“I look confident, but inside I’m anxious and exhausted.”
My name is John, and I’ve struggled with social anxiety throughout my adolescent and adult life. You wouldn’t necessarily have known it if you met me. I can talk at length about interesting things I’ve read or learned. I present my opinions confidently. I deal with professional situations fairly easily. But at a party, a networking event, or in other purely social situations I used to feel very uncomfortable. I would go to great lengths to avoid them.
For me, getting through a social event involved putting on a confident facade. When it comes to my personal life I tend to be pretty private, so talking to new people in a social situation was agonizing. I was very self conscious and felt like I struggled to make conversation, even though other people perceived me to have perfectly fine social and conversational skills. The anxiety would grow quickly until I became exhausted, stopped talking to people, and left early. Then I would hide out for a day or two by myself to recover.
I went through John Montopoli’s social anxiety program as a way to overcome these problems. It was helpful to have a group of people to talk to who shared my experience and were supportive. I saw I wasn’t alone, unusual, or flawed. I was given tools to help me manage my anxieties. Armed with these, I diligently went out and exposed myself to greater and greater anxiety-producing social situations. I gained confidence each time I got through a challenge successfully. And I found that I really could socialize more easily than I imagined. The best insight I ever got from the class was that for most people, the problem is with their anxiety, not their social skills. If you can learn to manage the anxiety, you find you’re able to function in social situations much more easily than you thought you could.
At this point, I feel much less nervous around people. I feel confident and comfortable when I get into social situations. Where before a multi-day professional conference would leave me terrified and exhausted, I now feel capable of participating and even thriving. I’m still introverted, and I still need to get some alone time after too much socializing, but when I do find myself socializing for work or in my private life, I know I can handle it just fine. That means I’m able to spend more time with people and even get pleasure out of it. It’s easier to make friends, and I don’t worry as much. I’d encourage anyone struggling with social anxiety to get support and work through it – your life will be much better for it.
Do you have a personal story of learning to overcome your social anxiety you wish to share?
If you are a former client of an NSAC-affiliated clinic or clinician, we welcome you to share your story if you believe doing so will be helpful for you. Sharing your story—or not doing so—will have no impact whatsoever on any future services you may seek from any NSAC-affiliated clinic or clinician.
You may put your story in writing, audio recording, or video. Discuss any of the following: how social anxiety affected your life; what you learned in therapy that was most helpful for you in lessening your social anxiety; how your life has changed as a result of your work.
NSAC reserves the right to decide which stories will be posted or not based on how helpful we believe they will be to other consumers. NSAC also reserves the right to edit for length and clarity, but we will get your approval on any changes before posting your story. All stories will be posted anonymously. Once posted, you retain the right to have the story removed from our website at any time.
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