I’m a shy person; it’s difficult for me to pinpoint where my simple social awkwardness ends and my neurotic social anxiety begins. I know there is a difference, but there was a time in which just coming across as awkward made me not want to leave the house – an isolation similar to what I experience when my anxiety is particularly crippling. I missed out on a ton of opportunities because of this.
There’s also a fundamental difference between social anxiety and glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. As my communication professors loved to point out, public speaking is considered one of the more (if not the most) common phobias among Americans. A person who is pretty extroverted and confident can freeze and fumble at the prospect of speaking in front of a group. This has never been my issue – my greatest fear entails being in a party full of strangers with no easy escape.
I think that the overwhelming, heart-racing sensory overload that I feel in social situations must be akin to what glossophobics feel on a stage. While I do sometimes find my hands unconsciously trembling while I’m performing, I still feel much more comfortable than the average person. Thank Freyja for this, because I believe my performing experience is helping me deal better with my social anxiety.
While I’ve always been shy, I was introduced to the stage at a very young age. My mom enrolled me in tap and ballet classes at the age of 5, and I was dancing in auditoriums by 6. The other parents were impressed with my comfort onstage, even if I wasn’t the most graceful. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I learned why I was so comfortable: my vision was terrible (which my little dumbass thought was normal) so while my dance classmates could see every judging eye in the crowd, I just saw a grayish mush and the bright stage lights.
When I started performing as an adult, I intentionally used that tactic, removing my glasses before going on-stage. I haven’t done that in months now, though!
As a writer and a introverted girl who dealt with a lot of bullying at a young age, my on-stage and off-stage lives took two completely different directions. While I was growing increasingly comfortable performing, I was facing regular rejection and teasing off-stage. This made me close myself off.
What has amazed and delighted me in the past 10 months is that I’m starting to grow more comfortable in social situations. This correlates directly with the amount of stage time this year that I’ve been getting as both a singer and a poet – but especially as a poet. My poetry is very personal, allowing me to introduce myself and my beliefs without all the awkward small talk in between. My performance style allows me to display a facet of my personality normally hidden by my physical and mental shut down when I’m at a show or a party.
Basically, performing allows me to introduce myself to the audience on my own terms, using what is most important to me. It gives me greater control over my first impression. If only I could perform at every social gathering!
- Current drink: Founder’s Centennial IPA
- Current book: Aliens and Anorexia by Chris Kraus
- Current audiobook: None (my car is still broken down!)
- Current music: MISO – Take Me