Posts Tagged With: social phobia

I did the S-word

Public SpeakingI feel almost embarrassed for the lack of updates in the last several months. I’m getting married in a few weeks, and trying to juggle work, school, friends, and wedding planning leaves very little time for writing. I promise to update this blog more often in the near future, but I just wanted to pop in today and share some exciting news.

In my life I have scaled some of the tallest mountains in Montana, I’ve left the oppressive culture that is the Amish, I’ve developed computer software and Android apps, I’ve written a book, I made member of the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (way cooler than Mensa), I landed a white-collar internet marketing job with only an eighth grade education, I convinced a beautiful girl to fall in love with me, but today… today… I stood in front of about thirty people and gave a speech.

To put this feat into context, you should know this–I suffer from debilitating social anxiety, or maybe I’ve just convinced myself of that. Years ago I quit accounting school partially because I couldn’t handle the pressure of the required speeches/presentations, but mostly because I decided I hate accounting.

Here I’ve made a cute little function that illustrates the effect of social anxiety on I.Q.:

Social Anxiety Function

Isn’t it pretty? I call it the Social Anxiety Function, where a is your anxiety factor and b is your I.Q. when you’re all alone. It gives your I.Q. as a function of the number of people that are looking at you.

Given my specific conditions, this function shows that my I.Q. hits zero when there are 5 people watching me. Any more than that, and it goes negative, which seems impossible given how I.Q. is measured, but trust me, it’s very real. If six people are looking in my direction, the speech and behavior that I manifest are not possibly the output of anything with positive intelligence.

Sometimes, when I’m walking down the aisle of a grocery store I start walking funny because I think the person I just passed has turned, and is watching me. I walk funny because I’m concentrating so hard on walking like a normal person. I don’t have any kind of physical disability–when I’m all alone I walk perfectly fine, but have someone watch me and I develop a limp because I’m trying so hard not to.

I would like to see a psychologist, but I’m deathly afraid that I wouldn’t be able to talk. I’m usually okay when it comes to answering questions, but it’s very difficult for me to initiate conversation or to say anything that’s not the answer to a question. I think I suffer from some weird form of mutism.

Hopefully, that gives you some idea of the magnitude of the accomplishment I’ve made today. I stood in front of a class of 20-30 fellow students, and I gave a speech about myself. I had no choice in the topic. But, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared it would be. I ended up with a pretty good grade, although the professor told us that she was going easy on the grading for our first speech.

I practiced my speech over and over again when I was alone at home. I actually did pretty good when it came time to speak. I forgot a few things I had planned on saying, and I fumbled my introduction, but other than that it wasn’t too bad. I attribute my success almost entirely to those rehearsals, and I really appreciate the friends that told me to practice, practice, practice! I only practiced my speech when I was alone. It would’ve helped even more if I would have rehearsed in front of my housemates, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even rehearse my speech in front of my fiancee–that’s how weird it makes me feel to stand up and formally address by voice my fellow humans.

Tonight, I feel exhausted. You’d think I ran a marathon. This speech course is a required course for me, but getting through it will be worth it, I think. The sense of accomplishment I felt after the nausea had worn off was great. Now I know that I can do anything. Who knows, maybe I could even learn to function as a social animal despite my anxiety.

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