Social Anxiety

July 1, 2017

Social Anxiety: If ONLY I could wake up one day and find that everyone was like me, transgender

By Kayla Lozano                                             

 

I think I have always been kind of a social outcast.     

On my very first week of kindergarten, I was expelled from elementary school because I fought with six of my young classmates.  ALLEGEDLY I bit and hit them.  I mean, who gets expelled from KINDERGARTEN?  I did. 

I don’t remember the exact incident, but I do remember the feeling.  You see, I have always struggled with social anxiety – and even at the tender age of 5 – I knew that I was different than everybody else.

I’d like to say that eventually I outgrew my social “situation,” but I haven’t.  For me it has never REALLY gone away. BUT, I can say that it can get better, and much easier to cope with.

To understand what a person is feeling, first it is important to understand what “social anxiety” really is.  According to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual” (DSM) of the American Psychology Association (APA), social anxiety (social phobia) refers to: “A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety) that will be embarrassing and humiliating” (APA, 2013).

 

Some of my social anxiety symptoms were tied to feelings of:

*not belonging

*no true identity

*feeling trapped in my own body

*body shaming

*embarrassment around others

*unworthiness

 

These daily negative feelings disrupted my interactions with my family, my friends, and as I grew older, my work environment.

I basically walked around with a dark cloud all the time, and sometimes it was worse than others.  I felt really depressed for most of my young and adult life.  This depression eventually led to my problems with addiction and self-harm.  My lack of self-esteem all throughout childhood, and beyond, eventually led me to lose respect for myself, and my body.

All in all, the social anxiety I felt as a child and then as an adult, created a giant snowball effect – until I hit bottom several times, and eventually rock bottom.

You see, I came from a culture where psychological treatment was considered taboo.  So, it was not until I was in junior high that I went to see a therapist, but by then most of the problems had already set in, and become issues in my life that I couldn’t live without.  In other words, my social anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and feelings of unworthiness had become a part of me – and all too familiar.  I simply became used to feeling that way, and I got lost. 

It’s a scary world when you know inside that your outer self does not match.  It is also very scary when everyone around you is not the same as you –  or when everything you see on TV, movies, or internet does not reflect what you are going through.  It can be – and it always is – lonely.

Can you imagine waking up one day and everyone was transgender?

The world might be a much better place! (just kidding, there are many allies that very important to us too)

SO how did I come out of it you may ask?

Well, for me, it’s been a process.  But I had to hit bottom to understand what I was doing to myself.  I had to rebuild who I was.  I had to find my own self-worth, and create my own validation.  This did not happen overnight, and to a certain extent I am still a work in progress. 

My problems stemmed from the people I surrounded myself with.  As transgender people, we have such great big hearts, and long to be accepted and in ways loved.  This longing for affection may also manifest itself as constantly seeking attention, or approval. I wanted so bad to “fit in” and find acceptance that I lowered my standards in my friends, my partners, and in myself.

SO what do I do?

I started by getting rid (and I DO mean getting COMPLETELY rid) of all of the people in my life that had not ever asked anything of me and never paid me back, all the people who stole anything from me – this includes slept with my boyfriend, the people that wanted to party with me and do drugs, and the people who are CONSTANTLY hating the world. 

It was important that I drop these people because it is NOT my job or mission in life to fix them! I have to discipline myself and rebuild the love for myself.

I also erased most of my friends on social media, as well as those people who I never communicated with, but just added them as friends – because I needed a 1,000 friends!  (Uh! Really?!)

Surround yourself ONLY by people who love you, elevate you, respect you, validate you, and SEE YOU!  The people who love you for who you are, and are not trying to change you are or want to become, are a good start.

After that, just take care of yourself.  Love yourself by practicing self-care.  This means: eat right, get plenty of rest, hydrate yourself (and I don’t mean with alcohol!), and for crying out loud – take a bath already!  Start small.  For me, I began to take care of me, then I started to clean my closet, and then my room, and before I knew it, my entire apartment (all three rooms of it). 

SO, this is what works for me. Again, I say “works” because this is a journey, a lifestyle change.  My social anxiety is still there, but now I know how to overcome it by focusing on the things that I can change.  I still get kind of nervous when I walk into a room with a lot of people, or I meet someone for the first time – but THAT IS NORMAL!  Try to love yourself. Understand that the things you hate about yourself are actually the things that make you unique.  They make you, YOU! Remember- it is NOT about being like any ANYONE else.  Be your own beautiful unique self!  You are worthy, and yes, maybe you have a little social anxiety, but so do millions of people.  Don’t hide behind your social anxiety.  Be VISIBLE!

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