The quiet kid. That's what I was in high school. Being quiet didn't mean I was anti-social or stuck up or rude for the sake of avoidance. What it meant was that I was terrified; during every waking hour of every day, that I would open my mouth and something stupid would come out. I was afraid that if I said the wrong thing at the wrong time, I would forever be branded an idiot, a loser and someone unworthy of friendship or affection; therefore I said nothing at all.
What I didn't understand then was that I suffered from an affliction. This affliction is caused by many factors, mostly involving the way we are raised, the situations we find ourselves in as children and how others react to us. These factors forge a pattern we then expect to follow us. That pattern can be a hard one to break, but the moment we realize it is based on misconception is the moment we begin to forge our path away from it and towards a life filled with confidence, self-acceptance and friendship.
Regardless of how I felt during those days of sitting alone in the school cafeteria and mourning the friendships I didn't have, that anxiety wasn't a product of something WRONG with me. I was not broken. I was not unworthy. I was simply looking at myself in all the wrong ways. When I looked in the mirrors I saw the things I didn't have instead of the things that I did. I didn't see the talented writer. I didn't see the charismatic leader or the compassionate counselor. All I saw was a boy who didn't have the things he yearned for. I did not realize that simply by recognizing and embracing my strengths could I not only conquer social anxiety but draw others towards my confidence and therefore gain the friendship and love I so desperately sought.
Don't focus on what you don't have. Love yourself for exactly who and what you are. Don't blame others for avoiding you or judging you. Look at them with compassion and know with every breath that you are just as beautiful as they are. You are beautiful. We all are. That one simply realization is the first giant step towards conquering social anxiety forever. There is not one of us that is more worthy or more valuable or more special than any other. That's the beauty of humanity. We're all wonderful in our own ways.
When I embraced that confidence I found myself surrounded by friends; more than I could handle! It's not about what others think of you and it never will be. Love yourself, learn about yourself, admire and appreciate what makes you you. Do so and others will too. You can stand in front of crowds and know that they respect you because you respect yourself. It's as simple as that. In order to conquer social anxiety we must simply love the person we see in the mirror each day. Smile, and the world smiles with you.