I could be the poster girl for social anxiety. Except that I’d never be able to handle all that attention. Plus I don’t take great pictures. And I’d probably have to give a speech. And I’m sure there’s a better, more charismatic poster girl than me. Maybe I could write her speech.
See how insidious social anxiety can be? It can turn a cute, funny, perfectly lovely girl into sweaty, sofa-bound recluse with the Netflix queue of an eighty year old British woman.
But screw it. Seriously, social anxiety is just something I live with, like small boobs and hair that frizzes if I open the dishwasher before the drying cycle is finished.
I don’t let it control me. I deal with it.
According to the Social Anxiety Association (Bet those are some poorly attended conferences) people with social anxiety usually experience significant distress in the following situations:
- Being introduced to other people (sorry, didn’t catch your name. Oops missed it again. Oh well, now I’ll never know it.)
- Being teased or criticized (ten bucks says I’ve said worse to myself)
- Being the center of attention (everyone stop looking at me!)
- Being watched or observed while doing something (I suddenly have no motor skills)
- Having to say something in a formal, public situation (No. Just no.)
- Meeting people in authority (I can’t choose one of the 10 brilliant things I have to say so I say nothing. Finger guns. )
- Feeling insecure and out of place in social situations (who’s been talking about me? What did they say?)
- Embarrassing easily, e.g., blushing, shaking. (Don’t forget sweating, laughing inappropriately, hiding in closets…)
- Meeting other peoples’ eyes (everyone is still looking at me!)
- Swallowing, writing, talking, making phone calls if in public (calling 911 because you can’t swallow…)
I didn’t say I deal it gracefully, but I do deal with it. Here’s how:
Go to your happy place
I have a lot of parties at my house. I feel safer there, with my couch where I can see it and my dog eyeing the cheese plate. I can still get overwhelmed, but I’m in my comfort zone. Stick to environments where you feel comfortable. Familiar restaurants where you already know what to order. Bars where you know where the bathroom is. Find your emergency exits. Linger near the buffet so you’ll have something to do with your hands.
Use the buddy system
My boyfriend can go into any party and make everyone fall in love with him. Good for him. I’m perfectly comfortable orbiting his sun. Find your social savant and cling to them like a baby monkey. Hold their drink when they go to the bathroom so they have to come back to you.
Own your awkwardness
This is the age of the awkward girl, thanks to gorgeous goofballs like Zooey Deschanel, Jennifer Laurence, Mindy Kaling and Kristin Wiig. You’re not tragic. You’re adorkable. Now wipe the lipstick off your teeth, put down the ukulele and get to that party.
Don’t drink your courage
When confronted with a crowd, you might be tempted to toss back a little liquid courage. Don’t do it! In the age of social media, the end does not justify the memes.
Plan your escape
I stick to a strict “Veni Vidi Veggie” policy. I came, I saw, I’m vegging on the couch before Dateline is over. In other words, go to the party. Show up. Make an appearance. That’s half the battle. You can always beat a hasty retreat (though more often than not, you’ll stay.) But you have to try.
Do you deal with social anxiety? Got any coping strategies you’d like to share?