I have spent a lot of my life living in a bubble. Not a physical bubble but a metaphorical one. I had a sheltered childhood, which began to create a sheltered adulthood. I was never allowed to go to parties, or hang out with boys; I was the definition of a “good Christian girl”. Now I don’t mean that those whom do those things aren’t, I’m sure they are all lovely people, but that I was living a stereotype. I went to school everyday and came straight home to do homework, I got good grades, I went to church every week and Sunday school. My parents rarely allowed me to be in situations where I was meeting new people which made me not only painfully shy but socially awkward and I don’t mean in the sense I would say something weird but I would just stand there silently because I didn’t know how I was suppose to act. As I got older it all got harder for me. Kids in my high school didn’t understand why I was so quiet, or why I had so little friends. It made me an easy target for bullying and even harder to break out of my shell.
So I created my own little bubble to live in. It made me feel like no one could touch if I stayed inside of it. I stayed to myself, I didn’t talk to anyone and eventually the bullying stopped. On the first day of grade 10 I saw a new girl in my class who looked as sad and lonely as I felt. She was the first actual friend I ever made, and to this day is still my best friend. As the school years went on she became more popular with other classmates and they all tolerated me because she wouldn’t go anywhere with out me. Being her friend was the first step I took outside of my bubble.Even though I took a step outside of the bubble I created I still very much lived inside of it. I was my self defence mechanism, my “safe place”. As I started to get into my 20’s, I started to realize how much my bubble was hurting my self development. I had a hard time connecting with people at work and in classes at college. I tried really hard to step outside the bubble again (it went so well the first time what could go wrong?). I very quickly discovered how much my bubble was hurting me, in the form of panic attacks. I started having panic attacks just at the mere thought of meeting someone new. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Again I was rarely in situations with new people so I didn’t know what to say to someone I didn’t know, what if they don’t like me? What if we have nothing in common? What if I say something dumb? What if they don’t want to talk to me? What if they make fun of me? All of these things ran through my head every time I wanted to attempt to make a new friend. I am also aware many of these things run through a lot of peoples head when making a new friend and they don’t panic at the thought. But at the time because I was so sheltered, my parents never pushed me to make new friends (frankly, I don’t think it bothered them that I only had one friend) but wanted me to focus on school only, I didn’t know these were normal thoughts. I thought I was different, not normal. Everyone else had so many friends so how could they possibly have these thoughts too?
When I discovered the world of social media, it was a game changer. I found people online who were like me. It was easier to express my thoughts to people online than it was to someone in person. Soon I realized I wasn’t the only one out there like this was the biggest eye opener. I started to open up to people, and make more friends. I found a new “bubble” with these people. I found a sense of community and support with them.
It took me years to get myself out of my bubble, to make friends, to be okay in social settings, to try new things. Now at 26 I am finally in a spot in my life where I am actually living. I still do panic sometimes in social settings, or over something I said to some one new. My friends are really good at just telling me “everything is okay”, which doesn’t immediately stop the panic but helps calm the thoughts. I decided I wanted to spend my life helping people like me. I know I am not the only one out there like this and I think if just one person told me when I was 20 that I wasn’t different, that its okay to have a hard time making friends, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to finally get to a good place. The power of social media helped me and now I want to use it to help someone too.