’m working to find something that sounds good in my head that I can put out into the universe – and that’s a lot of pressure to put on one person!
I’ve known for a long time that speaking my mind and talking to others shouldn’t be the most pressure-filled part of my day, but it often is. A lot of the social skills I’d built up disappeared with the pandemic, leaving me to once again learn how to be myself and feel comfortable in social situations. At this point, it’s safe to say I’m still working my way back to where I was.
Most of the things I say out loud sound better in my head before I say them, which is why I’m disappointed when they don’t make as much sense to someone else. I know that I’m putting too much pressure on the words I say, but the best advice I’ve gotten on this issue is to not worry too much about what I say – a pretty big ask from someone who loves words and language.
Maybe I’m just venting and expressing frustration, but communicating can feel like a struggle because even though I feel like I understand people, I don’t always feel like they understand me. I’m working on solutions to this, but in the meantime, I’m trying to take things one conversation at a time, and get out of my own head whenever possible. We’ll see where this takes me.
Have you ever experienced social anxiety or difficulty talking with others? Do you directly relate it to mental health issues, or is it a separate situation altogether? Let me know in the comments!