Recognizing the Root of Anxiety
As we return to campus and resume our college life, a common issue many students may experience is immense social anxiety particularly while attending larger universities. The pressure to socialize leads to a self-inflicted expectation to be well-liked and have an active social life, therefore failure to meet these expectations creates a fear of failing at the college experience. Though we may acknowledge that our fear of going out of our comfort zones and speaking to new people is unfair to ourselves, many still avoid social situations or bear them with extreme discomfort. College social anxiety can quickly become an all-consuming issue that many students unfortunately experience, therefore it is vital to recognize the commonality of this shared reality in order to normalize discussions about social anxiety as a whole.
Acknowledging that this is Common
Social anxiety in higher education is, unfortunately, nothing new as Alicia H. Nordstrom shares in her research paper, “The Effect of Social Anxiety and Self-Esteem on College Adjustment, Academics, and Retention.” Nordstrom discusses how the first-semester transition deeply challenges the developmental stage of students, and those already facing mental health conditions are especially vulnerable during this adjustment period which may impact their duration at the institution. Nordstrom shares that, “in a survey of more than 1,033 college students, one out of seven students reported that mental health problems were interfering with their daily functioning at college, one third reported ongoing feelings of depression, and one fourth reported feelings of suicidal ideation.”
Establishing a Strong Sense of Self
Our self-esteem is the manifestation of the ways we represent ourselves and how we are evaluated by others, as such our self-esteem is highly influenced by our environment. The habit of referring to unrealistic constructions of external feedback as our standard of self-worth, in addition to any previous social traumas, places many at risk for adjustment issues during the college transition. Coping with social anxiety in college begins with acknowledging your strengths, merits, personality, and what you derive joy from as having a stronger sense of self can help diminish overwhelming stress as to others’ perception of you.