Social anxiety is a personality disorder that is being diluted in the same way depression has. Just like how depression is now considered the equal of a low mood, rather than a serious mental condition, social anxiety is now considered the equal of shyness. No matter how outgoing you are, how well liked, and even how sociable you are, there is a very real chance your failure to get a job is because of some underlying social anxiety.
Not Trying to Push a Condition Onto You
This article is not a scare piece that tries to make you a victim, ill or somehow weaker. This article simply exposes the facts around social anxiety, and offers advice which may help you get a job.
It is just like the coronavirus (COVID-19) in that you will probably never get it, but you still wash your hands after using the bathroom and before eating just in case. You have probably also bought a lifetime supply of toilet roll for what equates to a mild flu, but that is your business.
The First Thing to Note
Social anxiety disorder can range from very mild to severe and symptoms can change over time. Typically, social anxiety flares up the most when you have lots of demands or stress, which is one of the reasons why job interviews are difficult.
It is not just a case of you being shy; it is a change in your body chemistry that affects your normal tolerance for anxiety.
You are supposed to feel a little anxious and nervous when you are having a job interview, but your social anxiety makes it more difficult by ramping up your physiological reactions. You experience a fluttering in your chest or stomach, or blushing, trembling, sweating, a fast heartbeat, nausea, an upset stomach, lightheadedness, dizziness, muscle tension, and the feeling that your mind has gone blank.
What You Should Do
The first thing to do is get help as soon as possible because the longer you live with social anxiety, the harder it is to shift. It works a little like an addiction because you slowly learn to avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable, which works as its own rewards, which makes you more likely to avoid such situations in the future.
Another thing you should do is push yourself to do things that scare you. Push yourself to be a little more brave. This doesn’t mean mouthing off to strangers or being overly overt in social situations. It means doing things like taking things back for refunds without making somebody else do it or calling a taxi by yourself without doing it online or having somebody else call for you.
Your Job Hunt is Hindered by Your Social Avoidance
You are probably reassuring yourself that you do not avoid social settings because you hang out with family and friends all the time, but they are all nestled within your comfort zone. Going for a job interview may be far outside of your comfort zone. One of the hardest things for some social anxiety sufferers is entering a room with several people already sitting down, and that is how most interviews begin. Other situations where these subtle symptoms manifest include:
- Starting conversations
- Interacting with unfamiliar people
- Going to work or school
- Attending social gatherings or parties
- Making eye contact
- Eating in front of others
- Returning items to a store
- Using a public restroom
Though you do not realize it, you may be avoiding getting job interviews because you are subconsciously trying to avoid the whole interview process. Avoidance can happen so subtly that you may not realize you are doing it. Here are a few examples of avoidance mechanisms:
- You are too picky with jobs and frequently brush off jobs without applying
- Ignoring job ads that offer very little information about the job
- Waiting for a perfect job rather than trying what is on offer
- Not filling out applications because they are too long
- Refusing to complete applications because you are sick of trying and failing
- Not applying for jobs because you are waiting back from a job you are “sure” you got
- Using excuses that there is nothing good out there for you right now
Perhaps some of these are valid reasons why you are not applying for jobs, but you would be a fool to rule out the fact you may be avoiding getting an interview because you are semi-consciously trying to avoid the whole interview process.
What You Should Do
You need to turn your whole job hunt into an experiment. You need to use trial and error testing with your resume and your applications. Your goal is to eliminate the things that do not work and keep doing the things that do.
By turning the application process into an experiment, you take the focus off the interview process. Then, with that in mind, you need to try to get at least one interview per week. Your task is not to find your perfect job, it is just to take interviews. Again, you are focusing on your task of getting one interview per week rather than trying to get a job.
The byproduct benefits of this are that you tune up your resume and applications, you get valuable interview experience, and you tame your social anxiety a little.
Final Thoughts – Low Self Esteem Issues
One of the most common causes of mild/underlying social anxiety is, as you have probably guessed, low self-esteem. And frankly, somebody with a disability is prone to self-esteem issues. Before you know it, your social hang ups, or your self esteem issues, or your avoidance habits turn into a compulsive social anxiety disorder that very gently (but very easily) damages your chances of getting a job. If on the other hand, you genuinely feel that your disability is holding you back, then there are plenty of resources out there for people with disabilities looking for jobs.
Again, the point of this article is not to scare you into thinking you have a personality or mental disorder. It is simply a prod in the right direction. It is a nudge in the direction of understanding how you may be self-sabotaging without realizing it, and a few steps to help you avoid such sabotage.