Social Anxiety


Dear JT,

I’m not going to make any requests, but I did want to chime in with a thank-you.

I have a pretty severe case of social phobia. It is taking a lot out of me to even write this. I have been reading you for quite some time, though.

Over the past couple of months, I have forced myself to get up on stage at karaoke night at my local pub on Saturday nights. It’s getting better, but it wasn’t always.

At first, I would get up and sing something easy, something that I have known forever, something that I would sing in the shower. That first time, at was devastating! I walked off shaking so hard that when I picked up my beer to take a sip, I spilled it on myself and had to go home.

That was just about the time that you had presented your talk on mental illness from Skepicon. I watched it, and I saw the pain in your face. The anxiety, the shakiness in your voice. I went back and read some of the earlier posts on how you are still struggling, but you soldier on. And how you love to sing.

And you inspired me.

Since then, I have made it a point to try do at least one more song than I did last week, time permitting. I’m up to 5. I still can’t form a complete sentence when speaking to a woman I’m attracted to, and if I ever disagree with something you (or anyone else) writes here, you will not hear about it. Baby steps, though.

So I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for fighting the good fight. Thank you for teaching me that it’s OK to be afraid.

Most of all, thank you for standing up and speaking out on behalf of those of us who cannot.

Very much respect,


First, thanks for all the praise.

I remember the first play I was ever in.  I was 16 and landed the role of the Narrator in The Canterbury Tales.  I had my lines memorized before the first rehearsal.  I ran my monologues at home constantly (and in my head everywhere).

On opening night when the cue came for me to enter, I froze.  I literally couldn’t make myself go on stage.  Thankfully I had a stage manager who saw what was happening and shoved me out onto the stage.  Everything went pretty stellar from there.

Even today though I still get stage fright.  I still have to pee ten minutes before I go on stage whether its to sing or give a talk (at a conference you can watch me pace nervously and take big breaths before it’s my turn to speak).  I am comfortable singing now after years of training, but even as a voice student I did speaking/silent roles in operas for a few years before I sang a single note.

And, as any of my friends will tell you, I get super quiet when there are girls around I’m attracted to (more quiet than usual).

Like anything else it gets more comfortable with practice, which you are experiencing.  You’ll find that it’s like a rollercoaster: after the big drop it’s really not that bad.  Once you get past the fear and open your mouth to talk to someone or once you get the first note out, you realize that it’s the fear that was bad, not the singing or the speaking.  At least, this is what I have found.

And here’s the honest truth: you’re going to fail.  Sometimes you’ll miss a note or embarrass yourself in front of an attractive woman.  Learn to celebrate failure: it means you had the fortitude to try (and often if means you had the guts to try something new).  It also means you probably learned something and became a more complete human being for the effort.  It’s the kind of thing that inches you closer to success.

And lastly, this is your homework assignment: the next time I say something you disagree with, leave a comment.  Tell me.  Trust me, I love having commenters unafraid to tell me when they think I’m off base.  Karaoke, though fun, doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  Ideas do.  Very much.  Do me the respect of telling me why you think I’ve missed something.  You might be wrong, but so might I.  Give me the chance to celebrate failure.  *hug*

Patheos Atheist LogoLike What Would JT Do? and Patheos Atheist on Facebook!

Little moments that make life worth living.
Internet out again. Thanks, Time Warner.
Pfft, I know how to blog for page views (pictures of my wife).
Helping Michaelyn make a delicious Halloween treat.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.