It’s 3 a.m. and I can’t sleep.
It’s not like I really want to anyway. The night provides me with my sole escape from the bouts of social anxiety that plague my day. With everyone else asleep, unable to judge my every movement, the weight of this stress is temporarily lifted off my shoulders.
I toss and turn, running through all the wrong things I said today and all the times I hesitated before speaking, before coming to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth saying anything at all. I always end up second-guessing myself, worrying I’ll say something stupid.
Stop talking; you have nothing interesting to say.
Don’t text them; they don’t want to talk to you and you’re only going to bother them.
You know that the words aren’t going to come out right and you’re going to get made fun of, so don’t say anything at all.
Thoughts like these come hand-in-hand with every interaction I have and every decision I make throughout the day.
I hate them. They’re exhausting and intrusive and I just want them to go away, so I start scrolling through TikTok to distract myself.
But slowly, they begin to lure back my attention. They make me plan out my conversations for the next day. I make a list in my head of everyone I might talk to and questions I can ask when talking to them, like a general strategically planning the best approach to win the war.
Or at least keep fighting another day.
These thoughts occupy my every waking hour. If overthinking is an art, I am Michelangelo.
Why can’t social interaction come as naturally to you as it does for everyone else? I ask myself. What is wrong with you?
I want to run outside and scream, but I don’t; someone might hear and I don’t want to embarrass myself. So I push all my feelings down. Deep, deep down. Where no one, not even I, can see them. And I go back to scrolling through TikTok.
I constantly try to fix everything I think is wrong with me, and when I continuously fail to come up with a solution, I get upset and overwhelmed and try to force myself to forget that these imperfections exist. But no matter how hard I try, I know they’re still there.
I don’t know why I worry so much about what others think, or why I feel I’m not good enough for anyone in my life.
Or why I’m embarrassed of who I am.
I don’t have it all figured out, and that’s OK. I’m working on embracing all my perceived imperfections, little by little.
Writing this column and joining The Spectrum staff this semester were steps in the right direction. I had initially told myself I wasn’t qualified to work for a newspaper. I’m an electrical engineering major, not a writer or an editor. But I joined anyway, and was immediately rewarded. I met an amazing and welcoming group of people, and I’m now part of something I really enjoy.
Writing this column was difficult. But I did it, and I’m really proud of that.
It’s OK if you struggle with social anxiety and self-confidence. Everyone does to some extent. I have incredible friends and an amazing support system, which helps immensely, but I still have my bad days. Don’t worry about being perfect or impressing others. You’ll find you’re a lot happier just being yourself, and that there are a lot of people who love you for who you are.
It’s not easy, but I urge you to step out of your comfort zone. Text that friend you really want to see, or plan that trip you’ve been dying to go on. Once you break the barrier built by the voices inside your head, you’ll find that there are so many opportunities you’re missing out on. Don’t overthink it; if there’s something you want to do, do it. It may just change your life in the best way possible.
Managing social anxiety — and mental health in general — is really hard. I’m still far from where I want to be, but I’m trying my best, and that’s enough. Just remember that you are loved, and you are not alone.
Andrew Lauricella is the web/copy editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org