I learned recently that Chris Evans, the gorgeous actor who plays Captain America whom I have wiled away many a happy hour ogling, suffers from extreme social anxiety. There’s a part of me that is shocked by that. Imagine, being a golden god, and being afraid people are going to judge you. But really, it makes me feel a kinship with him. More and more, I suspect I have some social anxiety too—at least a mild form of it.
It’s weird. As I’ve mentioned, I only have a couple of the markers, but the ones I do, I have to an extreme degree. I have inordinate anticipatory anxiety before many social situations. It’s not unmanageable, I usually just handle it, but it’s still there to be handled. It’s very strange. While I do have strong self-esteem, I still have a constant little nagging fear of being judged. Most people don’t understand how those two things can coexist, but I really feel like they do. The only way I can characterize it is, like, I see myself as definitely good. I am secure in the knowledge that I am good. But it’s like I have a fear that “good” isn’t good enough, if I’m less than “perfect,” that invites judgment. Fortunately that internal voice is not too hard for me to ignore, but it still meeps a fair bit about “You should be perfect and you’re not!” Honestly, a lot of my damage centers around the notion of “You should be perfect and you’re not!”
It often takes the form of an absurd, irrational worry that there’s something wrong with my face. I mean, I know intellectually that there’s nothing wrong, but my anxieties for some reason center on it. Certain people in particular, specifically people who I’m always struck with how good they always look, will trigger it. For example, it’s often set off when I talk to niobien, through no fault of her own, because she looks so damn perfect all the time.
I also worry a lot that I’m going to “bother” someone. Like, people will react with, “Ugh, leave me alone,” if they know me, or “Who the hell are you? Why would I do anything for you?” if they don’t. It makes networking hard as shit.
The other day I went over a list of sixteen markers and assigned myself one point for every one I had, and half a point for every one I’ve experienced even a little bit. Even then, I only got five and a half out of sixteen. All the ones regarding people paying attention to you were not problems at all, and often were in fact things I thrive on. But the ones I did have—a fear of meeting new people, a hatred of small talk, of calling people on the phone, of using public restrooms –I have pretty badly.
My head is a strange place. It’s full of tiny little voices saying crazy things, but none of them really hit me that strongly. I guess everybody has them, but I suppose I’m pretty good at remembering my jerkbrain is a liar, as Captain Awkward would say. But even though the feeling of social anxiety is manageable for me, I can’t really pretend it’s not there.