I used to struggle with social anxiety back when I just graduated from college.
Everything was hectic as it can be - especially amongst social outings. I would worry about looking cool in front of friends. I would worry if I were saying the right thing - or not saying the right thing. I would worry about worrying.
There was so much anxiety during those early days upon graduation. It was my first “bout” with struggle, and I wanted to break free from it as soon as I could. But, I couldn’t. So, I went to Toastmasters daily to practice my communication skills in a supportive environment. And it was worth it. Day-by-day, I would speak in front of the public and even though I would falter and sweat and perspire, it was still a challenge to behold.
I was trying to just get rid of the social anxiety altogether, but the feeling of nervousness still lingered on with me for a couple of years. Over these years, I would travel the world, pursue my MBA overseas, work in Shanghai, and at times I would forget about the nervousness.
But, at the inevitable social events, that feeling of anxiety and insecurity would come back at me. Despite all my trials and practices, I still could not get rid of this anxiety once and for all.
Then, gradually, step-by-step, little-by-little, I felt like I was more at ease during social events. The feeling of awkwardness and insecurity still lingered, but it was slowly bearable. I gradually forgot about my social anxiety after awhile.
And I kept going to Toastmasters to practice my public speaking and overall communication skills throughout the years. Whether it be in the USA, France, or China. And I met many wonderful people throughout my journey. This consistency certainly helped. And upon coming back from Shanghai, I felt my anxiety slowly dissipating.
Once in awhile during social events, it would come back. But, I’ve learned to live with it. It was no longer considered a “bout” or a significant “struggle” anymore. I was fine with feeling uncomfortable in certain settings, and I didn’t shy away from it. In fact, I welcomed the struggle and my anxiety gradually decreased to a manageable level.
There was no epiphany or anything. No one day when I just woke up and my bout with social anxiety was gone and everything was fine and dandy. There was no one day when all my problems of the world just cleared up. No sudden improvement. It was a gradual grind. A daily struggle coming in and coming out.
Every day was a fine day to wake up to the challenge. And I appreciated it. But, many things in life I feel are like that. There’s no epiphany towards solving a problem. It’s always a grind. Just going to work to make life a little bit better per day. And suddenly one day, you’ll forget about the struggle. Everything will be back to normal. You will improve and grow as a human being.
I think that’s what happened to me. I couldn’t pinpoint the specific timeline or the specific date when my social anxiety got significantly better. It just did. I just cared less about what people thought of me. I just got more confident speaking in public. I just improved my communication skills in a slow and steady demeanor.
Everything happens for a reason. And I think my practice at Toastmasters on a weekly basis helped me grow more comfortable in a social environment. But, once in awhile, there will be “relapses” when I’d feel out of place and out of the ordinary. I’d feel like anxiety would kick back in during the worst of times. But, those times are few and far between now. They’re manageable.
Again, there was no sudden ray of light shining through the ceiling and cleansing me of all anxiety and problems in one fell swoop. It was a gradual process. Mundane. Yet meaningful. I see this bout with social anxiety for a couple years as a mere life process. Something to learn from. Something to grow from. No epiphany. No sudden knee-jerk reaction. Just a process.
And that’s what life should be. A process that comes and goes. One to cherish and appreciate for all time. No golden nugget or anything, but just a gradual understanding of how life should be.