Having said all that, let me add that I fight against these thoughts every day, and sometimes I even overcome them. I do get out once a day, although often it's just to run a quick errand, after which I'm back inside for the duration. When forced out into the open, most of the time I don't give in to the inclination to panic. In fact, most of the time when I do get put on the spot, I handle things pretty well.
Knowing your own weaknesses isn't always enough to beat them. You also have to have the will to do something about them, and to keep trying when things go wrong. As a child I had some embarrassing public moments. Some things that happened in first grade still make me cringe when I think about them today. Because I was good at my studies and well-behaved, teachers made excuses for me, and I slid by. Somehow I had the luck to avoid social situations that would put me at a disadvantage.
The only problem is that now I'm not sure it was so lucky. If I'd given myself more chances to fail, maybe I'd have had enough successes to give me the confidence I lacked. I wonder how different my life would be today if one person had nudged me in a different direction, instead of letting me hide in the shadows.
It's not that I blame anyone for my own inadequacy. I'm responsible for my own inaction, and also for the fact that I haven't overcome the setbacks I've had. Knowing that should make it easier to take whatever steps will improve my life. If my life were a little worse, if I'd ever hit rock bottom or at least thought I had, that knowledge could have helped me dig my way out. Instead, I've taken the easy way and let things slide. It hasn't been as great as it could have been, but it hasn't been as bad as my worst fears painted it.
There's no great revelation here. Like anyone else, I have the power to change things. All I have to do is get over the fear that any change could be for the worse, because I don't how much worse it might get. Most of the time I feel lucky to be where I am, considering all the other routes my life could have taken. It's hard to rock the boat when you're so unsure of your swimming ability. It's even harder when you don't know how deep the water is.