I’ve been doing battle with social anxiety for far too many years. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you may know that I’ve made a lot of progress in overcoming social anxiety in the last few years.
In exactly one hour from now I will be at a social event. I have a neighbor who is moving and all the ladies are taking her out to breakfast this morning. So we are all meeting at a local restaurant for breakfast. Being with my neighbors is an anxiety trigger for me- a social anxiety trigger, to be more specific…
I have had my ups and downs these ladies over the years. Several of them are in a clique and they do things together all the time, like shop and even take vacations together. I’m not in the clique. I have grappled with a lot of feelings about not fitting in with them over the years. I am now at the point where I say hello to most of my neighbors and no longer feel hurt or left out if they do things without me.
So that’s a good thing…
3 of my neighbors are a problem. One does not speak to me at all (over an incident 3 years ago) and 2 of them just plain don’t like me. I have no idea why. Like many anxious people, I am highly sensitive and I can tell when someone doesn’t like me. So if any of these ladies are at the breakfast, I will not be sitting near them.
A very smart plan…
To have to go out with my neighbors and sit and chat for a few hours over breakfast is a challenge for me. It’s not something I can just be all casual about. I really have nothing to say to these people beyond how are you, how are your kids, did you have a nice holiday, etc.
Not because I’m mean or standoffish, but because we really don’t have anything in common except for the fact that we are neighbors.
45 minutes and I’ll be there. Pulse check- I’m not doing that bad actually. Yay.
Overcoming social anxiety is something that I have to do in bits and pieces. For one thing, I really don’t get invited to many social events. So practicing going to a breakfast with people I am not close to is maybe a yearly event.
But one thing I know for sure: I *have* to go.
There is no way on God’s green earth I could back out on this event and not feel horrible about myself. In the past I would make up excuses not to socialize with these ladies and then feel so so depressed and upset that I let my social anxiety get the better of me.
And there’s something else I know:
Every time- 100% Every Time I have gone out with my neighbors, it was NEVER as bad as I imagined it would be. So this tells me that I cannot indulge in any negative racing thoughts or other self defeating behaviors before I leave.
I try to think of overcoming social anxiety as a work in progress. Going to social events like this breakfast are part of it.
But the other broader part of it is re-learning how to interact with the people I encounter on a day to day basis. This includes being ok in stores, being ok at work, being ok with my in-laws, being ok at the hairdressers, being ok at the gym, and being ok interacting with people in general.
When my social anxiety was at its worst years ago, I did not know how to make eye contact with people and could not even talk without having near death panic attacks. It was a horrible, horrible way to live. And I was completely dependent on tranquilizers just to be able to interact as little as I did.
Being ok with people in general socially is a pretty tall order. Which is why I am kind gentle and compassionate to myself and take it in little teeny tiny steps.
Before an event I do my grounding exercise to reduce anxiety– and yes I have done this several times already this morning. I did a little prayer when I was taking my shower and getting ready, I have been remembering to do diaphragmatic breathing to keep my pulse in check.
I also enjoyed 2 cups of my glorious Holy Basil Tea while I relaxed and listened to my self hypnosis for panic attacks downloads.
I could never tackle everything all at once and expect to overcome social anxiety completely. That would be completely ridiculous and it would fail miserably.
But I have to do something every day.
Every day I have opportunities to practice mastering my self treatment for social anxiety. Whether it be talking to the produce man at the store or talking to a doctor at work, there is something I can find to do each and every day.
And to put myself out there and not withdraw into the anxiety is how I do it: I have to Face the situation, Accept any anxious feelings I have, Float right on through the anxiety if it comes, and then Let Time Pass- because anxiety always has to die down.
I’m leaving now for the breakfast. I feel amazingly calm. Getting my feelings out here tends to do that to me. Plus I have prepared myself for this breakfast to the best of my ability. I am going to bring my best self to the breakfast and smile and be pleasant to everyone…
I just got back and it was fine, thank you Lord. Nine girls showed up. Seriously it was just a bunch of people wishing someone well who is moving. I sat there and sweated a little bit at first.
The loud people were loud as usual, 2 of the people who don’t like me were there but everyone made nice. It kind of dragged out, but it was really fine overall. I’m very glad I went, both to wish my neighbor good luck and also to prove once again that I am overcoming social anxiety…
What one little thing can you work on today to work on overcoming your social anxiety?
I wish you peace,
Recommended resource: To help retrain your unconscious mind to respond to other people with calmness rather than anxiety, try this simple Overcoming Social Phobia hypnosis download.