Stepping out despite social anxiety

I’ve felt awkward in almost all situations I’ve been in my whole life. Like I don’t fit in, like I’m just not quite the same as the people I’m with, and that because of that I feel like people don’t quite like me.

It’s a feeling possibly best described as misfiring, as in I’m present but that no one quite SEES ME. 

This has held me back in so many ways.

I’ve used drugs and alcohol at different stages of my life to mask the uncomfortableness and give me some sort of courage, alter ego even.

I’ve stayed in terrible relationships for far too long for fear of being alone, until staying is just too unbearable. 

I’ve hidden behind my son at many, many functions, to not be exposed.

I’ve used my job as a barrier between me and my client to avoid exposing my insecurities. 

I’ve cancelled going to many events last minute because the anxiety of going was too much to bare. 

Going to an event alone means summoning courage from deep down, going means knowing deep within my soul that I have to be there, and then I feel awkward as hell.

Most people probably don’t know any of this about me. Just like many people who live with social anxiety, I’ve become pretty good at being aloof, faking it so you can’t see the anxiousness under my facade. 

Stepping out into the social media world and building an online business is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I have nothing to hide behind (ok well there’s my computer & product) but what this platform requires of me is to show you ME.

Authenticity, integrity, truth, honesty, being real are traits I hold of most importance and so I felt to share this with you so you may see a bit of what’s under my posts, and I hope it can give some of you who feel this too the chance to exhale and know you are not alone.

The above is a post I shared to my social media channels yesterday. The responses I have received have been beautiful. So many women, some I have known personally, some I do not know have shared they also feel the same way.

IMG_6849I read a quote a friend shared on Instagram recently by Glennon Doyle which I felt was a beautiful reminder of how cliquey women can be, but it made me think it’s not usually about exclusion which our default may have us believe, but more I feel it is about the fear of ourselves stepping out of our comfort zone to reach to someone we don’t know.

Perhaps there is an awe, an intimidation even, of seeing a woman attending an event alone that we feel she is strong and confident and not a match for us while we are attempting to hold our mask firmly so it may not slip and show how fragile we really are underneath.

I’ve been that woman at an event alone, trying to blend and not be too obviously on my own. What I’ve noticed in those situations is often the lack of eye contact, or the looks up and down, or the small gesture of a smile as they turn away. As an introvert, it has taken all my strength at times to not just walk out, but instead to take a deep breath in and out, readjust my mask of confidence and stand strong.

Approaching a group or another person who is alone can summon up a lot of courage, there’s a whole lot of inner conversation going on – a battle between my mind of reason and my mind of fear. It is sheer determination and will that sees reason win… mostly.

As I’ve gotten older and the personal development study I have soaked in has grown, I have learned that other people’s reactions to you are a direct indication of where they are at with themselves, and that often – if we allow ourselves to go there – can be a mirror of how WE feel about ourselves. As we begin to love ourselves as our best friend and really do the work to dispel the negative thoughts and chatter going on in our minds these situations lessen, our confidence grows, or at least our thoughts no longer have the power to control us and hold us back.

So, and this is advice I am giving myself… do that thing you want to do, even if it means going alone; say hello to the woman on her own and include her in your circle – at any given moment you could be her; consciously and actively switch the language you are using with yourself to be what you would say to your best friend; and most importantly love yourself – for you are unique, you are beautiful, and you are not alone.

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10 books I recommend for a self confidence boost:

  • Mastering Your Mean Girl, Melissa Ambrosini
  • You Do You, Sarah Knight
  • The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
  • Daring Greatly, Brené Brown
  • Rise Sister Rise, Rebecca Campbell
  • A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson
  • You are Enough, Cassie Mendoza-Jones
  • Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Judgment Detox, Gabrielle Bernstein
  • Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsh