This letter writer lacks the confidence to socialize with her friends outside of school.
Our elder has some reassuring words to help her break free from social avoidance.
Hello, I’m 15 years old. I don’t have anyone to talk about this issue, so I ended up here. My friends and my class teacher are planning to do a class feast by the end of the semester, which is in two weeks. At first, I really wanted to go but then I feel like I don’t want to. It always happens, every time someone asks me out or even my family and friends, I will try to avoid going out with them. It’s not that I don’t want to, I just can’t. Something is blocking me. Almost 16 years, and I still can’t get out of this zone. People know me as the confident friend, but my confidence will drop if they want to meet me outside of the school. I will worry about people’s judgment because of my clothing and all. People keep pushing me to go out, but I can’t, it’s not that easy for me. I tried to search this avoidance behavior and I guess I do have it. I’m scared it’ll lead to AVPD. I don’t want it, but now, it’s not the right time for me to step out of it. The study says it could be a coping mechanism from genetics or surrounding factors and could develop starting at two years old. I really hope you can understand this. Thank you.
I am honored that you trust the Elders with your concerns, and I am sorry to hear that you are feeling anxious about non-academic activities with your family and friends. Many people of all ages feel this type of social anxiety even though they can be quite confident within their comfort zone. The avoidance that you talk about is how you feel that you must react to protect yourself even though there is likely no real threat to you. However, protecting yourself this way may keep you from experiencing some of the real joys in life so it may be time to seek some professional help to evaluate this further and find some solutions.
I encourage you to sit your parents down and tell them how your anxiety is blocking you when it comes to social gatherings. Perhaps suggest that you should see your regular doctor to make sure that your body is balanced as it should be for a 16-year-old girl. If everything is within limits, then discuss finding a therapist who specializes in anxiety to see what options are available for your treatment. I’ve read that this type of anxiety often results from some trauma (physical or emotional) in the past, and it is quite common, especially at times in your life when you are most vulnerable to peer pressure and bullying. There are several safe medications and therapy practices that can help you gain more confidence and reduce your fears about being judged or not good enough.
If your parents are part of the problem, rather than the solution, please consider either talking directly to your physician, or to an adult you trust, like a relative or teacher or friend’s parent. There is also plentiful reading material online or in a library written by people who have overcome social anxiety to lead happy, healthy lives. You may also be able to find social anxiety support groups online, but be cautious unless there is documentation that the group is legitimate and not a trolling scam. If you have national health or national psychology organizations or groups, these would be safe places to search for support. Chatting with other teens with the same worries and fears can help you to feel less alone and isolated, which in turn can help you gain more confidence in trusting your friends and family in social settings.
Meanwhile, focus on reaffirming how special and worthy you are. Remind yourself that even when you are feeling anxious, you deserve respect and kindness. Your clothing, your style, your friendships are just as perfect or imperfect as anyone else’s. The people in your life who matter are those who love and accept you just the way you are – you can trust these people no matter where or when you are together. They just want you to be happy and enjoy what they enjoy – let them help you to take those first scary steps into a social setting like the feast you mention.
I know it may feel this way right now, but you are not doomed to a life of exclusion and avoidance. You can help yourself by seeking professional help and/or support from those you trust and love as well as from those going through this same experience. You are stronger than you know – after all, you have already begun to seek help through this email. I have great faith in you and in your healthier, happier future. I will think of you often. Take care.
Article #: 484917