“I want you to go pick a partner, sit face to face, and tell them about the scenario you wrote. And don’t pick someone at your table,” a man instructs from the raised stage just beneath a wide screen.
A sense of panic courses through my body as his words marinate in my mind. Instantly, my fingers twiddle a blue and gray ink pen between them while my right knee bounces up and down underneath the white tablecloth. My eyes stay trained on the table in front of me as the speaker continues explaining the instructions.
“Ready, set, go!” he booms into the microphone, causing a flurry of movement. I slowly get to my feet but make no move from the spot. Within seconds, everyone finds a partner, except for me. My eyes glance around the room, avoiding eye contact, while internally I freak out. Then a series of paranoid questions filter through my mind: what if I say the wrong thing? What if I talk too fast and he doesn’t understand me? What if I ramble and embarrass myself?
Eventually, the movement settles down. People complete the task at hand, and I just lower my behind back into my seat. My heart still races as I hunch over the white paper containing three sentences and grip the pen in my right hand. In the moment, I want to disappear. I debate whether to remain in my seat or make a beeline for the bathroom to save myself the embarrassment of being left out.
“Do you need a partner?” the speaker questions, capturing my attention.
As the shy introvert that I am, I simply mumble ‘yes’ and nod my head while wearing an uncomfortable smile on my face. Then a male in a blue suit and wearing glasses joins me at the table, and we discuss my scenario first before addressing his.
This is one of many instances of social anxiety for me. For so long, I attributed my difficulty with approaching people, making friends, and enjoying social events to the fact that I am shy and introverted. However, it became clear that this was more than that when these moments were impeding upon my ability to have a social life. In the midst of a crowd, I’d run the risk of getting teary-eyed, palms sweaty, and on the verge of panic. I’d have to convince myself I really need to get something to step foot in a supermarket—basically, giving myself a mental pep talk before making my way there. Almost always, I adamantly refused to go to a public event if I didn’t personally know anyone else going.
Moreover, I wanted friends but couldn’t seem to make and keep them because I’d let what ifs convince me not to step up. Then with those I had deemed a friend before, I allowed the fear of saying the wrong thing, hurting their feelings, or some other reason to disintegrate the friendship and keep me from working to stay connected with them. Of course, as if that wasn’t enough, what I thought manifested physically to where I even seemed unapproachable—sometimes even standoffish like I didn’t want to be bothered. So, I stayed quiet, kept my thoughts and opinions to myself, and wouldn’t text someone even though I really was worried about how the person was. I became a loner who wanted friends and to enjoy a social life but couldn’t.
Now, why does all of this matter? What does confessing all of this mean? For me, becoming an author, being active on social media, encouraging others to give my work a chance is a struggle. Even doing this blog takes time, effort, and planning. Nevertheless, my hope in being honest, upfront, and real helps me to improve personally and enable others to understand a little bit of what makes me unique. I want others to be inspired and encouraged or even feel like they can relate to anything I’ve been through. I’m working on this part of me, but I pray that God guides me on this journey of authorship, writer, and blogger.