Connecting with others on an emotional level is a struggle for me. I have a close knit group of friends, but outside of those few individuals I find it hard to form lasting professional and personal relationships. I believe this is largely due to how I interact with others.
Daily social interactions for me include:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Apologizing profusely
- Avoiding any topic that is personal
- Automatically criticizing every statement I say because I am afraid it will offend the listener
- Fidgeting hands while I talk and large hand gestures
- Avoiding any physical interaction
Many of my interactions with others include restrictions, which can cause discomfort for all participants involved. I tried several mechanisms to make social scenarios less awkward. Not until I stumbled upon YouTuber Anna Akana did I find a useful strategy. Akana is an actress, filmmaker and comedian. She has written and directed short films that have mental health as a central theme. Akana’s video about social anxiety has helped me the most. It provided helpful insights and a humorous outlook towards social anxiety. While I do not support everything Anna said, I strongly believe that humor can help. In her other videos Akana has spoken about how she has gone one step further by doing stand-up comedy and attending improvisation courses.
Acknowledging the possible unease in a situation in a blunt and humorous way can ease tension for all participants in a social situation. However, humor does not “cure” or eliminate the social anxiety I experience. Nor does it mean the person living with a disability needs to be the target of a joke. People living with disabilities are often laughed at as a joke for ableist audiences. But if it is practiced with sensitivity and with the acknowledgement of ableist ideology, humor can be a coping tool for a social situation to become manageable. Humor can be transformative for everyone involved because it can dismantle previous misconceptions and disability tropes.
About Hilary M
Hilary M is a twenty-something Toronto student who is living with social anxiety. She considers herself an ally with people living with disabilities and enjoys working and volunteering at organizations that secure human rights and accessibility for all individuals.