I'm 26, I should be out having fun, drinking and such, that's what people my age do right? But I'm not, for you see, I suffer from social anxiety.
It's a problem I have lived with since around the age of 15. If you're unsure exactly what social anxiety entails, let me explain. Basically, I'm terrified of people. I can't stand to be in a group and if I am, I will panic. I'm afraid to meet new people. I'm afraid to go places where there might be alot of people...you get the idea.
I have been wondering lately how much of an influence my beliefs (or lack of them) have on my situation. (There are other reasons too, prominent ones, but I shan't bore you with them here). I've always felt lost. Not in the sense that I'm the odd one out in a world of normal individuals. It's not an inferiority complex. Rather, the odd one out in a world full of the mentally unstable. It scares me. Horrifies me. And the scariest thing about it is, nothing anyone says or does will change it.
How can I live in a world like this? Where over 90% of the population would be surrounded by padded walls in a world of reason. So I wonder, could this be a contributing factor to my issues. Could it be that I'm simply afraid of what these people might do. If they can believe such irrational nonsense, ignoring all common sense and reason, what else might they be capable of? We already know the lengths to which the most extreme believers will go to, but what about so called "moderates?" Do I have any reason to fear them? Maybe not, but unfortunately, as rational as I might claim to be on matters of faith and the workings of the universe, I still fall for the irrational fear that has haunted me for 11 years. If indeed it is irrational...
I know how you feel, although my social anxiety isn't as extreme. I'm able to go out to most places with a group, but panic attacks do happen occasionally. I still cannot go to clubs though. Makes me squeamish just thinking about it.
In regards to believers, I've become estranged from many of my friends since I have become an atheist. The main reason is because I don't like having to watch what I say around people I'm supposed to feel comfortable with. You probably aren't in any real physical danger from believers, but there is a real psychological threat. If you allow them to prevent you from being yourself (like I couldn't do) then I don't think you can maintain your psychological well-being.
I agree. I have about the same level of social anxiety as you, less perhaps than RT but still substantial. I think where you are, RT, is in a very confusing place, one which I think I understand somewhat. The fact of you having more than one thing which sets you apart, those cofactors into your problem with fitting in really do magnify each other. Its like you feel so small because all you belong to is a subset of a sebset, occupying a small parcel of territory within a world which is much bigger and feels much scarier to you than you would like. You feel cut off and isolated and powerless to change these basic things about the world.
Whatever your other problem(s) may be, it surely is the case that most people on the planet seem to be struck with this most maddening virus, which turns people just stupid enough to let even stupider stuff happen right under there noses, and just smart enough to continue breeding and taking whatever they see. And you are not alone here. I think I am not alone when I say that people want to be able to change many things about the world for the better, and the only thing stopping them is a lack of knowledge of how to do it or, perhaps more tragically, a lack of power to do anything about it. I'm sure 95% or more of the people here on Nexus know what it feels like to be isolated in this world because of a fantasy which is being mistaken for a reality (I'd put the number at 100, but some people just don't feel isolated by their atheism at all, the lucky bastards). Good luck trying to feel more comfortable with yourself in this world, its a tough fight sometimes but it is possible and rewarding, so, don't give up!
Three replies from people with some level of social anxiety in a matter of hours from posting. I am very suprised. Here I was thinking I was the only supposedly rational person suffering from a completely irrational fear. It's good to know I'm not alone.
Also, thank you all for the kind words of sympathy and support, especially from John D, who I've already become well acquainted with ;)
I'm sure there are more people like you than you know or can ever find out. Especially since (I assume) most with your condition wouldn't come out to make their voices heard.
As far as atheism being a factor, by which I'm assuming you mean there is so few of us, you must remember, 10% means 10 whole people out of a hundred...100 out of 1000...10 million out of a billion! What I'm getting at is there is still plenty of us, even if the % is low.
Personally, I've gotten more socially active since coming out. It's amazing how many people I know have come out of the woodwork, since I've been more open of my beliefs (or should I say, lack of). Not to mention, I find most of my theist friends, could care less. I've also made a number of new friends because of it too. And by friends, I mean ones I get together with in my general area and not just online. Again, remember even at only 5%, if you live in or near a community of say, just 10,000 people, that's 500 people who think like you.
In other words, I guess I'm one of those "lucky bastards" Wanderer mentioned (^_-)
Be comfortable in your skin as a nonconformist. I was as bad off or worse when I was 26. I looked like I was 26 going on 14. Now I look like 60 going on 30 (that 's much better). The unquestioning sheeple of most locales were socially incompatible to me, completely. I am not gay, but it was as if I was at least as odd as being the only gay person in a world of prudish str8s.
I moved. I immersed myself in urban bohemia and all the eccentricity that flourishes there. I encountered an opposite situation. Intellectual specialties flourished for which I had little knowledge and skill sets to evaluate. But that was all swept aside by real estate greed called "gentrification".
You are eccentric in a setting where the rest of the world should be regarded as such. Accept it and embrace it. I have found my little eccentric social groupings.
Hey, just wanted to add a question to this topic. Doesn't this anxiety occur (or at least became worse), depending on the place you live in, I mean, living in Europe or in the US where people tend to be more afraid due to religious intolerance and terrorism doesn't cause a "freak-out"? I just say this, because we often see people scared with these matters (and they have a serious point, of course), making this gap between "beliefs" even bigger, causing or making this phobias worse.
If you take me and my 3 best friends (all atheists), we live in Sao Paulo (Brazil) and we never had problems in going out or socializing with people, and I assure you that most of them were believers, but we didn't just care, from both sides. We don't have this fear because here the society approaches the matter in a different way...well...this is my opinion....
PS. Of course, I would never be best friends with a believer...It's a bit of prejudice, I know, but I think we wouldn't do well...