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Sania Mirza Opens Up About Social Anxiety

Sania Mirza Opens Up About Social Anxiety

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Indian tennis legend Sania Mirza engaged in an exclusive interview with Rupha Ramani on Firstpost, delving into the highs and lows of her remarkable journey. The conversation provided a candid insight into Mirza’s experiences, from grappling with anxiety and fame early in her career to embracing motherhood and navigating life post-retirement.

Reflecting on her transition from the tennis court to retirement, Mirza shared, “I think I’ll lose my mind if I’m not busy, to be very honest. That’s how my life has been, and actually, one of the thoughts I had when I was retiring was like ‘oh my god’ and so many people would ask me, what are you gonna do now, and I had no plan, and I was like ‘I actually don’t know.’” She added, “For me, being busy is what I’ve really known, and I’ve not always loved it but right now, I do like it. I feel like it’s always important to look for new things when one chapter ends. It’s always nice to find new things to do.”

Also Read: Lahore is a lot like Delhi: Sania Mirza

Living her dream:

Despite initially contemplating a slower pace of life, Mirza found herself immersed in various endeavors, from engagements with the Women’s Premier League (WPL) to covering the French Open at Roland Garros. Discussing her illustrious tennis career, she expressed gratitude for living her dream. “There’s a very few handful of people in this world who get to live their dream. And I feel very fortunate that I was able to do that and achieve more than what I had probably imagined.”

While she appreciates the perks and what came along with it, Mirza maintained that love for what you do is what fundamentally guides your life. She said, “Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, I’m going to start this career. I want to do it so I can make a lot of money. That cannot be the sole goal for anybody.”

Mirza also shed light on the challenges of navigating fame and scrutiny in the public eye. “It’s been very hard,” she began to divulge the many pitfalls of growing up in the limelight. “Playing and succeeding or failing or whatever it is at what you do on a personal level is hard enough. When you put a public platform in it, you put media scrutiny in it…there’s so many things that go along with it.”

Growing up in the limelight:

Reflecting on the surge of social media’s presence, she recounted how fame was always a mixed bag. She stated, “I became Sania Mirza when I was 16, you know, and I’m 37 today. So I’ve lived more years as a known person to the world.” Acknowledging the pressures of being a role model, Mirza highlighted the importance of embracing imperfection and authenticity.

“It was never easy being a teenager, you know, it was never easy because you always had to, you know, as authentic as you try and be, there are certain things that you do have to like camouflage and you do have to mask in a public eye because at the end of the day, you know you are a role model for so many people and you’re so aware of that fact,” the tennis icon elaborated on the demands of growing up in the public eye.

As per the athlete, being a role model is a double-edged sword: while the constant sense of responsibility never evades her, many also expect her to be flawless. “I think that’s why people maybe sometimes forget that we’re also human, that we have a human side to us,” she pondered. “We make our own mistakes. We have our own emotions…I like the fact that I was imperfect. I like the fact that I was able to show the human side of myself as much as possible.”

A universal problem:

Addressing gender disparities in sports and society, Mirza emphasized that scrutiny of women is a universal issue, transcending geographical boundaries. “Unless and until we change our thought process of how we view a female as a world, I’m saying, and this has nothing to do with, maybe more pronounced in some countries than the other, but that underlying patriarchy is always there,” she maintained.

“That underlying sort of, yeah, he’s a boy and he’ll get away with it. Or he’s a boy and it’s okay. Yeah, it’s okay. And that happens in any field. If I ask you the same question, I’m sure you’ll tell me the same thing. So that is a universal problem. It’s not really an India-based problem,” Mirza set the record straight.

On the other hand, she insisted that women are generally subjected to a lot more scrutiny than their counterparts. Unpacking the obsession with looks as one pivotal instance of patriarchy, Mirza stated, “I think when women walk into a room, the first thing that we are judged on is the way that we look.”

Battling anxiety:

In a deeply personal revelation, she went on to share her struggles with maintaining authenticity amidst the pressures of public scrutiny. “Because I became a public figure at such a young age, I almost put a wall in front of me every time that I faced the public,” Mirza admitted, reflecting on the challenges of being constantly judged and questioned.

Despite these hurdles, she underlined her efforts to remain true to herself, acknowledging the complexity of navigating the public eye while staying authentic. “I’m not going to lie sitting here on camera and say that every single thing that I have shown to the world is who really I am,” she remarked, highlighting the occasional disparity between her public persona and private struggles.

She furthered on, “I can post a picture on Instagram and look absolutely fine and great, but I may have had a meltdown before that. But that is not something that I would love to show to the world. In my head, I’m thinking, you know, do I really want to show that vulnerable side to myself?”

Unbeknownst to many, her private battle with anxiety continues to remain an important facet of her personal life. “A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I have anxiety about meeting new people…Till date, if I walk into a room where my name is going to be announced and I know that everybody is going to turn around and look at me, it gives me anxiety,” she confessed. This anxiety, rooted in her discomfort with being the center of attention, has persisted since her school days, where she hesitated to draw attention to herself.