There. I said it. I have some kind of undiagnosed social anxiety (I think). I think I always have. But the nervous laughter started as a cover up in middle school. I did it because I realized people liked my smile so I would try to laugh more and smile more to win them over. Doing so served as a distraction. Nobody would question whether I understood what they said or if I liked them or if I was nervous or not. But my nervous laughter isn’t serving me anymore. I have a tendency to laugh at very inappropriate times. Also, speaking to patients and educating them or speaking with doctors can fill me with a lot of inner dread. In those moments, my mind goes blank and I laugh to cover this up. I think it’s because in those moments when I’m teaching them or they’re asking me questions, they’re genuinely listening to what I have to say. This means I have their undivided attention. This makes me nervous. As a result, I laugh.
Sometimes, I just didn’t hear what someone said. But I’m too embarrassed or shy to ask them to repeat themselves. So, I laugh. Even if the other person isn’t laughing.
Other times, I didn’t understand what someone said. So I laugh to cover up the shame of their information zooming past me.
I’ve been noticing the laughter more and more lately. But the icing on the cake was working with this preceptor who I quite frankly think is trying to set me up to fail. I tried to speak with her about it all while trying to control my anger but my mind was already weighted down with anxiety of being in a public setting. The entire day, all I did was offer nervous laughter to my patients despite trying to educate them on the health and well-being of their baby. That should’ve been a serious time, but I wasn’t being serious. I was laughing because I was scared. Why should anyone trust the information I’m providing if I seem timid and uncertain?
I am genuinely scared of people. That’s the truth of the matter. I’m scared of their judgement. I’m scared to look bad. I’m nervous in those situations. I tense up and pull back. I hate having attention on me despite knowing that educating these new parents is crucial to the healthy development of their baby. They need to pay attention and deserve quality information from a confident educator.
I’m not quite sure how to begin tackling this issue. I assume the first step is self-awareness? But where do I go from here? My nervous laughter has served as a cover up to my occasional lack of friendliness, my moments of insecurity, my way of filling silence in conversations, pretending I understood things I didn’t…the list goes on. But if I want to be more honest, then I know that I will have to figure out how to deal with this habit somehow.