Black women have several stereotypes about us, whether they are negative or positive, that are thrown at us. We are thought to be “loud and opinionated” or “strong” or even “bitter”. That’s another story in itself, nevertheless, in all the depictions of us we are never looked at as humans allowed to be vulnerable and have weaknesses. So when a black girl has mental issues such as depression, anxiety, or social anxiety.we are frowned upon for exhibiting characteristics that are not necessarily the norm.
Singer Summer Walker has recently been the hot topic for cancelling many dates on her tour due to her social anxiety. “Unfortunately I’m not gonna be able to finish this tour because it doesn’t really coexist with my social anxiety, my introverted personality,” said Summer in a video posted to her Twitter and Instagram.
“But I really hope that people understand and respect that, at the end of the day, I’m a person. I have feelings, I get tired, I get sad. And it’s just a lot.”
Even before she cancelled these dates, Summer has been very vocal about her social anxiety being that it is the reason for her meek stage presence and persona during interviews. It takes a lot of courage to express this weakness with others but she did it so her fans could understand the reason for her actions. However, unfortunately, many people responded to this information in a negative way. People were saying “she isn’t that shy” or “she’s just faking” when observing her behavior when in public. This type of commentary shows the lack of knowledge on social anxiety and how serious it can affect those who have it.
According to the latest addition to the DSM-5, social anxiety is defined as “marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or possible scrutiny by others.” It is important to note that social anxiety is not the same as being introverted or shy. When you are shy you could have nervousness about social situations however those feelings might dissolve when you are more familiar with the situation. This is something many people deal with at some point in time and is fairly common.
Having social anxiety on the other hand causes you to have a complete fear of social situations. This can cause one to avoid the situation all together and it produces severe anxiety about these situations even before they happen. Many people can experience a small dose of social anxiety in their lifetime however for people who have been diagnosed with full blown social anxiety, living with this condition can be almost unbearable. Social anxiety comes with physical symptoms such as rapid heart beat, blushing, excessive sweating, stomach trouble, muscle tension and even panic attacks. So essentially it can make things in life other’s deem as simple really challenging. The triggers of social anxiety are different for everyone but essentially they are things like meeting new people, starting conversations, giving a speech, or even entering a room.
From observing Summer Walker’s interviews and live performances you can see her exhibit these characteristics of social anxiety. To anybody who has social anxiety or is at least knowledgeable of it, it is evident that this girl is certainly not “faking it”. Nevertheless, she is constantly scrutinized for her behavior which is one of the very things people with social anxiety are afraid of.
Having social anxiety sucks no matter what race or gender you are. However, being black, especially being a black woman with socially anxiety definitely hits different. It’s no secret that mental health in the black community is a taboo subject being that too many people in the black community dismiss it. Also, being a woman you are expected to be warm and welcoming to everyone you meet and if not you’re labeled as a b*tch. So when you’re a black woman with social anxiety like Summer Walker you are heavily misunderstood.
There has been an account of a fan from her meet and greet who was very disappointed with their experience. A now ex-fan posted on Instagram a seemingly awkward picture of her and Summer with a long caption expressing her disappointment with the experience saying the location of the meet and greet was changed last minute and Summer barely interacted with her fans.
“She barely spoke to anyone, every couple of people she would say ‘Hi’ it was a big hurt piece for me because I really [idolized] her and her work,” the person wrote. “I knew she was an introvert and kind of closed off but there was no effort at all, whatsoever.”
This really rubbed many people the wrong way and caused many people to call Summer out for “unprofessionalism”. While we only know this fan’s perspective we don’t know the whole story. The fan was right in saying she was an introvert however, I don’t think the fan realized Summer also has social anxiety which is something more serious. I previously stated meeting new people can often be a trigger for people with social anxiety. While Summer might of appeared to be disinterested and aloof she really could of been overwhelmed and filled with anxiety to the point where a simple “hi” was all she could bother to say. Social anxiety can get real and many people don’t really know the full extent to where it can affect people with it.
I feel like a lot of the blame in Summer’s public ridicule is in her team. She has stated that in the contract she signed, she is forced to go on tour, do interviews, and do these meet and greets. With Summer being a new artist with not much knowledge of the industry and of course having social anxiety she probably didn’t have the courage or knowledge to look for management or a deal that accommodated her social anxiety.
With that being said, to all the people who said she shouldn’t have even had meet and greets or shows, I don’t think most of these things are even in her control. When she signed up for these things, she might have thought she could have broke out of her box but we all know in reality it can be much more difficult.
Also, to all the people who said she shouldn’t have signed up to be in the music industry, humble yourself. Summer Walker has an amazing talent that should be shared with the world, she just happens to have social anxiety. We need to educate people about mental illnesses such as social anxiety so they can understand the behaviors. It is hard for people with social anxiety to navigate through everyday life but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have lives. People’s criticism can become toxic and cause people with mental illness to go on a mental downward spiral. So just be nice and understanding to people, before it’s too late.