I, at the moment of writing this, once again overwhelmed with one of the strongest anxieties that were with me for all my life.
Anxiety about being seen. About people noticing me.
Strongly intermixed with anxiety about not belonging.
Of feeling like I’m a fraud and don’t deserve to be heard, seen or even exist in the periphery of other “normal” people.
At least that is how my mind tried to present it to me.
Let’s call it “exposure anxiety“ for the purposes of this article.
Since my early childhood, where at the start I was overactive and desperate in my attempts of getting attention, I felt that I cannot relate to anyone.
To be frank, I actually could, and very strongly. But I was so scared of the success and recognition that I shot myself in the foot every time and hid into obscurity after getting just even a glimpse of response.
That propagated to me totally closing off and not being a part of any social circles until I was 21.
Even then, my default state in any social situation was to be there and observe how other people interacted with each other.
I told myself that I study it to be able to do it myself and, while some of it may have been true, the main reason for it was – to not be seen.
I was putting myself on the outskirts every single time, using my “greatest skill” of running away in panic or totally closing off when someone even looked in my direction.
Over time, with experience, I stopped myself from disappearing, and forced myself to remain and be present in one of the most painful awkwardness in my life.
That lead me to starting to have some resemblance of a normal conversation with people, and even having some success dating-wise – I met the girl who I ended up having awesome 2-year long relationship with and who is still my best friend and family.
But in all this time, all these years of self-improvement, all the crazy experiences I had, I never handled the underlying cause behind my outcast years – the fear of being seen.
Only starting late last year, I half-assedly began slowly dealing with exposure anxiety by posting my 365-project, first for my 5 contacts on Instagram, and later by putting tags in them.
But, for all the pain I had then, it was only a small step. At the end of it, meaning now, I have only been seen by maybe 50 people there in total.
Hell broke loose when I started working on this blog…
Especially one week ago, when I posted my first ever article on Reddit, which was promptly ignored. And then another one, which blew up with 200 upvotes.
For all the recognition and encouragement I finally got, I was shitting my pants because of the amount of people seeing me.
Yesterday I wrote the third post on Reddit. And I haven’t been able to force myself to check how it goes, up to this moment.
However, all these years have not been in vain.
Now I strongly believe that there is a solution to every problem. It is there. I just need to find it.
Now I’m consciously making an effort to show up. To write a counter-story to what I believed before.
I’m in the middle of one of these stories now.
The solution to this one is – logical questioning. Seeing the probabilities. Seeing the outcomes. And deciding what I can do if it happens.
So okay… Here goes the “Fuck It” moment.
I have procrastinated enough by writing these 500 words just to get away from looking at the problem.
It’s time for me to go deep into my thoughts. Face the today’s version of my exposure anxiety.
And I’m gonna do it right here right now, with you.
Here is my live, thought process:
What am I scared of?
To go on Reddit and see that someone noticed my article and replied to it. I panic just thinking about it.
What is the worst that could have happened there?
My article blew up again, but is considered as the absolute bullshit wacko trash now. Thousands of people saw it, and replied to me with insults. They will scream at me to shut up, that I have no place there and to never show up again. Mods banned me from where I posted it. I am forever in history of the subreddit as the bullshit poster who knew nothing.
(Ok I’m starting to laugh at it right now)
If that actually happened, would that really affected you that much?
Actually… No. It is so absurd that I would laugh at just the intensity of this if it happened.
Is there something deeper that you are afraid of?
I am afraid of constructive criticism. People who are more intelligent than me pointing out my mistakes and saying how badly I written it. People who actually good at contributing, saying that I posted it for attention and not to help.
Is that true?
Partly. I want people to notice me. And give me criticism. But I also felt really good when someone said in previous post how I helped them. I am also afraid that it won’t happen here. That this post was actually useless.
It may have been. What will you do then?
I accept that I don’t know what I am doing yet. I cannot write perfectly every time. Some of the times will really suck. That is ok, that is reality. But I will still try again anyway, learning from this mistake.
Will you be able to handle criticism or people totally ignoring you?
I will, or at least after some time. My life will still go on. And I will do better in the future. It is a skill I have to learn. And there will be failures like that.
Does it really sound so scary now?
No. I feel easier. I can handle what happens. It is just my first steps. It is okay if I stumble. I will be able to support myself at least.
That thing worked surprisingly well. I was able to feel better and go check it out.
I was able to approach my irrational fear, look right in the face and say out loud how ugly it is… and then the steps to fix it.
This is not how I planned to write it today…
It turned out into a strange, experimental article.
Ironically, writing down my live thoughts, not on paper but for all to see is me challenging the same fear I was talking about.
I like how it turned out.
If you have read until here – I have one last point to make.
When you have some anxiety or fear – question it.
Go deep inside your thoughts. It may be hard, it may be painful.
I promise you, solution is there somewhere. To see it, you need to firstly find the root cause, or at least something really close to it.
It is a process of facing your fear and making a conscious effort to improve.
One tiny thought at the time, you do get better
I feel it in me even now, subtle change. Next time it will be slightly bit easier.
I believe it will work for you too.