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Talking Social Anxiety with The Manxiety Podcast

This week I sat down with The Manxiety show and discussed the challenges of overcoming social anxiety in the modern era.

Ashot: Hello, everyone. Welcome to this episode of The Manxiety Podcast. We're your host, Ashot and Matt. Before we get started, if you're enjoying the show, please subscribe so you can get notified of new episodes. If you want to share this with your friends, you can find us on all podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. This week, we have a special guest on the show for all of you. We're joined by Marcus Bales, professional speaker and author. Welcome to the show, Marcus.

Marcus: Hey, guys. Thanks so much for having me.

Ashot: Of course, it's a pleasure having you here. And I know that you have a book coming out here soon, and I know our listeners are all very interested in knowing a little bit more about you and also your book. Can you tell us a little bit about both?

Marcus: Yeah, absolutely. So my new book comes out on May 3. It's called Don't Shut Up, and it's my collection of stories and advice on how to overcome social anxiety. So I started out life as a socially anxious kid to the point where it affected my schooling, my friends, my social life. And slowly throughout the last 20 years, I have overcome that social anxiety and actually become a professional speaker. So I thought it would be a good time to kind of Chronicle that journey and write down some of the tips and tricks that I use to hopefully help even more people out there who suffer from social anxiety.

Ashot: No, that's amazing. Similarly, the reason we started this podcast was because of our experiences with anxiety as well. So it's always great seeing other people sharing their experiences and providing kind of what worked for them and tips and tricks for others. I guess in your case, what was the cause of your social anxiety? And in a more general sense, what are some causes of social anxiety?

Marcus: Yeah. So my social anxiety specifically stemmed from kind of the fear of failing in front of others. And I think it started right around first grade, no distinct memory in particular, but kind of that age when people start to branch out, start going to school, talking to other kids, and for whatever reason, that just terrified me. So that kind of reinforced that anxiety around speaking. And of course, kids can be mean. So when you get bullied a little bit, it makes you want to be more quiet and you're like, it's just easier to lower my head. So for a lot of people, it stems from kind of bullying or being an outcast. So you don't get to practice your speaking ability and you don't build up that confidence that you need to be a good speaker. So a lot of it stems from kind of those early childhood moments surrounding how you interact with others.

Matt: Yeah, I completely agree. I know that I've had a fear of public speaking and some social anxiety as well. I can't remember my first grade but I'm sure I had similar experiences. And unfortunately, I feel like it's not only when you're that young that happens. I mean, I remember being in high school and there was still bullying going on and people not letting others speak, and having that throughout the years, even after school and maybe even into work, I'm sure can make the anxiety worse or not allow you the time to heal and to figure out what's going on and to find ways around it.

Marcus: Absolutely.

Ashot: How long did it take you to overcome that?

Marcus: So it's been a progressive process, and I would say that I'm still not completely cured of social anxiety. I don't think you ever do it's one of those things that you either have it or you don't and you'll probably have it for the rest of your life, but it's how can you deal with it? Very much like depression, you're always going to be susceptible to it, but how can you manage the symptoms and live a fulfilled life, even with kind of having that anxiety, having that depression. So it's a constant process. But I would say the bulk of my journey happened in the first ten to 15 years when I kind of embarked on this journey starting in 6th grade actually was when I had a definitive, AHA, moment of man. If I don't learn how to speak better and interact with people, I'm going to get left behind. So that was where I really started. And then over that 15-year period, I was able to overcome the anxiety enough to actually become a professional speaker, which was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. But I knew that it was the next logical step if I wanted to keep going.

Matt: That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. It's great that you had such a realization over it at such a young age.

Marcus: Yeah. I actually remember it vividly and I talk about it in the book at length, but my anxiety was so bad, I couldn't read out loud. So when it was time to read, I would stumble through paragraphs. So to my teachers, I couldn't read. They were like, oh, he's way behind on his reading level. So I got put in these special reading classes, which was very frustrating because I knew I could read, but they didn't know because I couldn't articulate it to them. So towards the end of 6th grade, I finally took a silent reading test, passed right within the normal range, and was like, oh, man, if I don't learn to articulate and become a better Speaker, I'm going to keep getting left behind.

Ashot: Yeah. That brings up an interesting point about how our education system, they don't take those things into account. Right. And it's great that you were able to figure that out in 6th grade, but there are, I'm sure, countless other children who go through the same thing and kind of what you said, right, get left behind because the teachers, they couldn't speak up. The teachers didn't have that. Maybe they didn't have silent reading tests. What advice would you give to others who maybe aren't in 6th grade anymore but have continued struggling with that? What made you realize that outside of the classes and everything, what made you realize that, hey, I need to take Sam, I need to take action, and then what action did you take? What was the catalyst of that?

Marcus: Yeah, like most things, it was small steps throughout a very long process. And 6th grade was just the beginning. That was kind of a realization moment. But I was in 6th grade. I didn't really start putting it into practice until later on. But even just that beginning moment, whether you're in 6th grade or you're 60, that moment is really important. When you decide, I don't want to be like this anymore, I'm going to get better. And then that's going to start propelling you into a mindset where you're going to be able to start implementing the tips and tricks that I talk about and also just kind of overcoming it. On a personal front, we identify as socially anxious or introverted or, oh, well, I'm just a lone Wolf. Well, maybe those things are not the best label. And when you do that to yourself, you're kind of putting yourself in a box. So being able to say, hey, I'm ready, I want to become a better speaker.

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