I always think of myself as an extrovert. Many personality tests and quizzes alike suggest that way, and I love hanging out with new peoples, especially those with similar interests. People give me energy and inspiration. Recently, though, things have changed. I don’t enjoy making new friends or spending my time with peers as much as I used to. I even feel anxious before social events, which are something I used to get excited about.
As I wrote a few poems on this newly found condition, I tried to understand it and found that I might have social anxiety after all.
It doesn’t matter that I’m not an introvert. I feel anxious and depressed before and after a social gathering. Yes, even an outgoing person like me can experience social anxiety, and I might have had this condition for longer than I realize, too.
For me, this might be because I expect too much from myself in everything I do. And that includes social events; I often feel like it’s my duty to make a good impression. After realizing this, I try to slow things down and be with myself more.
Here is a list of what I do to deal with my social anxiety.
1. Take a break from what gives you anxiety as much as you can. Luckily, I’m a freelancer, so avoiding social events isn’t difficult for me. But don’t worry, if you have to go to work. Just find some time for yourself every day. It can be in the evening when you’re alone. After realizing about my anxiety, I spend most of my time at home with my husband and our dogs. I still go out from time to time, but I don’t meet up with anyone other than my family. I think of this as healing time.
2. Try to listen and understand yourself. After taking some time off, you might be ready to think about what might cause anxiety beyond the crowd and social gathering. For me, it’s because I often care too much about what other people think of me. (It actually doesn’t matter.) An excellent way to understand yourself is by keeping a journal, writing about what bothers you and why it does. I also find writing poetry as a means to heal and self-reflect.
3. Believe in yourself. After some time of observation, I found that 99% of the time, anxiety is only in my head. What I’m afraid of and causes anxiety and depression is made up by my imagination and never really happens in the real situation. So, I tell myself to calm down and be positive. Even if something actually goes wrong, it’s still not the end of the world. Believe in yourself that you’ll get through whatever situation you’re facing.
4. Be kind to yourself. I’ve been practicing self-compassion for a while now, and it changes how I see myself and things around me. Things can go wrong–yes, that’s part of living. Sometimes the world can let you down, or you let yourself down. But you know what? It’s okay. We’re humans with flaws. Nothing is perfect, and you don’t have to be perfect either. It’s all right to be afraid and feel reluctant. But don’t dwell on it. Realize what you are anxious about, why you feel it, tell yourself that it’s okay, and then move on.
5. Be who you are. For a long time, I’ve tried to be a people pleaser. And that’s what caused anxiety in my case. People who are going to judge you are going to judge you no matter how hard you try to please them. Then why would you care? It’s not worth your time. Be who you are and do what makes you happy.
6. Go back to your favorite activities. I sometimes get caught up in life and forget to live it. Once I realized this, I set time for my hobbies: reading, writing, playing the piano, and listening to music. These are some of the activities that make me happy; they help me find inspiration without going out at all.
Once you feel better and quite ready to meet up with a few friends, don’t forget to always have some time alone and take care of yourself.
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Read more about Self-Compassion: How I learned to Be Kind to Myself.