Performing with Social Anxiety

Ask a group of people who have social anxiety how they feel about giving a talk or a presentation to an audience and the vast majority of the responses will be on the lines of, “No, I couldn’t do it.” Or, “Never again. I sweated profusely and felt so nervous I couldn’t get the words out.”

Not me. I love performing. As long as I’ve practised enough to be confident about my performance, I enjoy it. I used to describe myself as an extrovert with social anxiety, until someone said what I was describing was not an extrovert but an exhibitionist. To me, that sounds like a nice way of saying “show off,” but I’ll go with “exhibitionist.”

Poster for Talk on Social AnxietyI can’t say why I can give a prepared speech to hundreds of people, but find it really difficult to carry on a conversation with one person. That’s how it is.

So, I enjoyed my recent talk at Petroc College, Barnstaple, UK very much and I think it went well and was well received. I think the students and lecturers who attended left with a much better understanding of social anxiety and I left with a smile and the hope that I will do much more of this in the future.

Because I’m passionate about raising awareness of social anxiety.

Programme ExcerptAlong with Jean Davison, I also led a workshop on social anxiety for teachers and special education needs coordinators at an NUT conference. This was harder, as neither of us had experience of leading a workshop with so many participants. But this also went well and we’re proud of our achievement.

Teachers, in particular, need to understand social anxiety much better than most do currently, because social anxiety usually begins in adolescence and that’s the time that treatment or help is the most successful – before the behaviours caused by social anxiety have become ingrained. So I’m grateful for the opportunity to discuss this topic with those who are in a position to help.

During the workshop, we were asked what one thing we’d have liked out teachers to do that they didn’t. It was hard to think of an answer on the spot. I might change my mind about this, but now I think my answer would be: I wish they’d have tried to find out what was behind my behaviour instead of lecturing me about changing it. I wish there had been some discussion about bullying.

We Need to Talk about Social Anxiety


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