When My Anxiety Makes Me Come Across as ‘Unfriendly’

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Bailey Griffin

Having dealt with anxiety for nearly my entire life, there are many things that I have come to accept because of it. For example, I can accept that I can’t handle being in loud crowds for a long period of time, or that I will have problems sleeping the night before a big exam or presentation. One thing that has been hard for me to accept with my anxiety, however, is that I often feel like I’m unfriendly when interacting with others.

I’ve always been an extreme introvert and my severe social anxiety definitely contributes to this. However, I do love people. I’m a very compassionate person and my biggest goal in life is to make a difference in the lives of others. But because of my anxiety, it’s difficult for me to interact with others the way I would like to or the way I see others interacting. When I’m about to have a conversation or interaction with someone, I always plan out in my head exactly what I’m going to say. When I’m in the moment, my anxiety makes me forget what I was going to say. It makes me start worrying excessively about if what I will say will be sufficient or if it will make others dislike me. So, oftentimes, I don’t say anything. This is extremely frustrating because there are things I want to say, but I worry so much about if what I will say will be adequate, so in my head I believe that it’s best not to say anything.

Nervous Habits of People With Social Anxiety
This issue happens to me when interacting with many different people, including teachers, bosses, friends, family and strangers. I recently got a job at a retail clothing store, which is my first job interacting with customers. I see my co-workers and managers interacting with each other and with customers like it comes so naturally. For me, I plan in my head what I’m going to say and how I’m going to say it before each customer comes up, and many times, I still end up saying nothing because I’m too nervous and anxious to even interact with them.

A customer recently complained to my manager about me, saying that I acted “unfriendly” when checking out her purchases. My manager told me to, “Try interacting more with customers.” At the time, I nodded and apologized, but right after my shift, I came home and cried. Since I had gotten the job, I had been pushing myself to interact with others, so hearing someone say this was very upsetting for me. It is always a top priority of mine to try to be friendly with everyone, but with my anxiety, this has become increasingly difficult. I’m constantly having to push myself to carry out even a simple interaction with someone. Trying to act friendly and personable is very difficult.

I do believe that introverts have many skills and talents that others might not, and I do believe that I can still positively influence others despite, and actually because of, my introverted and anxious tendencies. However, it is still very difficult not to get frustrated or upset when I see friends interacting with others in a way that I wish I could. Feeling unfriendly or having difficulties interacting with others is a symptom of anxiety I think we don’t talk enough about because for me, it is one of the most difficult symptoms to handle.

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