Thank you so much to everyone who wished Alex and I a happy anniversary yesterday. Though nothing could compare to last year’s event, we had a fantastic day full of quality time with each other, lunch with a new friend, walking in the sunshine, and delicious, favorite foods. I also wanted to say congrats to everyone who raced and killed it this weekend! If you missed it, I put together some tips on surviving the gloriousness that is the taper. Today, though, we are going to talk about a different kind of anxiety, and something that I struggle with regularly.
Alright, fess, up: who is sun burnt and hung over?? Not me, luckily, but I saw some people looking a little worse for the wear last night, and they might not be much better by now. I hope that everyone had a safe and memorable Memorial Day weekend–we sure did.
Alex and I had the great pleasure of welcoming 2 of our greatest friends from med school, and what a time we had. We barely shut up (either from talking, drinking, or eating) from the time they arrived until the time that they left. It was honestly one of the best times I have had with anyone beyond Alex/family in a long, long time. Their visit reminded me a great deal of my visit to Pittsburgh to see Caitlin–you know, it was just easy.
But, for me, being social/sociable isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes, being social and choosing to engage in social situations can be downright difficult, and anxiety-inducing for me. This is not a problem for Alex at all–he is someone that almost needs to have people around him at all times, whereas I really do require a balance of people- and me-time. I get exhausted by small talk (though I am perfectly capable of it. I am, after all, a proper southern girl raised by a southern mother and I was in a sorority. I can small-talk you to death). Of course, I love to meet people and develop relationships–as much as might joke about it, I am not a misanthrope–but that moment of meeting and working to establish a connection is at times enough of a reason for me to bow out of social situations. Typically, once I get going, I am fine; getting going is the difficult part. So is believing in myself.
I think that this is a performance anxiety of sorts (in fact, I know this to be true), and such a mindset is part of the reason that I prefer sports that combine individual performance with team representation. Horses, running, yoga, blogging–these are all sports/pursuits that are directly individual but indirectly communal. My performance is based on me; but I often choose to represent something larger (Team Challenge, UVA, a brand). Some of these experiences, when I represented something greater, have been some of the most rewarding and transient moments of my life. But they also push me to the bring of my mind’s capability to manage anxiety. When I ran my marathon, I chose not to wear my Team Challenge singlet–I needed to do that for me. And I also needed to release myself from the pressure of feeling I had to “perform.”
In a lot of ways, for me, socializing parallels working out/running. On the one hand, they are both acts that I crave, that I need in my life, that make me feel human, and that keep me going. On the other hand, there are so many days that I wouldn’t workout if I wasn’t training for something simply because I don’t have the brain engagement. Or I will go and just dial it in–not working hard at all. I often make plans to go and to be social–events, meet ups, meetings, happy hours–only to cancel. And why? Because I just want to go home. Because going home is easy, or easier than putting myself out there and, god forbid, expending energy.
When I lived by myself (I had roommates, but let’s face it, I lived alone) in New York, I was both content and miserable in my isolation. Content, in that I could do whatever I wanted when I wanted; miserable in that I had no one to share anything with–I would go and work on my own, but I didn’t want to go to museums, etc, because I would rather have someone to share that with. Now, the first question one should think to ask is, quite simply, couldn’t you have just invited someone to go with you? And my answer is: yes. I could have. But I didn’t. I chose solitude. And it kind of drove me nuts. It took a while before I decided that I was valid.
So often we self-sabotage, and I think social anxiety is one of the chief ways that we do this. Social anxiety is us getting in the way of us. It’s like saying you don’t like a food having never ever tried it before, or saying I don’t/can’t run without giving it a proper try. “I can’t” is the inertia of life–>believing one can not change from the path one is one. For some, being social is easy and natural, and for others of us, being social on a scale beyond a single other person requires work like building strength–discipline, consistency, frequency, and pushing beyond one’s comfort zone.
This week is a big week for Alex and I: our friends came in this weekend; our anniversary was on Monday, we leave today to go to Charleston, where we will see one of my oldest friends and then spend the weekend celebrating the wedding of one of Alex’s oldest friends (with whom I have become a good friend of, and I adore his soon-to-be wife). Then comes June, a month were we will be highly social every weekend. Some of these engagements are not even a thought–they will be easy and comfortable. Others will require me to be a Big Girl, put on my BG pants, and push myself.
But if there is one thing that I have learned from my marathon training and from my recent career change, nothing worth having is easy, and only by pushing your limits do you discover what you are capable of and what is truly important to you.
Here is to being brave.
Have you ever suffered from social anxiety? Or do you crave interaction constantly?
How do you deal with feeling overwhelmed in social situations?
Did you win the 479 Popcorn Giveaway?