A lot of people ask me “How do you do it?” “How can you work in such a customer focused, fast paced job when you have anxiety?” And honestly… I don’t really have a proper answer.
In all honesty, the main reason I decided to work in retail in the first place was to get over my social anxiety. I thought that the best way for me was to be throw myself into the deep end and hope for the best.
It didn’t quite work out like that in my first job though. I’m not naming any names and only close friends and family reading this will know where I’m talking about.
In this location I was treated like utter crap to put it lightly. I was only an apprentice so pay wasn’t great. Instead of easing me in slowly they straight away shoved me on the tills for hours. I remember telling the manager at the time that I had a disability (being anxiety and depression) but he didn’t think anything of it as he obviously didn’t believe mental health can be a form of a disability. He clearly hadn’t read my induction form because I had clearly ticked yes when it asked if I had a disability and explained.
I stayed there for 6 months. I have no idea how I managed that far. My anxiety and depression was at the highest point it ever was. I would come home from work and be in tears and shut myself out from the world. I would find any excuse to go to the toilet at work just to get a break from it all or have a little cry. It was a toxic environment where I was bullied every day by management due to fact I couldn’t do things as fast as others and by the end I was scared to even go into the building.
Who wants that for a job? So I had to leave. I don’t like using the word “hate” but I hated it there with a burning passion.
That’s when I found my next job that was completely different. It changed my life in a way. I started as the shy awkward girl who couldn’t approach customers. I bet they had no idea how I even got a job in retail before… But with support and a little push from my manager, I managed to slowly conquer that fear. The best part was, they didn’t rush me. Just let me take it step by step in a pace that was comfortable for me. As I did this I could slowly feel my fear and social anxiety slipping away. Everyone was so nice there and I made a hopefully lifelong friend too! .
Unfortunately the shop closed down the beginning of this year and we all had to go our separate ways. But I will never forget it there due to what it helped me to achieve.
If it wasn’t for there, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I am still working in retail and I am now getting positive reviews through online surveys from customers mentioning me.! I guess they like me or something… *blushes* It is such a lovely feeling when I see the comments and keeps me motivated to not go back to being the girl who was too afraid to make eye contact with people walking down the street. I want to make people happy.
I want to make people smile. Everyone in my current job are extremely supportive and friendly too and have helped me to get even better with a little push and a shove. They also motivate me to keep doing what I’m doing because I don’t want to let them down by spiralling again.
Obviously the social anxiety is still there, so some situations can be difficult but I have learned how to cope so much better and not just run away and hide like I used too.
So I believe how I work in retail with social anxiety is due to the environment, the management, staff and people around me. If every place was like my first job, I wouldn’t still be working in retail. That is for sure. As long as nice, positive people who are willing to gently push but also support me are around me and customers are friendly (most of the time) then I am a happy bunny.
Understanding management is also key. If a manager just brushed it aside when you confide in them about your mental illness or laughs… RUN! Honestly it is not worth it. There are better places to be.
Thank you for reading
Ruth (ColourfulHope) xx