(image: Yellow Co )
This is my story on how even when things look dark, there might be change just around the corner.
You see, I grew up deep inside the Swedish countryside as an only child. My parents were rather old when they had me, so people often assumed them to be my grandparents.
In school, I was an outcast. Because I had only socialised with adults, I had a hard time bonding with people my own age.
Naturally, this made me socially awkward and anxious in social settings, especially around strangers and large groups.
One time, a friend convinced me to join a party. When I finally showed up, I felt everyone’s eyes on me, like radar-tracking from all directions. I locked myself into the bathroom. Looking at the person in the mirror, I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with him.
Later, I learned that my awkwardness and nervousness was much more common than I had first thought. It’s just that everyone hides their chaotic inner under a calm surface (just like I did).
I started studying behavioural science. As it turned out, social anxiety often starts small in life. But when we start avoiding social settings, our anxiety snowballs into a monster.
We can’t overnight break the shackles of social anxiety. But what we CAN do, is take small steps out of what we normally do.
I started doing things slightly out of the ordinary. Instead of looking down the ground, I forced myself to hold eye contact with people I walked by on the street, if only for a split second. After a few weeks, when that felt normal, I tried to hold it a bit longer, and maybe even smile.
My smiles were forced and awkward, and I probably looked like a weirdo. But over time, I could interact with people in a warm and relaxed manner.
Thanks to taking small steps and challenging myself a little every day, I became more confident as the years went by. Not just with other people but in life in general.
7 years ago, I started a blog where I teach people how to stop being nervous. That confirmed to me that I wasn’t lonely. We’re one big nervous family all in this together. So why not help each other?
I recently got the opportunity to leave all my friends and family in Sweden and move to New York City – a place where I knew no one. If I hadn’t had the confidence I have today, I would never have dared to do it.
Challenging my anxiety was my key to living life to the fullest.
But back then, in that Swedish forest, things looked dark. Thinking back to that time taught me a lesson:
Just because things are hard at the moment, doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. Life is ever-changing, and that’s what makes it so exciting.
This blog was written by writer David Morin who used exposure therapy to help his own social anxiety and find recovery.