Pushing Past Your Personal Barriers

Gavin Rutherford

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I’ve spent most of my life cooped up inside. I lived satisfied with a life of watching television, playing games and reading books.

When I went into middle school I didn’t have the confidence to reach out and talk to people, so I just sat in the back of class reading every hour. I felt like I couldn’t be bothered to learn, and I had a much better time alone reading.

When I entered high school, the sheer number of people shocked me back into my shell and, as a result, things with most of my “friends” from middle school ended up falling apart due to our lack of substantial contact with each other. It wasn’t until swim season started my freshman year that I really started to understand what it meant to have true friends.

After years of secluding myself, I suddenly found people who wanted to spend time with me. I found myself doing things my middle school self never would’ve dreamed of doing. I went to football games, hung out at people’s houses, and I went to the mall for no reason other than to spend time with my friends.

The sudden changes to my daily life were all a bit overwhelming. Due to my lack of experience spending time with people I felt lost and out of place. At first I loved every bit of time spent with my friends, but as time went on, I started to think that I was the least important member of the group or that I was only invited out of pity.

Eventually I found myself falling back into my seclusion. Any time someone would invite me out, I made up some excuse as to why I couldn’t go. I hated it; I hated getting home after school wondering if I was actually okay with turning people down.

After a while, I started to feel a bit greedy. Now that I had tasted what friendship was like, I wanted to experience it more, but I was still too scared to reach out and initiate interactions myself.

Anxiety runs in my family, but I’ve always been too proud to admit that I was struggling. When I look back on it now, I probably would’ve been much better off if I had just asked for help.

According to “Social Anxiety Institute,” social anxiety is the third most common mental disorder, behind depression and alcoholism, affecting over 15 million adults, or 6.8 percent of the US population. Knowing that so many other people struggle to find their place in a group pains me. There are so many people around me who don’t know how to break out of their shell. Change is hard, but I try my best to adapt.

Four years later and I still struggle with social interaction, but I’ve changed my mindset. I realized that I’m in my senior year of high school, and I have hardly any good memories of doing things with people. I am starting to worry that if I can’t handle social interactions now, how will I ever make it in college? If I can’t figure out how to take hold of the opportunities in front of me now, I’ll struggle in the future.

It’s hard to go out of your comfort zone. I want nothing more than to go home, curl up and sit on my phone most days, but I know that if I keep allowing myself to do that, then I’ll be setting myself up for failure. I want to be someone who doesn’t wait for others to initiate. I want to be someone who isn’t afraid to stand up and take an opportunity.

I offer you readers a piece of advice. If you feel like you can’t do something alone, don’t be afraid to ask for help. When my social anxiety was at its peak in middle school, I talked to a therapist. After a few months of trial and error attempting to figure out what was best for me, we decided to try something new.

My therapist brought me out to a small stable in the Texas Corners area where I was asked to observe the horses. I was asked to look at the way they interacted with each other and what kind of body language they had.

Over the next few months I was asked to perform various tasks with the horses, from grooming them to leading them through differing obstacle courses. The effects were tremendous. By the time I started high school, I had become a new person. I may not have been able to perfectly interact with everybody, but I was growing.

I recommend that you talk to others about your anxieties. Alone, we as people are capable of small tasks, but with the help of others we can achieve much greater things.

I had a thought the other day, would I be satisfied if I died tomorrow? Would I be proud of who I am? Would I be proud of the decisions I’ve made? I realized that the answer is almost always no. I still have things that I want to do, things that I want to see, and things that I want to accomplish. I want to make memories with all of my friends. I want to experience new things with them. How am I supposed to achieve my goals sitting in my room?

Figuring out how to live your life how you want to isn’t a simple task. You’ll have to go through many hills and valleys, and every day won’t be perfect. But on the journey that is life, we have to try our best to achieve our goals.