My Secret to Conquering Social Anxiety: Being Social

(Image/HBO)

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from my friend and colleague, Jenee Day.

Jenee is a long-time anxiety sufferer who now shares her experiences in an effort to help others via her podcast, YouTube channel, and through her coaching and writing. Jenee is the author of “Fear Itself: How Battling Anxiety Brought Me Inner Peace.” The Fear Itself podcast is also available on most podcast platforms.

Nope. No way. Definitely not.

There was no way I was going to put myself out there in such a big way. I’m not a girly girl. I knew we wouldn’t have anything in common. I wouldn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know what to wear to go bowling.

It will be awkward. They probably all know each other already and I’ll sit over in the corner by myself. I should just skip it.

Girls’ Night. I had never been to one before.

My palms were sweaty while I skimmed the Facebook invite, contemplating all the ways I might fail: I might do something stupid, like throw the ball backward or into another lane. That would be mortifying. I might make a joke about my husband to someone who is going through divorce, or stick my foot in my mouth some other way. My worst fear was that I wouldn’t make a connection with a single person there, and then never be invited back.

My fear of failure was really fear of rejection.

Bowling with a group of women I’d never met before. A small part of me really wanted to go. All of my adult life I had longed for female friends. I had a couple of good ones, but I hadn’t been successful at finding my group, my tribe.

A couple of months before this invitation showed up, I had made a promise to myself to say yes to new things, especially if the new things scared me.

And now the universe was going to make me prove it. I laughed at my own timing, wiped my palms on my jeans, touched the “Going” button, and let out a heavy sigh.

Not having a solid group of female friends at my age fed into two anxiety-fueled lies I had always told myself: 1. Women don’t get along with each other, and 2. I’m not normal enough to hang out with normal people.

Both sounded true to me, and were based on real experiences. Women were catty, gossipy, and discussed things I didn’t know much about, like makeup, fashion, and the like. Where were the other girls like me who liked Star Trek and books?

Both of these excuses provided a convenient out from invitations like the one I had just accepted.

Social anxiety is something I talk about a lot, and something I have learned is more common than I’d believed growing up.

Rarely have I walked into a room full of strangers and felt completely cool, confident, and collected. But who does? It isn’t easy for most of us, and that’s okay. The important thing is to try.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States.

Fear is the first step toward becoming courageous, because courage comes from recognizing that we’re afraid and choosing to move forward anyway.

I wish I could say that it was easy and comfortable.

I wish I could say that there weren’t any awkward moments. Those would be lies. It wasn’t totally comfortable or easy.

I was nervous. I questioned whether I belonged there.

What I will say is that it’s a night I remember fondly and will always cherish. The night I said yes to bowling with strangers

As the evening progressed, we laughed and talked and my fears eventually dissipated.

And now, I have a tribe.

I didn’t connect or form lasting friendships with everyone there, but I found a couple who speak my language.

We went on a weekend vacation together last month. I love them.

And I thought I’d never have that.

I could have easily missed out on knowing them, on their friendship, and on everything they’ve given me, including lots of laughs, shoulders to cry on, advice, someone to shop at discount stores with—girl things.

I also know what it feels like to be the new person, so when someone new is invited to Girls’ Night I now make an effort to reach out and speak to them in an effort to make them comfortable.

Compassion is born from uncomfortable moments. Friendship, too.

And all it took was saying yes to a night of bowling.

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5 thoughts on “My Secret to Conquering Social Anxiety: Being Social

  1. Louie says:

    Beautiful….I have a great respect for courage and courageous acts of all types . The courage of the first step is astonishingly valuable in knowing your capabilities whether you are aware of them or not. We build monuments and give accolades to those that show exemplary courage, we reward ourselves for our inward courage. We allow ourselves to experience and grow and be exposed to the newness of life…and to me those are the best monuments.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. freemom says:

    I’m glad it worked out for her so well. but I really think this oversimplifies it and doesn’t acknowledge that you really can be quite different than most people. I have anxiety, and I force myself to go to party’s of new neighbors I didn’t know or go to dinners with the parents of my kids soccer team or force myself to talk to the other parents of kids at my kid swim practice and I have yet to really click with people. We make small talk about things that most people are interested in sports, popular books, or shows and they talk about their lives, and it all feels very cordial, but I have yet to come away from one of these functions feeling like she did. I come away every time being reminded of how different I am. That I really don’t fit in. I understand it’s all what you focus on and It hasn’t stopped me from trying, but I feel more and more distant from the general culture that is our society after these interactions. I always hope some day I’ll find someone that is similar, but that seems unlikely. I’m trying to raise my kids to be more like everyone else, because being different is not helpful for social integration.

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    • FlyingKal says:

      I can identify. Not that I think I’m very different from other people, but when I go out to meetings or just to interact with people, I seem to have a difficult time to connect. I can talk with people, i usually don’t have a problem holding a conversation and have a good time. But it seems that I can’t (emotionally?) connect with people in ways that make them want to keep in touch. And efforts from my side usually fall into the “I’m-too-busy”-folder.
      Whenever I help out organizing any kind of social event, just as the author here I do my best to make any new person feel welcome and at home at the event. Still it seems like I am always among the people left to take care of cleaning up, while some of the other are happily chatting away with any old or new friends they’ve met during the event.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As an almost life-long anxiety sufferer, getting out there and trying and trying is really always hit or miss. For me anyway. I can go months sometimes without any serious attacks and be social and feel pretty great; almost like a normal human being. Then there are other times I can’t even make it 5 minutes across the street to face buying something at a convenience store. The cashier barely even registers my presence there, and yet that tiny insignificant trip is very nearly the death of me. It is severely exhausting and heartbreaking to go through this since high school. I can’t wait until something significant and consistent is found to help everyone, since not everything works the same on different people :(

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  4. […] he was writing. (I said yes, because duh. Life highlight.) Bestselling author Warren Berger’s The Book of Beautiful Questions is one of my go-to resources for the questions I need to ask—or that my coaching clients might […]

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