It’s incredible how much we transform as we get older. Not just physically (and boy, how THAT has changed) but emotionally and, dare I say it, spiritually too. Just last week I found myself answering the question of a peer fifteen years younger with “as you get older”…… Yuck! Who am I? Did I really say that? Someone call the tacky, cliché police. As scary as that realisation is, I find the truth in it scarier.
I remember vividly as a child the painful anxiety I would feel when among others. Even family and people I knew. I can still feel that solid tree trunk that would start growing from my gut and render me speechless and so painfully shy, taken over by a fear of nothing I could identify other than idle conversation. I admit it was not with everyone but was real and painful enough that I feel it conquered more interactions than it did not. There are still remnants of this debilitating condition today, but I have worked long and hard to be able to feel at ease, even around people I know.
I cannot pinpoint the moment I realised my issues had subsided. In fact, I know it was actually a pathway of stepping stones that led me to where I am now. Yes, oftentimes my exuberance and enthusiasm is still a cover, but I also make a deliberate choice to try and laugh and smile at the world. It’s much easier that way.
I now know there were specific environmental elements that contributed to my withdrawal and extreme shyness, and I may very well get to those in due course, but at the time (and for many years after), all I knew was the painful fear of having to speak or be spoken to.
Social anxiety occurs often with people who have experienced trauma, but it can happen to everyone, it’s natural to be shy and uncertain and feel judged when in social situations, particularly those new to us. Mine went so far as, even just a few years ago, I would arrive late to meet a friend so I would not have to look around for them or be at an event on my own. The inner turmoil would fog my head, and a panic attack would most likely be just around the corner.
Perhaps it’s a new city? Perhaps an internal recognition of the need to evolve. Whatever it is, I now am only shy like anyone else. No more heart palpitations, no anxieties. I have found I am more comfortable in pushing beyond my comfort zone and I am no longer afraid to speak.
Confidence is no longer a bad word.