Have you ever gone to a party, event, or social gathering where you didn’t really know many people and as soon as you walked through the doors felt extremely uncomfortable?
I mean so uncomfortable that the only thing you could think about in that moment was what kind of excuse you’d be able to come up that would justify your intense desire to turn right around and high tail it out of there?
And did that feeling stay with you to the extent that next time you were offered an invitation to an event, you were so overcome with fear and anxiety about the prospect of actually going that you didn’t have your wits about you enough to come up with a good excuse to say no?
But do you know what? You are not the only one. In fact, when asked, 80% of individuals say they’ve felt either moderately or extremely uncomfortable upon entering a social situation where they didn’t know more than a couple of people well.
That means that as soon as you enter the room and look around awkwardly and hope no one in the room starts to stare at you and notice how badly you want to crawl out of your skin, chances are, they too were feeling that same way not more than minutes ago, that is, only if they aren’t still feeling that way right now. And this is regardless of how attractive, well dressed, fit, fancy or successful the person is.
So what do we do about it? Yes we’re likely going to feel uncomfortable in a crowd of relative strangers because, let’s be honest, it feels vulnerable to not know what to do or who to talk to right off the bat.
But what makes it worse it how much we work it all up in our heads before we even get there.
And what we need to do about that is to change how we think about and perceive the whole ordeal before we enter the room and here are 3 ways we can do that:
Talk back to the Gremlin:
You know, that inner critic, the negative voice, the big mean liar. Yeah, that guy (or gal).
The one who is saying to you Everyone is going to be watching you and judging you and waiting for you to say something dumb so they can ridicule you. Or No one is going to want to talk to you because you are not interesting. Or Everyone is going to keep their distance from you because you are just going to ooze weirdness and awkwardness as soon as you enter the room.
But why do we put up with that B.S.? Why do we let that darn gremlin get all up in our face like that? We need to give that bugger a run for its money.
And in order to do that we need to fight back a little. We need to say things like:No one is going to be watching me. No one really cares. And if there is a poor soul in the room who has nothing better to do than stand there and judge me, well, that’s on them.
Or Yes, I may not seem extremely interesting right off the bat when someone new meets me, but the people who know me well know that I have lots of valuable things to say, and goodness me, how many people are actually totally fascinating until we get to know them? (I personally haven’t met too many, so why would I expect that I HAVE to be one of them?)
Or, I’m not going to ooze weirdness when I walk in to the room because as soon as I walk in I am going to scan the room and look focused and on a mission until I spot just 1 person I know and then I’m going to walk over to them and say hi. That’s easy. I can do that. I don’t need to worry about there being a big room of strangers because I am going to find someone I feel comfortable with and head straight to them. I can do that.
That’s what we call showing that gremlin who’s boss.
Stop calling yourself socially anxious or socially awkward or insecure.
It’s not helping. At all. We all have preferred social settings and ones in which we feel most comfortable. That’s normal. And what that means is going to be different for different people. That’s normal too. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, just that you have preferred social setting that work best for you.
So try this: reframe the whole thing. Say to yourself I prefer small groups where I know every person well or I like getting together with people 1:1 so I can have a real, deep conversation without talking over loud music or getting interrupted or I feel more sure about myself when I am in a group of people who I have a lot in common with.
None of those things make me awkward or weird, just a person with preferences.
So then you can remind yourself you prefer being in these types of situations, but today you are going to challenge yourself a little bit. Today you are going to chose to step out of your comfort zone and that’s fine. You can do that.
Set a small goal
Make a deal with yourself about one small thing you will commit to doing at the party and then once that is done, if you should so desire, you give yourself permission to leave.
But make sure it’s something small and doable. Like just saying a quick Hi to 2 people and smiling at 3. And after that you’re good to go.
As humans, we have a WAY easier time talking ourselves in to doing something small and easily achievable than we do something huge and extremely challenging.
Take working out as an example: What are you more likely to talk yourself into at the end of the day when you are feeling tired and worn out: A 2 hour HIIT workout at the gym? Or a 20 minute walk twice around the block?
Both count, but the likelihood of you doing the former is, well, pretty low. But the latter? Now THAT is doable! I can do that, you can do that, and then if you’re in a groove and feeling like taking a third turn around the block, well then by jove why not?!
So next time you are gearing up to try and push through the dread of going to a big and unfamiliar social gathering, know that 80% of the people putting their makeup on or straightening their ties before they head out the door are feeling the same way.
But now you know, there are things you can do to quell that dread, and even, shall I say, enjoy yourself once you are there?
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If you’d like to work with me 1:1 I do in-person sessions from my office in downtown Vancouver, or virtually to any where in the world via SKYPE.