Dear Annie: I’m a freshman in high school, and I’m starting to make friends. I’m always trying to be silly with them. I guess I enjoy the validation when they laugh. But I don’t want to be seen as too crazy or immature. I also have social anxiety, which means my interactions with others cause irrational anxiety. That is why I want the validation. But I don’t just want to be the “funny person” of the group. I want to have good conversations.
One-on-one, it’s easier. I don’t know why the dynamics change when there are more people. I assume that I get more anxious and I strive to be the center of attention.
But it kind of hurts when they tease me back or afterward when I think my words were stupid. People have actually told me I’m “weird” and that I made them “uncomfortable.” It makes me feel awful! I don’t want to be seen like that, and it stinks when the thing I fear most (my flaws being exposed) becomes true.
Should I stop joking around so much? – Freshman
Dear Freshman: Your letter brought to mind a saying: The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. It’s been attributed to many different sources, most commonly Robin Sharma, though it actually dates back further than that, and the original orator is unknown. Whoever said it understood anxiety.
The issue isn’t whether you should stop joking around. This is about becoming comfortable enough with yourself to live in the present moment. Once you’ve nurtured some more serenity within, you’ll find yourself interacting more naturally with others – still joking around plenty, perhaps, but not out of a need for validation.
Now, I realize “be comfortable with yourself” is a tall order for someone in high school. But there really are practical steps you can take toward finding some inner calm. I recommend seeing a counselor regularly, if you’re not already. I also recommend taking up daily meditation. It might be hard to believe that something so simple could make a real difference, but there is a growing body of scientific evidence that meditation can significantly reduce psychological stresses, including a 2014 meta-study by researchers at Johns Hopkins that found that mindfulness meditation can ease anxiety and depression.
Lastly, know that self-consciousness is as much a part of adolescence as acne. Even though most of your peers don’t have social anxiety disorder, that doesn’t mean they don’t experience social anxiety. I guarantee you that all of them sometimes worry that they seem weird, silly or unintelligent. You are not alone.
Dear Annie: A lot of people do not seem to realize that if 100 percent of their attention were on driving, that could eliminate many wrecks and fatalities. They drive foolishly.
My son, 30, was recently driving on a highway, when the car in front of him stopped. He stopped in time, as did the Camry behind him. However, the driver of the next car was on her phone and hit the Camry at almost full speed. All the cars were totaled. My son’s foot was damaged, but he didn’t have to go to the emergency room like the other drivers and their kids. They were lucky to not die. – Rose
Dear Rose: I am so glad that your son emerged relatively OK and that there were no fatalities. Not everyone is so fortunate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States alone, nine people are killed each day in crashes involving a distracted driver. Let’s all keep our eyes on the road, our hands on the wheel and our fellow humans out of danger.
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