Small Victories are Still Victories

While my experiences with social anxiety are hard, there are ways that I have learned to cope with it and still live a fulfilling life.


Sometimes it feels like my brain is conspiring against me and my social life. Constantly racing with random thoughts and assigning extra attention to arbitrary topics, my reaction time for simple tasks has become so slowed down to the point that I forget what led me down a rabbit hole of nonsense in the first place. I wasn’t always aware that I had social anxiety as I was told I was a nice and quiet kid. It took me years to realize that I wasn’t being quiet out of pure shyness and that while I do consider myself a polite person, my silence is hardly a representation of how nice I am. 

My anxiety affects how I communicate and interact with the world. In conversations with people I tend to listen more than I speak. This has been misinterpreted by others as me being rude and disinterested in the conversation. In reality, I’m engaged and interested in my own way–I’ve just always felt more comfortable listening to other people’s thoughts. It’s interesting hearing how passionate and animated people can become when they realize they have an open ear available. 

For me however, speaking is a daunting task to do unless I’m really comfortable with the person I’m conversing with. The mental act of arranging sentences and then physically allowing them to leave the safe, nonjudgmental walls of my brain and enter the world is a rather scary task. Someone could easily misinterpret my words which could change their impression of me. Even though I’m often hardly in any real danger of being ridiculed or judged, the parasite that feeds off of the fears in my brain refuses to allow me a moment of confidence. Conversations can easily die from the awkwardness of miscommunications, pauses in speaking, and just general uninterest. I’ve gotten used to this though, having to constantly repeat myself since I’m also a quiet talker.

My friends have taught me valuable lessons on how to deal with my social anxiety. When I’m in a crowded place, I feel extremely overwhelmed by all of the sounds and movements that are happening; thus, it becomes difficult to focus on what I’m doing. My friends know this about me, so now whenever we go out, we have a plan to check in on each other. We ask each other if we’re comfortable, having fun, feeling safe, overwhelmed, anxious, or if we want to relocate. Instead of being judged for my disengagement and fears of doing things, my friends help push me to try new things all while respecting my boundaries. 

Oftentimes I find it difficult to correct people. Even in small situations, like someone getting my order wrong when I’m out. My brain thinks of dozens of excuses as to why I shouldn’t say anything out of fear of not being heard again, angering them, or coming off as disrespectful. My friends encourage me to speak up for myself more and even speak for me if they know I’m having trouble. At first I felt embarrassed about how I needed my friend to help me order food, but I learned to appreciate it. If ordering food is something that people do all the time, certainly I can do it too. 

Assertiveness is something I’ve learned to help tame my parasite. I find myself being overly worried about upsetting other people. If I’m walking on the sidewalk and a group of people are passing by I feel the need to move over to make room for them. Now, I try to keep to my side and see if they would move for me. In the end, no huge fights break out and both parties move on with their day. 

For me working on my social anxiety is all about the small victories. Although it’s hard to do everyday tasks that involve outside interactions, when I order something myself, go to a busy mall with my friends or defend my side of the sidewalk, I feel reassured that everything will be okay and I’m able to strengthen my confidence. I want to be able to work with my anxiety and not against it. Small victories are still victories that I can enjoy over a mountain of defeats because I know I’m actively working on my skills. While this is just my personal experience with social anxiety, it is just one of many different narratives. It’s important that people are understanding and conscious of people around them.


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