Comic: Living with Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is difficult to live with, mostly because it fills your mind with thoughts of self doubt.

By Tanika Godbole

A comic strip with seven panels.

Image description:

The image is a comic strip with seven panels.

In the first panel, a person is shown being punched from both sides by two thought bubbles. One is these is red and the other is blue.
Text — Social anxiety attacks me with two opposing thoughts…

In the second panel, a person is shown on stage, being booed by the audience.
Text — Thought 1: Everyone is constantly watching and judging everything I do.

In the third panel, six characters are silhouetted against the background. While five of them are solidly coloured in black, one of them is barely there — drawn in dashes.
Text — Thought 2: No one will ever notice me. I am invisible and unwanted.

In the fourth panel, four people link arms and stand clustered together, while a fifth person stands by themselves, away from them, arms folded.
Text — To others, it appears as if I’m being too reserved, or arrogant.

In the fifth panel, the two thought bubbles shown previously battle each other.
Text — Recently, I’ve started pitting these thoughts against each other.

In the sixth panel, a person is shown wearing a striped shirt, with a whistle around their neck.
Text — And I’ve become a referee in this fight!

In the seventh panel, the referee is shown speaking, with their hands up. The blue and red thought bubbles are drawn on either side of them.
Text — The red thought bubble says ‘Everyone constantly judges me!’
The blue thought bubble says ‘No one knows I exist!’
The referee says: ‘If no one notices us, let’s just to what we want without fear of being judged!’

On the bottom right, the comic is credited to @missfitcomics.

Note from the artist:

Social anxiety is difficult to live with, mostly because it fills your mind with thoughts of self doubt. On the one hand, it tells you that you’re constantly being judged (negatively) by everyone, no matter what you do. On the other hand, it tells you that you’re not even noticeable to anyone, and none of your thoughts or actions matter.

Since childhood, I’ve always found it difficult to be around people and make friends. I am great with one-on-one interactions. But when there are more people, I lose confidence. I hardly ever say what I want, and never assert myself. I try to accommodate everyone’s opinions without expressing my own, because somewhere at the back of my mind, I feel that my views don’t matter. I also feel that revealing my personality too much will open me up to a lot of ridicule and humiliation.

During my school and college days, I found it very hard to form strong bonds with others. I used to sit, dress, and behave in a manner that didn’t invite any sort of attention. Only when I was alone in my room did I feel like I could truly be myself.

These two opposing thoughts — that I am invisible, and that I am being ridiculed — are terrifying during social situations. But what if I were to pit them against each other? If I am invisible, there is no one watching me with judgmental eyes. So I should just do what feels right! This idea, along with a little bit more self esteem (which keeps growing day by day), has made my life so much easier.

I no longer feel the need to hide myself. I am still awkward and uncomfortable, but I make it a point to be true to myself, and show everyone what I am really like.

Who knows? They might even like me.

Tanika Godbole is the artist behind MissFitComics, which features comics about current news, feminism, and pop culture.