Being In a Sorority While Having Social Anxiety

I always assumed that my social anxiety would get in the way of most social experiences through high school. Yes, I was able to have conversations with people in my classes, but the feeling of paranoia consumed me. I could barely hold eye-contact and suffered through stuttering and nervous jittering. This coupled with the usual insecurities that women have about how they looked physically, I felt like I never really found a “fit” with people, and that I wasn’t able to be easily understood because I was always dumbed down to the nervous and anxious girl.

This improved through my first year of college where I somehow felt more at “ease” with the fact that everyone is nervous. It gave me more confidence knowing that, while people may not suffer from anxiety, meeting new people and being an adult in a new environment was SCARY for us all. My eye-contact, paranoia, jittering and stuttering were very prominent still, but I saw subtle improvements that gave me a glimmer of hope.

I think a big part of feeling so anxious in social situations and settings stemmed from feeling that I don’t belong or that I was sub-par. One would think, based purely on stereotypes, that being in a sorority would entail social pressure and social obligation. That obviously doesn’t sound like a good combination with someone who struggles with anxiety, but in my first month, I have been challenged to be open with my struggles and given the confidence to see myself in a light beyond just the anxious and nervous girl. It became very apparent right off the bat that even “Freshman Sami” didn’t see this coming: becoming a sorority woman and not feeling like her anxiety would weigh her down.

On Bid day (the day where we have a “party” with the sorority that offered us a bid into their chapter), I had a slight moment of panic amidst all the fun; I worried that I wouldn’t amount to much with the sisters. I thought I was too awkward to be accepted, and not “chill” enough to make connections.

Of course, I had no proof behind why I felt like this would be so because anxiety can be irrational (and usually is). I knew Chi Omega was the perfect fit for me because I was comfortable during recruitment, amongst other reasons.

In the coming days, I experienced a multitude of outings with initiated sisters. Before the first few, I contemplated lying about being sick or getting so nervous that I felt sick. It wasn’t until we began our dates that my nervous antics and paranoia would calm down, and usually, this isn’t the case for most of my other friends initially—I typically have anxiety around them for the first few times together.

I asked myself, “What was different this time?” The answer I can come up with is that each woman, so different and unique from the last, made effort to make sure I was comfortable and that I am valued. To have that validation from the beginning eased my anxiety.

When I did feel anxious or nervous (which is most of the time if we are being honest), I would feel comfortable enough to tell them that, as well as my overall struggles with mental health. It’s a hard thing to be open about, but I feel like I can so far, and their responses prove that it is okay to do so. Through this, I’ve been able to be understood more completely and words can’t quite explain how much of a confidence-booster it is. To feel so out of place and inadequate and to be met with women who do nothing but validate your struggles and bring the best out of you, is one way to help ease the burdens of social anxiety.