Social anxiety blows. Three weeks ago, I got up early and decided to be ridiculously productive before class. So I went to the library, feeling super confident and I decided to get coffee. I had the cup for five minutes before spilling it on my crotch. Scalding hot coffee. Confidence gone. Also, maybe my first layer of skin. I panicked.

I didn't care so much about the inevitable third-degree burns. Classes were about to let out and I was wearing light blue sweats. I don't have to tell you what it looked like. So I power-walked home frantically, jacket wrapped around me like a grade schooler who'd just gotten her first period. All I cared about was getting the hell away from other people. 

I’ve embraced the fact that I struggle with social anxiety. It’s not uncommon and like most challenges life throws, it’s better taken with a sense of humor. So raise your hand if you can relate to these experiences. Just kidding, I wouldn't make you do that.

1. Classes where you sit in a circle

These classes are the worst because everything's out in the open. At least in regular classes there’s another body to hide behind. For some reason, I can’t figure out what to do with my hands. These are issues I didn’t even know I had. My desk, my book, and the wall have never been so interesting.

2. Being called on by the professor

I get that class participation is part of the grade, but why can’t active listening count for more? Getting asked to speak in class fills me with more dread than an upcoming exam. Then people turn around and it’s just like 'hello, everyone'. At this point, I don’t even know if I’m answering the professor’s question. I just want to be invisible again.

3. Presentations

The level of anxiety that presentations and speeches induce is like being asked to answer in class x1000. Definitely more tolerable if it’s a group presentation because at least then there are more people for the entire class to look at. I took public speaking a few years ago and after the first speech, my professor said a few of us hid behind the podium. Yes. Yes, I did, because it’s safer back there.

3. Group projects, group discussions, group anything

They're usually not awful if there’s an extroverted Type A in the group to break the ice—otherwise it’s just a mental countdown till the end. The worst is when everyone in the group is shy (what’re the odds?), then it’s like a game of Russian roulette as to who’s gonna speak. Guess what, it’s you. You have to, because which can you endure more, social anxiety or the cringeworthy awkwardness that's going to amplify your anxiety?

5. Walking into class late

I try and make it a point to get to class at least twenty minutes ahead of time if I don’t have back-to-back classes spread across campus. Making an entrance and trying to quietly catch your breath while dry-heaving from rushing to class is stressful.

6. Making awkward eye contact

I don’t know why this happens, but sometimes I’ll space out and stare at an object and inevitably make eye contact with someone. Whatever, that happens, but when it keeps happening, it’s kind of tempting to make a face just for the hell of it. 

7. When someone in class says something awkward

I love The Office and Parks & Recreation for the awkward situational humor, but in real life, this make me want to die. Or slowly sink into my seat and down to the floor so I can crawl out of class and get far, far away. 

8. Raising your hand and the professor doesn't see it

I’m not demanding to be heard but please, please call on me if I raise my hand because I do not want to put it back down slowly like the idiot I will most likely feel that I am if you don’t. I’m not saying my contribution is going to be substantial but I guarantee I’ve thought about every word and how the sentence is going to sound. Also, I rarely throw myself into class discussions. I’m like a unicorn—notice me.

9. When the professor wants to talk to you after class

'What did I do?' 'What are you gonna say?' Just the typical two questions that are going to run through my head on repeat from the moment it’s announced till the time we actually speak.

10. When you run into someone from class you don't recognize

This is always a fun encounter! It’s definitely not always awful but there’s that initial what is going on moment.

11. When a group of people are blocking the door, hallway, etc.

I don’t know why walking three to four across or having team meetings in frequently trafficked areas is a thing, but it’s always a joy to navigate around—especially if people are talking to loud for you to speak over.

12. When someone’s standing way too close to you

If I’m waiting politely and minding my own business in line for coffee before class or grabbing lunch during a break, I definitely don’t want someone all up in my space. I get that places get crowded, but damn, I don’t wanna hear someone breathe in my ear or feel someone graze me. All I want is like a foot of private space.

Socially anxious guys and gals, you're not alone. Your support might not always be vocal (sorry, it's the anxiety thing) but you are a beaut and we've got this. Face your fears, aka people. Take it a step at a time, a day at a time. Maybe go to the library again. I did.