Originally posted on StrengthDespiteSize.com In high school, walking into the cafeteria was the worst part of my day.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends to sit with. It was the fact that we had 3 different cafeterias and 3 different lunch periods that changed weekly. This meant that I never knew who would be in the cafeteria each day. I spent the majority of my morning asking people when their lunch was so I could make a game plan of which cafeteria I could walk into and feel comfortable and accepted.
I had friends and they were great humans. Despite that, I had an immense amount of social anxiety. On the outside I appeared to have it together and could fake confidence and social skills well. But under the armor I was having fierce internal anxiety almost all day.
When I was younger I was a care-free and very social little one. In 4th grade my family moved from CA to VT where I started to sink into my shell. I had found friends in VT but as coping skills go, I stuck to them like glue and depended on them more than they knew. I didn’t struggle to make friends but had a hard time developing good bonds and relationships with them.
As school went on, this didn’t get better. I was teased from 4th grade through middle school but in such a minor way that I never spoke up about it. Just enough teasing to slowly cause me to hide my true self over the years, but not enough to cause a scene.
They gave me nicknames that to this day I won’t repeat.
I remember one day in Spanish class a boy that always gave me a hard time and pushed my physical boundaries turned to me and said:
“Don’t worry Lindsay one day you’ll grow up and turn into a pretty girl, but not now”
As I think back, I wonder how I didn’t absolutely lose it and punch him square in the junk or run out crying. Instead I smiled and played it off as if we were friends and that’s what friends do…. they raz each other.
That’s not what friends do.
Slowly over the years I developed this ability to be hyper aware of everyone in a room at once. Reading their body language in every way possible.
Were they about to interact with me?
Where they talking about me?
Was I talking too much and annoying them?
Was I not making enough eye contact and being rude?
Were they amused by what I was saying or bored?
I was never REALLY present in conversations because I was busy analyzing the body movements of everyone. This helped me in becoming a great teacher, but as I was growing up and entering adulthood, it was harmful to relationships I tried to build.
I Am NOT My Anxiety
I never really talked about it I just dealt with it. I ended up developing an eating disorder because I felt out of control and it was my way of being in the drivers seat. I later developed habits and physical manifestations of the anxiety. I thought that this is who I was and always would be.
This constant state of internal anxiety eased a bit in college but came back full force as I entered teaching. The sad part was I was so used to the constant anxious feeling that I didn’t even think I was stressed or anxious! If someone were to ask me if I had an anxiety, I would have honestly said “absolutely not”.
Luckily I have loved ones in my life that helped me realize I needed to deal with my social anxiety. I needed help to understand what was going on and to get a grip on my eating disorder and my relationships.
There are 4 main changes that helped me become comfortable with who I am. It wasn’t overnight, it took time.
I reached out to professionals and sought help to understand what I was going through
This wasn’t easy and I fought back against it. However, over the years I have found an appreciation for it and I am currently searching for a new environment to continue this work.
I married a man who can read me better than I care to admit openly. He causes me to really think through my actions and feelings. He also forces me out of my comfort zone, but is there when I can’t take anymore and need support.
I found those that understood me and I work hard to maintain those bonds. Because they are lifelines that keep me happy, grounded, bonded to something greater than myself. These relationships aren’t crutches for me like they were before. Instead of a relationship it’s more of a partnership.
As I started to not only strength train, but to powerlift, I was forced to slow down. I had to be deliberate in my movements without having my brain in 1,000 different directions or hyper focusing on the body language of those around me.
With longer lifting sessions and longer breaks between sets I had moments of social interacting that were free of anxious feelings. I was able to create solid bonds with others that I treasure today.
I found a home at AMP where I feel accepted for me. My team, and my #AMPfamily accepts me for my silliness, my anxious self and everything in between.
Finding a place where you feel at home and free to be who you are is key to letting the guard down and letting go of social anxiety. It’s ok to be weird. Find others that dig your weirdness.
Wrapping It Up
These things don’t FIX my anxiety, rather they help to provide a space and support system to better understand it and live with it. Life isn’t perfect and I still have anxiety, but I am now able to identify when it’s worse and I know I can ask for help. Reaching out to professionals for guidance helps. Having a support system is key to helping you identify your triggers, fears and feelings when you aren’t able to on your own.
Strength training is more than getting strong physically. It’s about mental strength, knowing when you can move faster and harder or when to slow down and really focus in the moment.
Maybe you are searching for answers to how you feel.
Maybe you or someone you know has anxiety and are looking for help and support.
Maybe what worked for me would work for you. Maybe not.
Sit down and try to identify the things, places, events and situations that cause you great deals of social anxiety. Write down what can you do to help ease that. Who can you talk to? What will help you be your best self? Also, take some time to identify the humans, communities, and places that build you up and how that makes you feel.