Fake it if you don’t belong here

I went along to a new meet up group on Saturday. We went for a walk and then to a cafe for some coffee/ food. Unlike the SA group I went to before, this group has a mix of different ages and I think I was the youngest there. I was really nervous about it beforehand but I did manage to talk to a few people. A woman who was in her mid-seventies started talking to me after the organiser asked everyone to introduce themselves (which I found really difficult, though I managed it). I find it easier to talk to people in that age group than those my own age. I let her do most of the talking, but I did manage to talk a lot for me. She was really nice and it turned out that she lives in the same town as I do.

It’s amazing how well I managed to hide my SA at that meet up. It must have just been a good day anxiety-wise. There weren’t really any very awkward moments. I can see now why someone at the old SA group commented that he never would have guessed that I have social anxiety. I hide it extremely well sometimes, despite how severe my SA is. I suppose a lifetime of living with it will do that. It was honestly like I was different person on Saturday. I managed to make small-talk; I managed to make sufficient eye contact. I even managed to start a conversation with someone (something which I’m usually not able to do). I even managed to drink some (ridiculously overpriced) hot chocolate in front of other people without shaking or feeling overwhelmingly anxious. The anxiety was obviously still there but it didn’t seem to affect me as much as it usually does.

The thing that disheartens me, though, is how much I have to lie to appear socially acceptable. For example, when people at the group asked what I was doing that evening, I lied and said that I was going out with friends. I do this because I feel that no one would accept me if I told the truth. I don’t want them to know that I have no social life and spend my weekends not really doing anything except sleeping and attempting to do coursework. It’s a sad fact that the wheelie bin goes out far more often than I do. I feel like such a fake when I do this. This is one reason why I find it so difficult to let anyone get past the acquaintance stage. I don’t tell people about my issues unless it’s an online friend, or someone from an SA group. And even if it’s someone from an SA group, I still don’t exactly want to reveal to them that I don’t really have a life. So I lie about having friends and doing stuff. But if that person wants to become friends, I push them away because I’m positive that they’d reject me if they knew the truth. I even have to lie to my own grandparents about this. They’re always asking who I had lunch with at uni and who I talked to in classes. I tried telling them the truth at first but their response was either “Don’t be silly! Of course you sat with someone”, or something similar, or they’d just ignore what I said and ask me again. So I’ve gotten used to lying to them and they think I have a group of friends. They still find it really odd that I don’t have a boyfriend though. Lying to people makes me feel terrible, even though I’m not hurting anyone by lying. I just want people to like me, I suppose. But it’s not the real me that they’re seeing, it’s the mask. Even though it was a meet up group for people with depression and anxiety (though many people just go because they like walking/ socialising), I still didn’t feel I could reveal anything about about my mental health.

So I have mixed feelings about it. I enjoyed the meet up and I felt happier and more motivated to do coursework afterwards. It’s amazing how much better a little bit of positive social interaction can make me feel. And yet…I feel awful about being so fake. I wish I could be accepted for who I am, but I’m certain that no one would want to be friends with me if they knew everything I’ve written about on this blog.

I’m going along to another meet up tonight, with a new SA/ shyness group. I’m feeling super anxious about it because it involves a pub, and loads of people. Not expecting it to go well but we’ll see.

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4 Responses to Fake it if you don’t belong here

  1. Josh says:

    I totally understand what you’re talking about when it comes to wearing a mask. Even when I do ‘well’ in social situations, in the back of my mind I know I wasn’t genuine to myself. I think as people with social anxiety we become very good actors instead of learning to just be. I enjoyed browsing your blog. Please keep posting and always know there are plenty of us out there who share the same struggle. You’re not in it alone.

    • Gemma says:

      I think probably everyone is fake in social situations to some degree but those of us with social anxiety certainly have to put far more effort into appearing “normal”/ socially acceptable to other people. It would be great if we could somehow just stop caring about what others think and be ourselves.

      Thank you. I’m sure you know yourself that having social anxiety can feel like the loneliest experience ever sometimes so it’s nice to be reminded that there are plenty of other people who understand what it’s like.

  2. I can relate to this post, especially with the sleeping and coursework…I’m really struggling with my last uni project. I think I might fail. I also dislike when people ask me what I have planned on the weekend. There’s so much pressure.

    How did the pub meet up go?

    • Gemma says:

      Sorry to hear that you’re struggling. I’m sure you won’t fail. You seem very intelligent. It does seem like there is so much pressure to conform to what society expects of our social lives, not to mention the other things that those of us with SA struggle with such as getting and holding down a job, getting our driving licence, and getting a boyfriend/ girlfriend.

      The pub was daunting and I didn’t enjoy being there but the meet up was a positive experience overall. I’m going to write about it in more detail in my next update.

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