The need for kids to feel like they fit in seems to grow with every increase in grade level. In kindergarten and first grade, the friendship choices are more vast and less particular. Moving up in the grade school years, the circle of friends becomes smaller but stronger. Long lasting friendships begin to form. In middle school and high school, the cliques become more evident and the judgment kids place on each other increases. Kids feel a lot of pressure to act a certain way and dress a certain way. There are many rules they must follow.
Some kids love school and enjoy socializing and participating in extra-curricular activities. Other kids who deal with social anxiety disorder or shyness often struggle to make it through the school day, let alone participate in extra-curricular activities. God blesses us with challenges, which can (and will) make us stronger in the end. We just may not realize the reason for our pain until years later. We all have challenges in our lifetime, but when we are immersed in our minds and allow our thoughts to control our feelings and emotions we are closed off from what’s happening to people around us. When the socially anxious person does look around, it feels like these people are judging and watching them. But remember, “People don’t really see as much of your fear as you think. It’s usually those of us who experience the same fear who see the fear in others – that is, when we actually take the time to look at others instead of focusing on ourselves.” Releasing the Secret Pain, Chapter 4, Page 41.
Kids in middle school and high school may start to conform to meet the expectations of the clique they are welcomed into. They are so desperate to have a friend, to belong, they will do anything. The choices made are not always the best choices. I do believe it is important to have friends – being alone and dealing with SAD can be a difficult combination to deal with. But it’s important to know that a true friend is a person who loves another person for who they are. A true friend will not force someone to change so he/she can fit in – in the friend’s eyes. True friendships will be easy and comfortable.
School, in general, can be fun if kids allow it to be. When students find something they love to do, the anxiety levels will decrease and new friendships will form. Find out the interests and follow the path to find like-minded kids.
School can definitely be a struggle, there’s no doubt about it. But it can also be fun, can help in building long-term friendships and give kids the education they need to succeed in the world!
For the person struggling with SAD, I’ll leave you with this excerpt from the end of Chapter 4 in Releasing the Secret Pain:
“You may notice that your thoughts are often about comparing yourself to others and not measuring up. Remember you are your own person. You will be more like your true self once the anxious thoughts get out of your way. Understanding social anxiety disorder and how to overcome it is the key to your success. You will be able to get through this! Your life might seem difficult now, but I PROMISE YOU it will get better.”