Social anxiety is by no means rare. Social Anxiety UK says, “About 13.3 percent of the general population may meet criteria for social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.” That translates to a very large number.
So, why don’t people know about it? There are many reasons for that.
Think back to your schooldays. Who were the children who got noticed in and out of the classroom? Probably the clever ones who answered all the questions and the naughty ones who were always getting called to the head. Which children didn’t get noticed? The quiet ones who did as they were told. The teachers probably heaved collective sighs of relief that these children didn’t require their attention other than a sentence on a report:
Should take a more active role in class discussions.
And so those children, who really needed at least as much attention as the naughty ones, were allowed to leave childhood without the tools they’d need to enjoy fulfilling lives.
The same pattern continues into adulthood. People who have social anxiety tend to hide away and so they don’t get noticed. People with social anxiety are particularly embarrassed about having social anxiety (whether or not they know the name) and so they don’t talk about it. They don’t say how they really feel, how sweating or shaking embarrasses them, or the sort of person they would like to be. Other people don’t know what’s going on in their heads. They often assume not much is going on, whereas the truth is that brain activity is brisk and often frantic. Another false assumption is that people who are quiet choose to be that way.
It’s lack of knowledge in others that leads to these false assumptions. I’ve found people think I like to be alone and so they don’t try to engage me in conversation. They’re wrong. I’m really not an alone person at all.
We need to crush those false assumptions. That’s one reason why…
Do you understand the people you meet? Do they understand you?