Social Anxiety & Speaking Competitions
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At the age of 14 I first began to experience serious anxiety attacks, and this was primarily during school. Generally, I would experience the most serious anxiety attacks during school, because I was suffering from social anxiety. Although I didn’t want to be the most popular girl at school, I eventually found that I was not even spending quality time with my close friends. At the age of 14 I thought that I must have suffered from social anxiety for at least 5-years, but I was not certain as to what the cause of this anxiety may have been. My mother described me as a shy girl from the beginning, but my younger sister didn’t seem to have this problem, where she performed well in academics, sports, and socially.
Living a life of shyness and anxiety was terrible, and I found myself avoiding my friends and new relationships, because I thought that they would make fun of me. In spite of my social anxiety, I had one best friend, but her father needed to relocate due to a new job opportunity, so she changed schools, and my isolation increased. Eventually, I avoided all public speaking, and I wouldn’t even ask for help in a department store. I felt like I was a vegetable with no friends and no enjoyment in life. Although I spent time on my interest in writing, this was a solitary activity, and when the time came to go to college, I refused to go and missed out on weeks of classes. Why? Due to social anxiety, I was frightened about attending any classes due to my fear of my friends making fun of me. I complained to my parents that I was not feeling well and stayed at home in order to avoid going to college, and although my parents didn’t know how much I was suffering from anxiety, they allowed me to stay at home. During this time I thought that I wasn’t good for anything, and I continued watching as my sister performed well in her studies, athletic activities, and with her friends. As the days passed, my decision to avoid college became ever more firm until the day that I was in a department store, and I ran into my childhood best friend. She began explaining that she was studying at the same college where I would have enrolled and that we could have been spending time together all along!
The Turning Point
This was the turning point when I realized that it was time for me to go to college and join my friends. However, I soon discovered that on Freshman Hazing Day the seniors would tease the freshmen, and I found myself in a situation where I needed to say something in front of a group. My voice began to tremble, and I felt terrible, and I wanted to run away from the situation without saying a word – A moment later I fainted. My department head and professor provide me with first-aid, and she turned out to be a wonderful ally - She recognized that I was suffering from an anxiety problem, so we worked together on the ways in which I could increase my confidence. Through observing that I could write very well, my professor asked me to prepare an essay on the topic “Failures are stepping stones to success”.
The writing came out well, and my professor was extremely happy with my work, whereafter she asked me to provide a public presentation at the following week’s student assembly in order to challenge myself with public speaking. She asked me to stand before a mirror and practice the spoken aspects of the presentation while remembering that the audiences attitudes should not affect me. Through this practice I began to gain confidence, and I also became increasingly comfortable with the idea of spending time with other people. Finally, the day of my presentation arrived, and I pulled myself together in order to present to the group – The presentation was welcomed with a round of applause, which significantly shaped the rest of my life.
Taking it from there, I started to put myself in front of more people more often and began participating in speaking competitions. Although I was initially afraid of giving these presentations due to my beliefs about my anxiety disorder, I found that through trying something new I could overcome my fears.
This is the message that I would like to share with the readers: Unless you actually experiment with taking risks, you will not be able to overcome your anxiety effectively. Remember to include positive affirmations as a component of your path to overcoming your challenges. Begin your day with empowering thoughts, and set a goal for yourself in order to continue moving forward.