Social anxiety & the road to the top
'Most ambitious people believe success to be at its peak at times when being on 24/7, tirelessly networking one's way to the top, all driven by the conception that there’s only one successful type: the one that’s “out there”, always saying yes and expressing an incredible strength of character. And if you don’t fit that type, well, you’re out of luck.'
You might not realise, but I for my part suffer from social anxiety disorder. While we all have to deal with the big wide world in some social capacity, and we’ve all been there at one point or another, few of us actually talk about it. And as far as I am concerned, the mere thought of socialising, let alone networking frightens me. No making up, no being over-dramatic.
And yes, I can get along with a group of people I don't know. I can give talks and I can even go to an event alone. But none of those things are comfortable to me. Even worse, they can feel like torture to me.
When I was younger, I blamed shyness, and as I grew older, I started masking my anxiety to show I had control over situations. And to be fair, while my hands were trembling and sweat patches started blooming under my arms, I have indeed always been quite good at hiding it. Hardly anyone knew about the everyday struggles and the constant fear of picking up the phone, social conversations or sometimes simple eye-contact I was facing. The fright as soon as I got notice that there was a social event to attend. The sudden wave of anxiety when the phone rang. The shaky knees before holding a presentation. While some things would come easy to me, others wouldn't, and generally speaking whatever it is, the more formal, the more anxious I’d become. Yes, even if I knew I'd enjoy the actual event, and was passionately looking forward to it.. And there still isn't a day that passes without anxiety overcoming me at some point..
Yet I’ve always wanted to run my own business and find my place in the world. And while the media keeps painting the picture that only socially inclined extroverts could succeed in business, lead by a society of judges that reject anything they do not understand, I for my part started embracing my social anxiety, and using it to my benefit. I know firsthand it’s pretty much useless to tell someone with anxiety not to worry. So how about swimming against the current and stopping all that "networking to the top"? I've decided for myself that I wanted to do things differently, and take it one step at the time.
It took a lot of time growing to understand myself really well in order to progress, but I started embracing that my anxiety is part of me, and it makes me become my own kind of entrepreneur. It’s my way of getting out there, and I’ve learned to transform it into a useful tool, and have it work in my favour, instead of against me. I am still learning to handle the consistent pressure to success and achieve I put on myself, but I've started focusing on the things that I believe to be working for myself. Being social online is just so much easier to me, and helps me put love into the projects I am working on, regardless the size. And while pushing me severely out of my comfort zone every now and again, generally I started working with my strengths and skipping the things I do not feel all to comfortable doing. I appreciate there are things that I can work with to fill the gaps, online networking being much of a help here.
But I also swear by preparation, organisation and attention to detail, so they've become key players in my day to day life. Rehearsing before doing anything, and always planning ahead for events, I prepare for situations and found it works in my favour in that I’m in control of myself and my work when it matters. So in my world, where I have a million things going on at the same time. I've made my choice and developed my own way of climbing the career ladder, dealing with my anxiety in a way that helps me get through very challenging obstacles, without getting tired from all that endless networking.