“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
And if I am not for others, what am I?
And if not now, when?”
-Hillel (Ancient Hebrew Sage)
Yesterday when I was informed by a friend of mine regarding placements in school in the third semester, I found myself panic-stricken and anxious. I was placed somewhere that I was not comfortable with. Moreover, going in to a new situation, adjusting in a novel environment threw me in jitters. I, a 24-year-old woman pursuing my Bachelors in Education, a would-be teacher and a dancer frequently found myself in situations where I was struck with Social phobia. While it was before a presentation stint or an interview or before performing on stage and socializing I was shrouded in nervousness. I feared that I would end up embarrassing myself which would make people feel that I was incapable for the task, which took place quite a few times.
The word phobia is defined as “a persistent, abnormal, or irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid the feared stimulus.” Therefore, Social phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is a feeling of acute aversion towards social situations which are unfamiliar as the person in question is expected to be evaluated or watched. This has become a very common affair as we have to reach certain criterion set by the society regularly. Some of us try to look for an escape plan as it places us into distressing hair-splitting footings.
A person suffering from SAD as recognized by HelpGuide organization in collaboration with Harvard Medical School experiences the following in social situations:
- Self-consciousness and anxiety to the utmost
- Extreme worry before socializing
- Fear of evaluation and observation
- Self-embarrassment and self-humiliation
- Tightness of chest
- Racing pulse
- Hot flashes and sweating
- Bringing a companion along everywhere
- Escaping from social situations which disturbs life
Social phobia can be inherent in a human being and can be experienced even from early childhood. The earliest it is identified the best one can work to overcome it. When you find out that your child is shy to talk to adults, play with other children, afraid of tests, you will understand that he/she may be struck with social phobia. Adults experience it when while presenting, public speaking, making phone calls, going on a date, being the centre of attraction and so on and so forth.
I went through most of these and did my very best to avoid social situations but there were times I couldn’t. At times I was conceived of an unprofessional, incapable and incompetent. But this did not have anything to do with my skills and abilities. What I realized was that the fear is tentative and is just a conception of the mind. If I had to achieve what lay in front of me I have to view the situation in a different way. With the help of people around me who constantly gave a positive boost, I am able to change my perspective.
Social phobia can be eliminated if one is confident in and knows what he/she is doing. It requires challenging the negative thoughts and changing them into positive. Staying focused and relaxed also helps. Before speaking, performing or socializing it’s essential to calm the and free yourself of disorders and confusion. Attempting to be spontaneous and most importantly being who you are also can bring you out of your fear while maintaining your composure. Eliminate from your mind that even if you don’t deliver you are not awful. With children the methods of positive reinforcement, exposure to character building engagements, learning by doing, role playing etc. have to be applied.
It’s not that we, the common folks only face this giant fear of people. You will be surprised to know that a host of other celebrities also experience the same. The list includes Johnny Depp, Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey, Adele and many others. In spite of suffering from such a disorder we see them performing and presenting brilliantly. Though it requires a conflict it is not impossible. Therefore, do consider the quote mentioned in the beginning when experiencing SAD.