When I was in my final year of college, I really struggled to find out who I was. I had entered a program that was not a good fit for me & I was constantly torn between dropping out & seeing it through to the end. I didn't want to be known as the girl who dropped out when things got too difficult but being there made me miserable. I did not have a sense of direction and I was desperate to find my purpose in life. I was constantly receiving feedback from my professors confirming my biggest fear: I was not a good fit for the program.
I watched as all the students around me buzzed in excitement that this program was a dream come true...that they had finally found their niche. I was counting the days until the school year came to an end. I felt very lost and misunderstood. When things got really bad, I began talking to a school guidance counselor about my issues and own personal struggles. It wasn't that I was disinterested in the subjects we were learning about, but that I was literally being yanked and tugged in uncomfortable ways.
The program called for an outgoing person who loved socializing and interacting with people. The complete opposite of who I was. I was shoved into the spotlight, forced to do group work at every turn, and basically found myself floundering. Here was everything I had spent my whole life trying to avoid...right in front of me. I couldn't just run away from my problems anymore. Then I really began to wonder...why did I struggle so much with interacting with people? Why did it make me so uncomfortable and scared?
After several sessions with my guidance counselor and really digging deep within myself, I came to the realization that this was not just shyness. I had social anxiety. On the one hand it felt good to finally understand what was really going on inside of me. Why I had never participated in class discussions, why I avoided extracurricular activities, why I went straight home after class to the safety of my dorm where I could be left alone with my thoughts. All the pieces of my life finally made sense.
Even in high school I had struggled to make friends. I had a handful of people who I created meaningful friendships with, but everyone else viewed me as a bit of a loner and kept their distance. I didn't have the confidence to approach people and start up a conversation. I had this strange urge to run from anything that pushed me outside of my comfort zone.
Though that year was extremely hard and required a lot of adaptability from me, it literally forced me to grow and push myself in ways I had never had the courage to try. Do I regret applying to the program? I do have a few regrets, but overall it taught me a lot about myself, helped me find ways to overcome my social anxiety, helped me mature and evolve a lot as a person, and, most importantly, it gave me so much confidence in myself when I was able to succeed towards the end :)
Though some people might think this was an entirely negative experience, I choose to look at the bright side and say that I was literally forced to come face to face with my biggest fears. Now I am a healthy minded and confident girl who does not feel anxious about simple interactions at the check out line, grocery shopping, asking for directions, and I no longer exist in a safe little bubble. If something challenges me I will face it head on & continue to push myself in ways I didn't think were possible.
For anyone who has struggled with social anxiety, please hear me when I say that things will get easier. Things will only look up from here and knowing is half the battle. Love yourself for who you are because we're all just humans at the end of the day