How to Be a Grownup: Dealing with Social Anxiety

People are shocked when I tell them that I have social anxiety. Likely because I am often loud and seemingly outgoing and typically a good conversationalist. I present as someone who casually strolls into any large party with total ease and confidence and charisma. But in actuality, I nervously tiptoe into every small event with fear and insecurity and awkwardness. I am regularly silent and sweaty at soirees. I question everything I say and chastise myself for every failed joke I make and intensely fidget and twitch every time an introduction is made. Socializing can just be stressful, especially when I’m in a room that isn’t filled with close friends I’ve known for years. If I’m at a birthday celebration for a BFF then my anxiety is less but it’s still hovering over my distressed cerebellum all night. I anticipate flubbing convos and tripping over pairs of shoes and accidentally calling acquaintances by the wrong names aka MY NIGHTMARE.

When I’m invited to a cool, fun, chill hang on Facebook I always scrupulously review the attending list of guests before I decide if I will be making a grand appearance or once again staying in and observing images on my computer screen instead. When I don’t see any familiar names, it’s an immediate no, regardless of how much I like the host. The panic of potentially having to meet multiple new homo sapiens is too debilitating to ignore. If I recognize a few of the names, I will proceed to text said names and investigate as to whether they are actually going or not. If they are, I make plans to tag along with their body so I don’t arrive alone. If they say no, the odds of me going decrease significantly and only continue to decrease with every Nah. I can’t make it! message I receive. If all I get is Nope, you better believe I’m also a nope.

I never want to be drowning in my own paranoia and self-doubt and low self esteem, especially not when I genuinely would like to participate in a gathering with individuals I kinda enjoy. This state of mind prevents me from making appearances on a weekly basis and although my courage has increased slightly and I have developed tools to assist my getting there (like texting friends) I wish that I could do better. So, recently, to help my anxiety-ridden, wanting-to-socialize-but-frightened-to-do-so-self, I wrote a list of questions that I often ask myself before venturing out into the terrifying world of having fun. And then I answered them, to dispel the swirling negative emotions I feel which can ruin a possible good weekend to be had. If you ask similar questions or suffer from the anxiety of the social too, then please, read on and go out, friend!

What if I don’t know anybody?

You have a couple of options here. Bring a friend/lover/both with you as your guest so you’re never alone. Or, rely on yourself to find someone to talk to (which you always do). Or if you don’t locate a mouth to listen to, you have a phone you can look at! It’s 2016. The internet is your dearest pal anyway. Or, if you truly can’t stand it, you can do a quick drop in, say hi to the host, eat a cracker, sip a beer and GHOST. They’ll appreciate you stopping by. No harm, no foul.

What if I can’t think of anything interesting to say?

Are you kidding me? Do you know you? You have endless amounts of interesting things to say. Here a couple of topics you’re well versed in: comedy, feminism, politics, social justice issues, bad relationships with dads, movies, TV, the fear of dying alone, mental health struggles, sexual intercourse, dogs, breakfast foods, sleeping, photography, your career, Toronto, other locations, WEATHER PATTERNS. Need I go on? If you’re freaking out that much, literally write all of these down on flash cards and choose one from the pile when the discussion goes stale. You got this.

What if I’m not funny enough?

Look, do I have to remind you of how naturally funny you are? The likeliness of you cracking some solid jokes that do indeed receive laughs is rather high. Also, if you don’t feel funny tonight, you don’t need to be funny. This is not a requirement for attending a party. You can also just be you as you are in that moment, which might be less goofy and more serious and dark and mysterious. If that happens, own it. Everyone loves a morose woman in black.

What if I act weird and people stop liking me?

Knowing your friends/acquaintances/colleagues, if you act weird they will like you. The weirder you act, the more of a chance you have of receiving affection/attention/oral sex. Weird is a positive. It’s way better than being normal and dull and forgettable. BE WEIRD ALWAYS!

What if I upset people by talking about feminism?

If you upset anyone by talking about feminism, then they deserve to be upset. In fact, they are blessed to have run into you so you could educate them and correct their nonsense thinking. Also, your feminist talking is one of your best traits. Don’t push aside what makes you great.

What if I see someone I have had conflict with or really don’t like?

You don’t have to talk to them or look at them or sit beside them or share a joint with them or breathe the same air as them. There will surely be more than one person at this event that you can engage with. Or, maybe just say hello and move on? Point is. They can be completely avoided or mostly avoided. You won’t be staring deeply into each other’s pupils all evening.

What if I see someone I have slept with or dated?

Follow the rules mentioned above. Or¦ sleep with them again? Either works!

What if I don’t feel like talking and everyone keeps asking why I’m being antisocial?

You don’t have to be blabbing away a mile a minute. You aren’t a communication robot. If you feel a tad shy, the other guests will just have to deal with it. Or if you’re simply not in the mood to gab, that’s okay too! If anyone makes fun of you for being quiet, they’re an asshole. Also, if that’s happening you still have the option to leave! Don’t ever forget that. You’re not trapped.

What if I only end up chatting with one person all night in a corner?

I mean, aren’t those usually the best chats ever? You love doing that and you know it. There ain’t nothin’ wrong with pinpointing an individual, grabbing a seat beside ˜em and never leaving.

What if I do something embarrassing?

Everyone does something embarrassing all of the time. People are too self-involved at social events to pay attention to who spills what where. They’re all about flirting and networking and experiencing happiness. Plus, embarrassments tend to be rather endearing. Have you SEEN a romantic comedy? It’s 80% falls and fumbles and Freudian slips and 20% plot. Don’t sweat it.

What if I get there and just want to leave right away?

So you’ll leave! Simple as that. Reminder: you’re not trapped. If you’re that uncomfortable, pick up your purse, slip into your shoes, and get the fuck out of there. Text the host later saying you weren’t feeling well and needed to take off but thanks for a great time! No harm. No foul.

What if I don’t have fun and get sad and regret going?

Don’t assume you’ll be feeling any which way. However, based on past experiences, I get why this worries you. But as you already know, Netflix cures all ills. You’ll get home, maybe have a cry, maybe yell into a pillow, maybe hate scroll through Facebook, then you’ll put on X-Files and feel amazing. Plus, be proud of yourself that you went at all. You did something that scared you. You faced a fear and survived. Now you’re lying in bed wearing sweats and watching Mulder’s face repeatedly almost kissing Scully’s face. Talk about a perfect ending to an okay evening.

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