I have recently begun to come to terms with the fact that I deal with a heightened form of Social Anxiety. While it is not a phobia, having social anxiety still keeps me from doing many things most people enjoy such as going to parties, going to restaurants, meeting up with friends, making new friends, even attempting to make certain connections that could be crucial for my professional advancement. And this is frustrating for me. Because, believe me, I would love to be part of a social circle, I would love to be able to indulge in a lovely restaurant by myself. I would love to have a large circle of friends. But I can't. I try, but I only get so far before I snap back like a rubber band exactly where I started.
I am in my mid 20's, I am supposed to be in my prime, attempting a career as an actor, and the biggest thing holding me back at this point is myself. Well, me and my upbringing and genetics. My father is from a small town in Mexico, and so he did not grow up with the social know-how that comes so naturally to most people. As a child, I remember watching him as he would get nervous and become increasingly quiet in social settings. That is, until he had a beer or two. But even then, I began to recognize his discomfort in the tone of his voice as it suddenly got deeper and more serious, while he shifted his body stiffly attempting to mask himself. At the time I had no idea what I was witnessing, but now, many years later, I can see the same techniques in my social 'performances'. And the fact that I am fully aware now makes it all worse.
Most people at this point would say, "Why don't you just change? If you see this in yourself, why can't you make different choices? Push yourself?". It is not that simple. It is not a simple matter of making choices, or having a willingness to change. It is a very literal battle with myself. To push myself to do something so uncomfortable for me that I shake, become mute, and sometimes have panic attacks. Imagine someone asking you to do something so uncomfortable that your body immediately rejects it. Now imagine trying to push yourself beyond your body. That is what it is like for me on a daily bases, where I have to fight to push myself out of my front door and into the world.
Now imagine attempting a career where you have to do this everyday...sometimes multiple times in a day...
So every time I make it to an audition, make a new friend, make it to a party, a concert, or even to a restaurant, I congratulate myself. Because no one else will. Because no one else understands the secret battle I have just won.