What I Learned Starting My Own Business Despite My Social Anxiety

At 28, the last thing I thought I would do is share my life experience in writing. The mere thought of thousands of faceless strangers judging and ridiculing my experience sends a shiver through my spine. That was the low self-esteem of social anxiety disorder that often translated in stuttering and blushing when I’m speaking to strangers.

But that didn’t stop me from quitting my job and starting my own business; I must have been “crazy” enough, as I knew nothing about business. I have no network of contacts and the mere thoughts of socializing frighten me. Without reasonable savings in my bank, I took a leap and it’s like jumping into the ocean and learning to swim.

Why I’m Challenging Myself to Do the Impossible

The reason I’m sharing this chapter of my life is not that I wanted to glorify my journey, but to give hope to those who are living with social anxiety. While we may experience this mental illness differently, the emotional struggles we endure could be the same. So does the dream we harbor deep in our hearts.

I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, With marketing medias painting the picture that only socially inclined extroverts could succeed in business, I knew the odds were stacked against me, a socially anxious introvert. But I also realized I’m sick of this fear of social interaction, so I decided to jump right in the deep end, hoping to kill two birds with one stone.

Marketing With Social Anxiety

The words “cold-calling” bring much discomfort to many entrepreneurs. For me, my first cold-call is a traumatic experience to forget, except it remained fresh in my mind 7 years after. I cringe when I recollect making that call, muttering a greeting and blurting out my opening pitch before cutting the conversation short with my furiously racing heart.

That is the price to be paid when stepping into the world of entrepreneurship, burdened by social anxiety. Sales and marketing are the fundamentals of every business. While natural marketers ease through sales presentations, I spent days with wild imaginations of how I would mess up the deal before I even started.

What I Realized in My First Taste of Failure

I went on to build a team, and gradually I got comfortable with making calls, conducting presentations and holding team meetings. I couldn’t put a point to when I started to shove my social anxiety away, but I did with little steps. However, as with all businesses, only 5 percent will survive the first 5 years. Mine did not.

The lack of fundamental skills in business and management eventually took its toll. As a perfectionist, I’ve never tasted any major failure in life. This plunged me into a spell of depression. As I hit rock bottom, I revisited my fear of social interaction and realized that it has been less prominent during the course of my business.

As I made my way out of my depression, I realized that social anxiety can be defeated after all. I went through a series of self-help programs and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. The result is a series of emceeing at corporate events — something I enjoy. I’m not implying that beating social anxiety is easy, but you have to take the first step to free yourself from its grasp.

I struggled with social anxiety for at least 15 years, without really knowing what I was going through. I went on to start a business amidst my constant struggle. Eventually, I defeated my social phobia and went on to conquer the fear of public speaking.

Follow this journey on the author’s website.

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