After being bullied for so long, targets can develop social anxiety. They withdraw from people because they fear future attacks. The target’s spirit has been beaten down and broken and the person has been abused to the point of losing faith in humanity. Also, they’re reprogrammed to believe the bullies’ lies that they aren’t worthy of love and friendship. They are under the presumption that it’s much safer not to engage in any social interaction.
But what the target doesn’t realize is that in closing himself off from the rest of the world, he unknowingly limits himself in all aspects of life.
Humans were created to socialize and to have relationships. When targets create this invisible fortress around them, it doesn’t ensure their safety but only brings about more bullying. Bullies get their power from our fear. They are like ferocious animals who can smell fear from a mile away and believe me. They take full advantage.
Moreover, targets miss out on relationships that, otherwise, could be and would be fulfilling and rewarding. They unwittingly forego opportunities for friendship, dating, even good jobs that can produce personal success and financial well-being. Because if a person doesn’t believe in themselves, no one else will- that includes potential friends, dates, and company managers and supervisors. No one wants to be friends with, date, or hire someone who isn’t sure of himself unless they have low self-esteem themselves.
People recognize, if only subconsciously, social anxiety when they see it and not only through the more obvious signs, such as quietness, avoidance, trembling, blushing, stuttering or sweaty palms.
Social anxiety can also be more covert, showing itself in less obvious ways:
- Excessive laughing and giggling
- Appearing normal on the outside but nervous and shaky on the inside
- Excessive humor and being overly funny or no sense of humor at all
- Excessive sarcasm/having a smart-alicky attitude
- Being overly friendly/too nice
- Shutting down/freezing up- unable to talk or move
- Fidgeting/can’t sit still
- Lack of or too much eye contact
- Poor posture/looking down all the time
- Having a hard time keeping up with a conversation
- Talking too loudly, too fast, too soft, too slow, or not at all
- Excessive use of foul language
- Wearing attire that is provocative or super-revealing
- A style that is “perceived” as separatist or out of the ordinary (goth, punk-rock, etc.)
The difficult thing is that those covert signs don’t always mean that the person has social anxiety. Many people just have their own sense of style or they may be naturally introverted. They may also have a boisterous personality. If you do not know the person or aren’t close to them, it’s hard to tell.
But one thing that is noticeable is if the person never exhibited this kind of behavior or look before and suddenly, or within a short amount of time transitions into it. And these kinds of changes can only be noticeable to those who are close to the person or have been around the person for years.
Therefore, if you know a person who is showing these signs, instead of pointing a finger and judging them cruelly, ask questions and find out why. You may not realize that person could be a target of bullying or another form of abuse.
And if you are a target of bullying and struggling with social anxiety, I want you to know that you don’t have to live in that invisible prison forever. Bullies do not deserve value and you shouldn’t place any worth to their opinions of you. Understand that you are enough and that your bullies haven’t earned your respect nor your attention.
Only value the opinions or thoughts of the people who love you and whose opinions deserve your consideration, attention, and acknowledgement.
Start loving yourself and practicing self-care. Relax and be yourself. Embrace your flaws and quirks because we all have them whether we admit it or not. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. I promise you that you’ll be much happier and have more peace of mind when you do.