I received several emails asking for help and suggestions regarding jobs for people with social anxiety. This is my story and views, based on my personal experience finding a job while struggling with crippling social phobia.
Getting my first job as a socially anxious student was quite stressful. My lack of confidence and fear of doing something wrong came to the surface despite choosing one of the simplest jobs you can think of – putting information stickers on products.
Yep, that’s all I had to do, all day, and I still worried that I didn’t do it well enough or fast enough. To my relief, I was working alone in my own corner. No social interaction was needed during the work itself.
Looking back, I’m amazed at how low my confidence was and how far I’ve come.
Aside from working as an event and portrait photographer, I now also work as a receptionist in a very busy hotel during crowded high season. I worked on boats as crew, including a charter boat where I welcomed guests and enjoyed socializing with them.
If someone told me back then that I will do this kind of work, I’d tell them they don’t know anything about me and the depth of my fears!
But today, I’d tell my young self that I was not aware of the incredible, infinite power we have within to heal and grow!
Back to my story about getting jobs and dealing with social anxiety…
In the years that followed, during my student years, I did a lot of simple jobs similar to that one. I finished secondary school for photography and then studied photography, this was my passion.
I had quite good grades and good feedback on my work but very rarely even looked into a photography related job.
Why? Because I didn’t believe I was good enough and capable of doing a good job. I felt like I didn’t know enough, that I’m going to make too many mistakes and embarrass myself, lose the job and piss off the employer.
I could think of pretty much all the worst scenarios and reasons why I should just stick to simple jobs where chances of making a mistake are very small and without big consequences.
About six years later, on and off working on overcoming my social anxiety, my confidence and inner peace grew enough for me to get a job I really wanted and loved at the time – press photographer.
Now you might be thinking “that’s awesome – it means you were healed and life was good!”
But the REAL struggle just began…
I THOUGHT I was OK but when I had to approach strangers to photograph them, my anxiety sure let me know it’s far, far from being gone!
Even when I had to talk to some of my clients and colleagues, my social anxiety went through the roof. I still remember my hands shaking and how stupid and embarrassed I felt about it.
I knew it made no sense to be so nervous but I couldn’t help it.
And you know what? I decided that this time I’m not backing off. No matter how much embarrassment I’ll go through and how much social failures I’ll experience.
“Change comes when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of making a change.”
I decided to go right through it because I learned that avoiding scary situations makes our fears grow. There’s one thing I knew – I don’t want to live with this kind of (or worse) anxiety all my life.
It was ruining my happiness so much that going through embarrassment and anxiety with HOPE and BELIEF for a better future was better than staying where I was.
So, when somebody writes me asking what kind of job I’d suggest to them considering they are struggling with strong social anxiety, I tell them to try get a job they really WANT and LOVE most, and not necessarily the kind that will keep them in their own little bubble, as far away from people as possible.
In other words, I tell them to aim for the job they would aim if they didn’t have social anxiety.
Maybe you won’t get the job because the employer will sense your lack of confidence. Or maybe you’ll lose the job because you’ll make too many mistakes due to your anxiety. But at least you’ll GROW through it and prove to your brain that you survived.
Having passion for something and a dream you care about will help you get through all the obstacles and live life to your fullest and infinite potential.
“But… you don’t understand… I REALLY struggle in social situations.”
I hear you…
What if you don’t have a passion and what if your social anxiety is VERY severe?
In this case I’d take little steps to turn things around. Work on finding your passion and on facing your anxiety slowly and surely.
If you struggle with very severe social anxiety, you probably rarely even leave your home. So, getting a very simple job like I did at first can be a good start and a great achievement! This will progressively help you gain more confidence and move forward towards your goals.
The aim is to always go at least a little bit further outside of our comfort zone.
During this process it’s also crucial to work on our mindset and to keep a positive outlook on ourselves and our healing.
This doesn’t mean that we have to be happy all the time.
It means we keep a positive attitude, knowing that no matter what we are going through right now, it will pass because we can change and grow through it.
After getting my dream job, it took me some time and even more embarrassing moments before I felt more or less comfortable approaching strangers.
How long does it take?
I often get asked how long it took me to overcome social anxiety. I can’t give you a number because it’s not as if you suddenly wake up and realize that you are 100% confident. It’s a gradual process and I believe that self-development is something that lasts all of our lives.
To me, the fact that I went from being nervous just putting stickers on products while being alone in my corner, to being completely comfortable and even ENJOYING meeting people is a huge success.
It tells me that we are capable of much more than we can imagine. And so are you.
Socializing is now natural and enjoyable to me, despite being more introverted than I used to be as a teen and young adult!
If you don’t feel like socializing because you simply love your own space, that’s fine.
But if you avoid social connection and your dream job because of fear, then it’s worth growing and overcoming that fear. Even just partially and even by taking very little steps if you have to.
Every step counts.
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