It is no secret that I have struggled for the majority of my life with social anxiety. For whatever reason, I have always been painfully shy, and establishing deep relationships has been very challenging for me. I know this has held me back both personally and professionally, but I have been powerless against it. Functioning socially is a challenge for me every day.

Over the past couple of years, however, I have noticed a more vicious chain of events at work in my life. What I am about to write has been a difficult realization for me to come to, but it is a realization I must come to terms with before I can move on. What I need to say is this: Because of feelings of fear and inadequacy, I have been systematically isolating myself socially over time. And for that, I am deeply sorry.

I have several reasons for doing this. I will begin with the obvious culprit – myself. I am a generally poor friend, but I also cross boundaries sometimes. I have caused uncomfortable situations by doing so, and I find myself at a loss as to how to repair these damaged relationships. As a result, I find myself avoiding certain people. I don’t run up and speak to them in public, which probably gives the impression that I’m rude or aloof. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. What is really happening is that I am experiencing deep shame and embarrassment, and I cannot overcome those emotions in the moment.

This theme of shame and embarrassment runs deep with me, and I found it exacerbated when I was fired from my job two years ago. I couldn’t face people, particularly men who I deemed to be more successful than myself. I turned down invitations, kept conversations short during social encounters, and generally shrank away from anyone who appeared to have their life more together than I did. I managed to turn some close friendships into mere acquaintanceships. Some of those relationships have never recovered.

Two weekends ago, I forced myself to attend a surprise 40th birthday party for one of my dearest friends. As I looked around the room, I saw faces of people I was once very close to, but time had changed things somehow. There were some I didn’t even speak to, even though we shared memories together. That party was when I realized how much of my social isolation was my own fault. I had actually gone out of my way to cause it, even though I thought the whole time it was just something that was happening to me.

I’ve been attempting to process all this over the past several days, and my fixer’s brain wants to repair all the damage I’ve done as quickly as possible. There is no quick fix for this, though. Relationships can only be healed over time and with repeated demonstrations of responsible behavior. I have let a great number of people down, even though they may not realize that. All I can really do is try to be a better friend, ignore the voices that tell me I am less than what I am, and emerge from the shell I have constructed for myself.

If you are someone who has felt avoided or ignored by me, I am sorry. If you are someone who has considered me rude, I apologize. If I have made things uncomfortable between us in any way, I will do my best to ensure that never happens again. I’ve spent the last two years or so trying to disappear. I want to find out now what it’s like to be seen again.

 

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