social phobia and participating in school


Well-known member
I know the more pressure I put on myself to participate in class and to be with others the worse I get and the worse I feel. I've alwas been painfully shy. I am not like this with relatives or friends I feel safe with. I tend to feel inadequate around people that I think are superior than me or who for some reason or another I think will notice I am stupid and a fake. I'm getting my master's and a requirement in classes is class participation. I have been unable to connect much with classmates, except with a couple people with whom I dont feel so threatened but still feel stupid from time to time. One of my professors already told me that she expects me to get better at this for my own good. I wish to God she hadn't said that. I feel noticed by her. I feel inadequate to be there and to be so afraid to say something wrong, to space out and not be able to express myself, to embarrass myself as I do. This has been an eternal problem for me. I have been a social phobic ever since I was a child. I was a selective mute as a young girl and I still am like it or not. I hate to be though. What makes me feel most inadequate and causes me a lot of grief lately is my inability to participate in class and function the way I really need to and would really like to. I love what I am studying and I feel this is what I should be doing with my life. I am threatened again by my paralysis. I'm afraid I will never be able to function in school and a career. I wish I could quiet down these loud thoughts, these automatic self recriminating thoughts, the compulsive arranging of my fears doesn't work. The way I push myself to do better drives to to continue chasing my own tail. It's debilitating and soooooo unfair, frustrating...
I'm in therapy for childhood trauma. My therapist says one way to deal with it is by dealing with the memories. Only I need to hurry it up. I need to know if there is a short cut becasue this thing continues to ruin my life.
If any suggestions or words of encouragement, please feel free to share. I desperately need them. Thanks
Hello Lilita, I understand what you're going through and the urge to get rid of those fears you're having.

First. You need to stop putting so much pressure on yourself.

When I was really nervous in school my teacher simply told me to lower my expectations of myself. She was right. I saw myself as little miss perfect of course no human can live up to the expectations if perfect perfection.

That kind of thinking can do you in. Shed yourself of it and accept YOU for you, warts and all. Allow yourself the occasional slip ups, even if it includes making a fool of yourself. Laugh at yourself and move on.

Second. Forget people and thier fickle judgements.

Try for a single day or an hour to begin with not to think about what people think or say or feel towards you. Walk down the hall way and say to yourself, "I don't care who's looking. I'm invincible to thier eyes and I can do whatever I want to without caring what they think of me. Afterall I'm only human just like them" (IT's rather long, but something along that line). Do this and you'll start to see the changes yourself.

I found that the reason I don't speak up is because I think people are always looking and judging. Actually most times they don't give a rats eye what you say! Try sitting in the cafeteria or some public place and see how many people are staring at others while fervently taking notes and judgign them. Most people are going about minding thier own business. No point really in being afraid of them.

People who like you will do so genuinely for who you truly are, and won't change thier minds after seeing you fumble.

Third. Step out of your cocoon of safety once in a while.

If you don't do what scares you you'll never overcome that fear. I'm not saying you should jump off a building simply because it scares you! But where SA is concerned, if you don't try it you'll never overcome it. Believe me, no amount of therapy can substite you doing the real thing.

Believe me the hardest step is always doing that thing that scares you most. But once you do, you'll love youself more and it will bring you joys untold.

Try to make a commitment to participate more in class. Even if it's just the occasional "yeah's" and "uh uhs", don't just sit there do something. small at first, then make it bigger.

Gradually, you'll feel more comfortable as you settle into your skin.

One way to reduce the fears is to get involved with whats going in. For instance when you're sitting in class, wondering, dwelling or ruminating on the horrors of being involved just get involved. Just do it.

Lastly, as an SA friend, I'll advice you to NEVER let your SA get in the way of you achieving your dreams. If you love what you're doing then you should fight anything and everything that hinders you from fully enjoying it. If you make this commitment, sooner rather than later you'll find that your SA isin't the real problem afterall.

Good luck. :D


New member
I just wanted to tell you that you are not alone in this. Im about to start my junior year of college and the pressures of beginning to take smaller participatory classes and getting to know my professors well have put me in a constant state of panic. My freshman year i was accidentally enrolled in a small upper-classman/graduate course where everyone seemed so intelligent, with these ideas and opinions - and communication skills with which to get their ideas accross; i felt so inadequate that i never said a word the whole semester and ended up getting a low grade because of it. Historically, for me, grades are all that matter - its all im capable of accomplishing. Giving up a good grade because of SA was terrible for me. Because of that class, i now go out of my way to get into huge classes of 200+ students, even though most of those classes are boring or irrelevant to my major. Now all my friends are moving on and getting internships - something i cant do not only because of the fear, but because i need recommendation letters to apply, and ive never once talked to a professor. I feel like my life is going down the drain and I might as well quit, because after graduation im not going to be able to get a job that i like, if i get one at all. Like you said, i feel stupid and unsure of everything. Even if im asked a question about something i know that i know that i know, i second-guess myself.
Anyway, it feels good to get this out, since no one i know will believe what im going through. Its good you are able to see a therapist - im actually still building up the courage to see one.
I just finished reading a book called "Your Erroneous Zones" by Wayne Dyer that has helped me achieve a few small victories. Its main point is that you can control your feelings by controlling your thoughts. Its given me a new persective, so thats the route im taking right now.
I hope things go better for you. You seem like a very intelligent person, and the fact that youve made it to the masters program is an awesome accomplishment in and of itself. If YOU discover any special techniques or thought processes to get you through your classes, id love to hear them. Also if you or anyone else has any tips on talking to profs, theyd be appreciated.