On Social Anxieties.

It’s becoming more and more popular/common to post cute comics and memes about how social anxieties can cause sleepless nights thinking about that thing you said at that meeting 5 years ago. This makes me happy because it reminds me that a lot of people actually do suffer from the same thing I do, but sometimes I wonder if it causes everyone else who posts those memes the same amount of problems it causes me.

Because it causes me a LOT of problems.

If I’ve hung out with you socially then you can be assured I’ve lost some sleep worrying about something I said or did around you. It’s the Kim Social Anxiety Guarantee! 100% thoughts of regret or your money back!

The most recent event was hosting book club last night and I was up until almost midnight worrying about things I said or did that might have been upsetting to others. AND THIS IS MY BOOK CLUB THAT I’VE BEEN IN FOR 10 YEARS! Why do I worry so much still? WE ARE PAST THE AWKWARD STAGE, KIM…you can let go now!

My social anxiety disorder is the most frustrating part of my mental health because it never seems to wane even when therapy and medication has cooled the rest of my anxieties. I could be at a really level existence with my mental health (like I am now) but still, every social encounter causes me problems.

Now, I have definitely stopped letting it control my life like I used to. Before my Dad died I had become a homebody/agoraphobic and hated leaving the house for ANYTHING. I have a few memories of going to social events during the bad years and I literally hid in corners or hung out only with the kids. And those events I only attended because my husband really wanted me to – and then I botched them by acting like the crazy wife who can’t look people in the eye.

I obviously don’t do THAT anymore.

But I still let these things haunt me constantly. I spend too much time beating myself up after social gatherings and I really wish I could stop.

I spent some time reflecting on it this morning, however, and I think I have figured out the back door to a solution. I was thinking about shared vulnerabilities and how much it has helped my mental health to openly talk about it. Between that and the common presence of memes and comics about social anxieties on my social media feeds – maybe it’s safe to assume I am not alone and that when I leave a gathering worrying about things I said/did – maybe other people do to? So, instead of worrying about what I might have said/done, I’m going to go out of my way to make sure everyone else knows I left our social encounter with them feeling grateful to have seen them. I’m going to make sure I become that person who reaches out a day or two after seeing someone and sending a type of, “Seeing you made me happy,” message. I think this will serve two purposes.

  1. It will allow me to smooth over any sort of (usually incorrectly) perceived negative actions I might be regretting,
  2. It will maybe help the other person if they’re suffering any social regrets as well.

I’m not going to be the person who constantly says, “I’m really sorry about that thing I said,” – although I have done that before in really extreme situations where I’m pretty sure I upset someone. (Sometimes the more anxious I am the more I talk and so the odds are good of saying something dumb.) But I do want to just make sure that I always close on a positive note and I can feel better about making sure I did that if I reach out a day or so after the fact simply to say, “SEEING YOU WAS WONDERFUL!”

I’ll report back on whether or not it helps curb the anxiety-produced insomnia. Even if it doesn’t help me erase the critical voices that keep me up at night, it will 100% fill me with extra love because I find when I make an effort to thank others for their light, it drowns out some of my own darkness.

3 Comments

  • Olivia

    You’re right that other people have social anxieties too, and I think you’ve found the solution — shifting the focus to the other person and their experience of the social encounter. For me, social anxieties always come from worrying about myself and how I am perceived, so the more I take an interest in the other person, the more relaxed I am, and the more likely I am to enjoy it.

    Provided there are no crowds and loud music 🙂

  • Erin

    I often take the tact of being open about it as much as possible and making fun of myself a little in social situations. Then people know I’m not doing it on purpose and it’s not as awkward. I use your new method sometimes too…. following up afterward… first, because I’m a better written communicator AND I like people to know I really do enjoy being in their company, even as awkward as I am and as much as I complain on FB to them all about disliking social situations.

  • Lucy McConville

    I absolutely love that last line, and will be quoting it! Did you create it yourself, or are you quoting someone? BRILLIANT and so true. I am also going to try your new idea to see if it will also help with my similar social anxieties. As always, thank you so much for sharing and making yourself vulnerable with us. I know sometimes you waffle about whether or not to even continue this blog. I hope you will. It really means a lot to those of us who read all the time! Muah!