Mental illness is not uncommon, and social anxiety, in particular, probably plagues a lot more people at your workplace than you think.
According to the Social Anxiety Institute, social anxiety is the "fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, self-consciousness, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression." One FGB'er even took to the Community to share their experience with social anxiety — and how all of the aforementioned fears have affected both their career and job hunt.
"I'm a person who struggles with SAD (social anxiety disorder), and I don't do well with talking to other people," they shared on the community board. "Making mistakes is oftentimes crippling for me, because I'm afraid others will get agitated with my clumsiness (and I make mistakes quite often). I also constantly feel inadequate when looking for a job, like I can't do what they ask of me, and if it includes an interview, I usually turn it down. But I'm seriously in need of a job, and the conflicting emotions surrounding the topic of job hunting has been seriously depressing me. I don't know what to do about it, and it's destroying me."
This FGBer isn't alone. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, eight percent of women struggle social anxiety, and an estimated 12.1 percent of U.S. adults experience SAD at one point or another. It doesn't always present so obviously in the workplace, however. Of adults with SAD in the past year, an estimated 29.9 percent had serious impairment, but 38.8 percent had moderate impairment and 31.3 percent had mild impairment. This means that it doesn't affect them quite as badly, but it affects them nonetheless.
"People with SAD may face specific problems in the workplace, including the inability to network effectively, fear of attending business social events, problems developing relationships with coworkers, lack of self-confidence, and difficulty speaking up in meetings," writes Arlin Cuncic for Very Well Mind.
Of course, SAD isn't easy to cope with, especially when you're at work or work events. But, to better manage your SAD, you can start by letting your employer know. They may be able to accommodate you so that you can more easily do your job. Your workplace may even offer mental health benefits as part of your compensation package — so you may be able to seek therapy to help you cope with your SAD.
On your own, you can practice cognitive restructuring, which refers to turning your focus from inside your head to outside to the world. Rather than focusing on how you think people perceive you, try shifting your focus to the present moment and what is palpably happening around you. If you're at a networking event, for example, focus on who you want to talk to not who you think doesn't want to talk to you.
In the same vein, practicing mindfulness and breathwork techniques can help you manage the symptoms of anxiety. Reminding yourself that this too shall pass, as it always does, and breathing through the anxiety can take you a long way. Be kind to yourself in the process, and know that you are very likely not the only person in the room feeling the way you feel.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.
© 2022 Fairygodboss