SOCIAL ANXIETY AND STORYTELLING

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When I was younger I suffered intensely from social anxiety. As I have gotten older and grown immensely in confidence, I forget how much of a hindrance it was on my life. It felt like it was just part of my identity to not be able to maintain a conversation with someone; feel like I had nothing to offer when I spoke; feel intensely uncomfortable when someone was looking me in the eye and not knowing where to look. It’s crazy when I think back on it now.

There were various reasons for this deep lack of confidence that I have learned about in hindsight. I am naturally a sensitive and creative person and I found growing up gay extremely challenging. In particular, I was lacking positive gay adult role models in my immediate life to look up to, to nurture my journey into adulthood and develop a positive, productive vision of myself as an adult gay man. I found, like a lot of gay people, growing up in a straight world, we are expected to follow the ‘life script’ of straight people and the ‘gay thing’ is incidental. Yes, there are similarities, but there are some important differences and many young gay people lack exposure to a positive ‘gay script’ at the most important and impressionable time of their life. If you are lucky enough you may find a positive, nurturing and embracing gay community or partner, and then you can develop a confident gay identity in yourself. It then becomes an unfortunate process of rediscovering who you are and unpicking negative habits you developed to get you through the ‘straight’ upbringing.

Everyone will have different reasons for their lack of confidence, but for someone who has been on this journey, one of the key skills I learned was story-telling. My social anxiety has faded through developing a life that has incidentally given me unique and interesting stories to tell. For a lot of people this is a natural skill they are unaware of but it is something that I have been conscious of in the last few years.

I do a lot of travelling whenever I can and the last few years I have mostly been away on my own, enjoying the solitude, but also allowing space to meet other travellers on the road, making some life-long friends across the globe. It has also given me the freedom to explore unusual or challenging things that maybe a travel partner from home would not be comfortable with and there is also something about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone that makes you more resilient and builds courage.

These travelling adventures have brought me a lot of personal reward and pleasure, but most importantly, stories to tell. These days I find I am rarely scared of social situations, and one of the reasons is because of the connection I make with people through telling stories and sharing my experience. Everyone is different and you don’t have to physically travel to be able to have stories. You can read books, watch films/documentaries, experience art or theatre or just observe everyday activity and people. It is the ability to recount and reflect on your experience to others that brings connection with them and confidence in your identity.

As a Coach, I am likely to meet clients who suffer from a similar debilitating social anxiety. But everybody has a unique story to tell and my job is to help them to tell that story; get used to talking and recognising that unique experience; be proud of it; embrace it; share it but also learn how to generate more positive life stories. Of course, some people will react more positive than others to the content of the stories, but it is in the confidence and courage to share in a passionate and inspiring way that I believe helps anyone to overcome their anxieties and replace that negative energy with a powerful excitement that transcends fear and expands the soul.

If you are fed up with with social anxiety controlling your life, then why not get in touch for a chat to see how Life Coaching can really work for you and transform you into the person you always dreamed of but maybe dared not to.

Take care for now!

Oliver

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