“There was a boy in her room.”First line in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Hi, guys. I’ve been meaning to write a post about social anxiety for a while because it’s something that has a great impact on my life. Occasionally, I’ve mentioned that I suffer from it here on my blog, but I’ve never really gone into much detail. Not that I’m going to spill all the detail of my personal life in this post, but I want to let you know how it affects the way I do book blogging. I also really want to start a conversation about this because it’s something so many people suffer from, even if they don’t know about it. It’s going to be a long one, so settle in.
What is social anxiety?
The short definition of social anxiety (also called social phobia) is a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations. It’s natural for people to worry about a social situation once in a while, but for people with social anxiety, it turns into an intense fear/worry both before, during, and after a social event.
Some signs that may indicate that you have social anxiety:
- You worry about everyday activities, such as meeting strangers, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, working or shopping.
- You avoid or worry a lot about social activities, such as group conversations, eating with company and parties.
- You always worry about doing something you think is embarrassing, such as blushing, sweating or appearing incompetent.
- You find it difficult to do things when others are watching. You may feel like you’re being watched and judged all the time.
- You fear being criticized, avoid eye contact or have low self-esteem.
- You often have symptoms like feeling sick, sweating, trembling or a pounding heartbeat.
- You have panic attacks, where you have an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety, usually only for a few minutes.
I’ve taken this list from the NHS, and they have a lot more information if you’re interested.
How do I combine anxiety and blogging?
After reading the symptoms above, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that many people with social anxiety instinctively want to hide in a hole somewhere and never interact with anyone. It’s just easier sometimes. Nevertheless, we’re still human, so we still need social interaction to not go crazy or slip into depression. Too much interaction, though, and there’s also a depression waiting for you. Thanks, universe.
All of this meant that when I started my blog, I had spent a lot of time thinking about my expectations, what I wanted from it, how much I wanted to give. I had to realize how my anxiety might limit me and then accept that. Without accepting it, I couldn’t then later start working on it and push my limits. And that’s the important part! Social anxiety is something you can work on, but not all at once. It was a big step for me to even start this blog because it goes against every instinct I have to draw attention to myself. But then, when I somehow didn’t die, I got the courage to push those other limits. Here’s a list of some of the things I had to work on:
- Answering comments on my own posts without having to worry about it for several hours.
- Invading other people’s spaces and interacting with literal strangers. The whole point of creating a blog was to talk about books with other people.
- Tagging authors in positive reviews on Twitter.
- Be active on Twitter in general.
- Entering/hosting giveaways. Winning a giveaway means interaction with the host and that’s a high risk. Hosting a giveaway means interaction is a certainty.
- Any interaction with authors whether it be for review requests, interviews etc.
- Participate in blog tours and review ARCs because those get a lot of attention.
With these limitations, I was very aware of the fact that I wasn’t going to be an immensely popular book blogger, but I accepted that. I’m still working on a lot of these, but there are also some I’ve scratched from the list such as blog tours and ARCs after learning I had zero interest in those. For the things I’m still working on, there are ups and downs, and I thought I would give you a few examples of what I’ve experienced.
In case you’re new to my blog, I should tell you that I love discussions, and the prospect of a good discussion is one of the things that can draw me out of my shell. So when a popular BookTuber posted a video in which she claimed (several times) that she wanted to discuss different aspects in the comment section, I couldn’t resist. You should also know that I’m one of those people who, if I don’t have a strong opinion on a topic, will naturally argue the opposite because I believe that to be beneficial for everyone. That… can be dangerous, as I learned that day of the BookTube video. You see, I decided to comment on that video with what I thought was a kind response that, however, disagreed with her. To my own big surprise, she actually answered me, and that’s when I learned that she didn’t want a discussion as she had claimed. She just wanted to be confirmed in her own opinion by her followers, and I hadn’t delivered on that. I also learned that I had stumbled upon a nest of cancel culture people, and they just seem to be allergic to respectful conversations or something. The short version is that it got pretty ugly, and I had to delete the comment to keep my sanity. But I still felt awful for weeks and didn’t sleep at all the night afterward. It was a step backward for me in terms of commenting on other blogs/videos, and even though this happened seven months ago, I’m still not back to commenting on strangers’ posts.
On a more positive note, I made progress on getting over my fear of entering giveaways last year. I saw one on Twitter for a book that I really wanted, and I knew I was going to buy it anyway, so I held my breath and entered because you never win these things anyway.
Well, I did win. And freaked out.
The giveaway was hosted by the author himself, and he said just to DM him with my details. Now, I don’t know who would just casually DM one of their favorite authors and just be cool about it, but let me tell you, you don’t want that added anxiety I experienced in that situation. However, when I finally responded, everything was fine. I didn’t die, and more importantly, I didn’t embarrass myself (yes, that is more important). I will probably still be scared if it were to happen again (unlikely), but hopefully less than this first time, and that’s one way you can work on social anxiety. Getting to know new social situations and steadily becoming more and more familiar with them, so that you can feel in control. This might lead to me one day getting the courage to host a giveaway because that’s something I really want to do.
Now, I think I’ve rambled on for long enough, but before I leave you, I thought I would give you some book recommendations, in case you’re interested in reading about anxiety in fiction. My own favorite is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which does a really good job of describing that fear and how it all works. It definitely helped me put my feelings into words. Another book recommendation is Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. This one focuses a lot on anxiety’s consequences on one’s life but also shows how to treat the condition. Lastly, we have Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, which portrays how constraining social anxiety can be. It’s about these limitations I was talking about and how you push them to live the life you want.
These are all Young Adult because I’ve never come across social anxiety rep in Adult fiction, but if you know of any, please leave them in the comment section below.
This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for months, and I always thought of it as that post I’m going to put up when I have nothing else. I tried to make it helpful, but it’s just as much a post I had to do to get something off my chest. So please remember that I’m no healthcare professional, and that my experiences might not be the same as everyone else’s. So stay safe and happy reading.