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How I dealt with my social anxiety and made a friend

Every time I start something new, I’m always met with the same question: “How was your day, did you make any friends?” Be it a new semester, a new grade, a new exercise group – it is always the same. And my mum was always disappointed to hear that the answer remained no. Maybe she was hopeful that someday, I might have a different one.

I do not have an anxiety disorder, but I do have everyday anxiety. It’s easy to confuse the two but anxiety disorder is a severe case. It interferes with your daily life, causes irrational fear and even leads to panic attacks and requires medication. I know I don’t have it that bad, but it does not make me feel any better about it. My problem still exists and it lies in the notion that I cannot seem to fit in anywhere. I run away from any social situation which requires me to make conversation with a stranger. If someone does come up to me, I can only mutter a few words and cannot carry on the conversation. I have a hard time talking on the phone with a stranger even if it’s just to order food. It’s hard to express myself, and to explain what exactly I’m feeling. I can’t say I have anxiety disorder, but I can’t say I’m perfectly okay either so I’m stuck somewhere in the middle.  

For 22 years, this was my life. I wasn’t extremely sad about it, but I wasn’t too happy with myself either. I had some self-esteem issues which made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. Me being different in the sense of not following or liking conventional things made it harder to fit in, anyway. I felt like I was the only one that was this way and there is nobody else who felt like I did and was the way I was.

And that was a really dumb thing to feel. You really cannot be the only one, there are 7 billion people on this planet, there have to be some who can relate to you. It’s about finding such people, through luck or through some hard work. I do not think its a bad thing to actively try and search for friends and so I did.

It was easier talking to people online and through chat, so I started talking to a few through an online course I was doing.  One of the girls was in my college! The excitement was unreal when we first decided to meet after talking online for four months. I was extremely nervous, as I felt like I would not be able to talk. She was just as nervous as I was, and I think that helped knowing I am not the only one feeling this way. It went as naturally as any first meeting could. We started hanging out more, and respected each others’ personal and private spaces. That’s how I met my best friend now. I might not have a lot of friends, but I’m happy I have at least one who I love dearly.

There’s no right or wrong way to actively seek out friends. They don’t drop from the sky either, so active effort needs to be made to start and maintain a relationship. You can try various methods, by joining an activity club, gym, online forums and find like-minded people.

By Maria Rizwan

Maria Rizwan is a Muslim Pakistani woman residing in the United Arab Emirates. She recently graduated with a BA in International Relations from the American University of Sharjah. She is interested in research and social work. Her special areas of interest include environmental issues and Islamic history.