Sorry, I’m Not Feeling Well

I can’t even attempt to count the number of time I have canceled plans with friends due to my crippling social anxiety. My friends have become accustomed to a text something like: “I’m so so sorry, but I really don’t feel up to going out tonight,” followed by some excuse involving being too sick, too tired, getting called into work, or having too much homework. But in reality, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to enter a situation where I have to interact with others—especially situations like parties where I will have too meet and interact with large groups of new people. While I do feel very alone in this experience at the time, social anxiety is something that many people live with on a daily basis. My experience and the experiences of others can be understood using self-presentation theory.

Even if I do get myself out the door to go to a party, I usually do one of 3 tactics in order to avoid interacting with others: First, if the person who threw the party has a pet, I will spend as much time as possible petting it and playing with it. Second, I will gravitate towards the snack table and stand there eating. Or third, I will stick to whoever I came to the party with like glue (not once in my life have I attended a party alone). Then, the real nightmare begins when someone I don’t know begins talking with me. I am smiling on the outside, but inside my chest is tight from pure terror. I stumble as I speak in conversation, stuttering and running my words together, because I am so lost in my head worrying about saying the wrong thing and making a bad impression. It’s not that I don’t like people—it’s that I’m afraid that people will not like me.

My experience with social anxiety perfectly aligns with self-presentation theory as outlined in our textbook. Self-presentation theory defines two factors which must be present for a person two experience social anxiety (Schneider 2012). The first factor is high self-presentational motivation. “Self-presentational motivation refers to the degree to which people are concerned with how others perceive them” (Schneider 2012). This concern with what others think definitely is relevant to myself. Since I was a child, I was always extremely concerned with what others thought of me—my friends, my teachers, new people that I met—I always feared that they wouldn’t like me. The second factor of self-presentation theory is low self-efficacy. “Social self-efficacy is defined as a person’s level of confidence in his or her ability to convey a particular image to another person” (Schneider 2012). If someone has low self-efficacy, it means that they have low self-confidence in their own ability to make a good impression—a quality that is very applicable to myself. I always describe myself as awkward, and by that I mean that I perceive myself not being very skilled in interacting socially, often causing my to embarrass myself.

When high self-presentational motivation and low self-efficacy are combined, these factors lead to high negative outcome expectancies. “Negative outcome expectancies are defined as anticipated aversive repercussions that are contingent on creating an undesirable impression”(Schneider 2012). From my experience, I always feel sure that I will embarrass myself before even stepping through the doors of a party. This can also be referred to as anticipatory embarrassment (Schneider 2012).  And when someone, including myself, feels sure that social interaction will lead to a negative outcome, this leads to the feeling of social anxiety.


Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


  1. Caroline Williams

    Aw, the Dr.Suess quote just made my day 🙂 My mom used to tell me that when I was self-conscious in high school. Personally, I think I have come to a place in the last year or so where I know that anyone who really matters or who I would want in my life will just accept me as I am, so I shouldn’t worry about what people think and should just be myself. However, that can be much easier said than done haha, and I usually end up overthinking everything anyway.

    I would also agree that a lot of my anxiety comes from pressure I put on myself–especially with online school! I always obsess over checking the mean for a class’s grades on an assignment and seeing what the highest grade in the class was. If someone got I higher grade than me, I usually feel anxious and bad about myself. But in reality I know that’s silly–because I work very hard in school and I should focus more on enjoying learning than on trying to be the best.

  2. Anxiety is such a strange thing. I relate a lot to your post but I feel as though my anxiety has changed how it manifests over the years. When I was a little younger I think I experienced anxiety very similar to yours. Where I worried a lot about how I was being perceived and spent a lot of time petting the party cat or munching on something while wondering if i was being “too nice” or if the fact that I didn’t know a certain band made me not worthy of the social group I tended to surround myself with. But after some very serious and exhausting things happened in my life I think i honestly just lost the energy to care as much as I did…being anxious takes a lot of energy. Don’t get me wrong I did not overcome but rather morphed into a new form of anxious. These days my finger nails are non existent and my hands sting when I touch a lot of things due to the little cuts I have created. I feel my anxiety these days stems more now from pressure I put on myself rather than pressure created by the thought of being rejected by strangers. I seem very calm I think to most people and handle myself quite charmingly at parties but I also am still a champ of coming up with reasons for not attending in the first place. Social anxiety is definitely a very hard thing to try to overcome. I think I personally have developed a style more akin to the social self-efficacy theory which is defined as a persons ability to convey a particular image to another person. I think I have learned with time to present myself to others in a certain way because I am no longer afraid of being rejected by my peers or by strangers. However I still put a lot of pressure on myself and a lot of pressure on behalf of my parents and people I really care about and in that sense I still have a long way to go before I can consider myself a non anxious person. Great post fellow classmate. My advice to you as someone who i’m sure is a little older than you is just go out there and enjoy yourself as much as possible. Pet those party pets, eat those party treats and when you come across a stranger remember that great Dr. Seuss Quote “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.”

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