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How I struggled with social anxiety
Have you ever spent an hour flicking through Instagram, only to leave the experience feeling totally deflated about your life? You can’t help but compare your own to the lives of others and you end up feeling like everybody out there is having more fun, getting better jobs and doing cooler things than you are?
This cycle happens to me all the time.
Sometimes being constantly faced with pictures of perfection can be torturing. What’s more depressing than looking at a perfect bikini body while you’re sitting at home eating pizza? The thing is, Instagram is just a slice of people’s lives. It’s a place to show our best bits. We filter, edit and stage photos to make things look beautiful and then forget that that’s what other people are doing too. We don’t typically get to see the unfiltered, unedited everyday photos of people’s real lives. And I know that for me, it plays on my insecurities and often leaves me feeling anxious.
But, my personal journey with these things started long ago, before social media. I grew up in Oxford and was badly bullied as a young girl for being different and foreign. I moved schools because of how badly I was being treated and changed my name from ‘Rawan’ to ‘Roxie.’ I no longer wanted to be seen as different. I didn’t want to be judged on first impressions, or by my race. I wanted to fit in.
Eventually, I made a lot of wonderful friends at my new school and my confidence slowly started to grow. But, when your self-esteem is knocked that hard as a child, I don’t know if it ever fully repairs itself.
Unfortunately, bullying isn’t going away. In fact, it seems to be getting worse. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for young girls and boys in today’s world to be subjected to all the cyberbullying going on. To see their friends on social media at a party they weren’t invited to, or to endure endless public commentary and shaming. It seems just as bad, if not more so than the ‘playground’ bullying of my youth.
I’d like to say that as I got older, my social anxiety and self-esteem issues have gotten better, but they haven’t. My insecurities are no longer based on my background, they’re based on my weight, my looks, my personality and my job. There now exists this never-ending inner self-critic, constantly commenting on my life. It tells me I’m fat, disgusting and ugly. It punishes me for eating or drinking certain things. Whispers to me that I’m not worth the job I want, or that everyone is talking about me behind my back. Honestly, it’s exhausting. It begins this cycle where I feel really low and depressed. I withdraw and don’t feel much like socialising, which of course my inner-critic likes to analyse as well.
This isn’t something I feel every single day. Some days I wake up and I feel great—I feel happy, carefree and confident. I can tune out all the disapproval and just be. I remind myself that I would never speak to a close friend the way my inner-critic speaks to me. Those days are amazing! Those are the days when good things happen because I’m actively bringing good energy into my life instead of feeding myself negativity and criticism.
Social media has become such a big cause of my insecurities, which means sometimes the best way for me to stay in a positive mindset is to avoid it altogether. However, that’s not always realistic, being a blogger and avid user of Instagram myself, and may even sound hypocritical.
When I am at my best, and successful in turning off the anxiety, I actually love social media. I love to look at beautiful things; it inspires me, motivates me, makes me smile/laugh/feel moved. I put pictures up that I feel proud of in the hopes of inspiring someone else in a similar way. I also want to share the things I love as a way to help silence that inner critic. To show myself I have something to be grateful for. I know that if I looked at my Instagram from an outsider’s perspective I would probably think: ‘Yeah, she looks confident, happy, self assured.’ If only I could say that was always the truth behind it.
I realise how fortunate I am to have this life, and I am eternally thankful for it. Yet, I too am susceptible to the anxiety and self-doubt that plagues our society. Regardless of what we have, or of our backgrounds, we all feel these same emotions.
I am determined to help women understand why we feel this way, to know that we are not alone in this. I want to share with you my personal journey to try and find some inner peace and confidence. I want to hear how you feel and how you cope with these things, so that together we can help stop this pressure to be ‘perfect.’ I might not have the best body, or be the prettiest or be the best at what I do, and I’d love to learn to be ok with that. Truly accepting myself for the way I am, rather than filling myself up with criticism and self-doubt, is the only thing blocking me from having the best future possible. As a community, we can fight those inner demons together!
Roxie Nafousi is contributing writer for marieclaire.co.uk, lifestyle blogger and health and beauty fanatic. You can find her on Instagram @roxienafousi