When You Have Social Anxiety, Asking a Question Is Terrifying

a question mark representing social anxiety and asking questions

Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when it comes for you?

Question Monster, Question Monster, Question Monster…

How about that, you really can do a Bad Boys remix with just about anything. Or maybe not.

See, social anxiety paid a visit every single time I readied myself to ask a question. It seems the amount of social anxiety I exhibited was so high that I conjured up a monster out of thin air. The simple act of asking a question took such prominence in my mind that whenever the urge came to open my mouth, this monster appeared by my side.

It frequented me so often I dubbed it the “Question Monster.” It’d suddenly appear, tap me on the shoulder, and whisper “Don’t ask, they’ll laugh.“ Needless to say, it ripped my confidence apart with its words: “It’s a stupid question… what kind of dummy doesn’t know the answer to that?”

I Avoided Asking Questions at All Costs

A quick disclaimer: I’m an introvert, and I had social anxiety. It’s actually a very common struggle for us “quiet ones.” But it’s a misconception that all introverts have social anxiety; some introverts don’t experience any feelings of nervousness or panic in social situations, while some extroverts battle it daily. If you want to know whether you’re an introvert, go here, and if you want to know whether you might have social anxiety or not, check out this page from the Mayo Clinic.

At some point, I stopped asking questions. The fear of facing the Question Monster inhibited me. It was always lurking around, ready to show its “don’t ask” face. I was plagued by the insecurities it projected onto me, so I did everything I could to avoid asking questions.

If I really needed an answer, I walked up to the person and asked one-on-one, or I wrote an email (if I even bothered to remember). I never had the nerve to ask a question out loud in front of *gasp* PEOPLE.

Just the mere thought of asking a question got me worked up as if I were entering a boxing ring. My hands got sweaty, my heart raced, and my breath was shallow. I had panic attacks just thinking about it. Damn it, Question Monster!

With time, I realized I was the one giving it control over me. I understood the negative consequences of not asking a question — namely that of being left out in the dark. I was missing out on knowledge, information, and connections with others.

I deprived myself because of the monster I created. Thankfully, after many years of struggle, and working through my own social anxiety action plan, it became dormant.

How Much Did I Miss Out On?

Recently, it hit me how much knowledge I left on the table all those years. The other day, I asked a question in a Facebook group because I wasn’t sure how to approach deciding upon which target audience I should go for, and needed some advice. Needless to say, a total stranger changed my entire perspective, and it turned my website around. Which made me think:

What else did I lose out on because I was too scared to ask?

I’ll never know. But what I do know is I’m the only one who stands to lose if I don’t ask.

Which is why I now make a point to ask whatever pops into my mind. Regardless of what it is, or to whom the question is directed. Instead of being scared of people staring me down, I now fear not getting the right information that can give me the extra edge. That’s something to be scared of.

And I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Because who knows what golden piece of information you’re missing out on? For example, the house next door to Hugh Jackman is on the market.

How to Defeat the Question Monster

1. If you have a question, chances are someone else has the same one.

The main reason I was scared to ask a question is I didn’t want to sound stupid. I didn’t want to hear snickers and whispers behind my back. I had high expectations of myself, and at all costs, I wanted to preserve the image I had of being an intellectual.

I failed to look at it the other way around. I should have said, “Hey, I’m a smart girl, and if I don’t understand this, then there are other people in the room that probably don’t either.” Flip the internal story, and you’ll be more relaxed knowing you’re not alone.

2. There are 295 exabytes of information floating around. Can you really expect to know everything?

Can anyone? Think about the enormous amount of information circling all around us! I’d need to live about 100 lifetimes to touch every piece of data, and even then, it wouldn’t mean I’d understand all of it. And by that time, it probably would have quadrupled, so even then, I’d only be touching the surface.

It’s inhumane to put that kind of pressure on yourself. Whenever I see the ghost of the question monster, I think about all those exabytes, and I ask away.

3. No one will remember what you asked.

But you sure will remember what was answered. Quick, can you remember a question someone asked the teacher in 10th grade? Other than, “Didn’t Al Gore invent the internet?” Because here’s the thing, you probably don’t care enough to remember, unless you had the same question. Most people are too involved with their own thoughts to pay attention to what’s going on around them. And if they do actually care, it’s because they are part of the discussion — and they will appreciate seeing someone else interested.

The turmoil you feel inside before you’re about to ask a question is because you think everyone will turn around and point a finger at you. In reality, some people are zoned out, some are annoyed there are questions, and the others are happy to answer it.

So please, do yourself a favor, ignore the Question Monster, and ask that question. Do it for your present self, but do it especially for your future self, because one day you’ll browse through your brain’s memory tabs and pull that information out. And it just might change the course of your life.

And yes, the Question Monster still shows its face now and again, but I always turn around to face it before it attacks me.

I cut it off before it starts with its pitch. I say, “Mama needs an answer — go away.”

If this article resonates with you, and you’re struggling with asking questions like I was, check out my free Social Anxiety Plan workbook to start letting go of social anxiety as it pertains to you.

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