I published this post privately on December 1, 2018. It was a vulnerability I wasn’t ready to share but in light of recent events and new revelations I’m ready to share. I hope this helps someone.
Here is the post with some edits for clarity and edits based on what I now know to be true.
Determining what your “thing” is can take years. Sometimes people will point it out to you or you’ll figure it out on your own. I thought it was the latter for me – but in retrospect it wasn’t.
What was my thing? People. Ok it wasn’t people but that’s what I thought it was initially. Now that I’m older, I’m sure it was anxiety.
Socializing as an introvert was really hard at times. I preferred people I knew but oftentimes I’d find myself in situations where I didn’t know anyone and I’d get pretty anxious.
I’d decide I was going to an event, drive there and park – and then I’d have to talk myself into getting out of the car.
There were times when the only thing that got me out of the car was having to go to the bathroom. Ole sneaky bladder!
I liked controlled environments where everyone knew me but when I had to figure it out on my own, one million thoughts would go through my head like – Can people tell I’m nervous? Do I seem unsettled or even rude? Did I say the right thing at the right time?
Sometimes I’d go places and spend a bunch of time in the bathroom. This happened when I was fresh out of college and working my first job. I worked from the inside of a cubicle and the constant interaction with passers by was a lot to handle. This may have been a case of the introverts and/or social anxiety – whatever the case it was hard – real hard, and I felt so alone in it.
I wasn’t always that way. It snuck up on me out of nowhere. I hadn’t had a problem socializing before. I got along pretty well in high school, in college and was fine amongst friends but once out in the world it was a challenge.
Knowing people wherever I went could’ve masked this to some degree. But over time, I realized I had a difficult time socializing with people I didn’t know.
I spoke to my then counselor about it and he gave me some tips. I started going places alone and having conversations with people I didn’t know. I tried to smile more and not be so introspective or self centered. All of this helped and I eventually became more comfortable in social situations.
Now, I can travel across the world solo and chat with people along the way. I can hold a conversation in a room where I’m doing most of the talking and, most of the time, I can engage with folks without looking for a way to exit the conversation. I said most of the time because I’m still a introvert and there are times when I still experience anxiety while out and feel the need to escape.
I’m leaps and bounds from where I used to be. I’m more confident and don’t let my personal quirks deter me from social situations. I actually prefer going out solo and don’t always need to have someone with me – someone who really knows me – to be ok.
This took time, awareness, and practice. It wasn’t an overnight fix and if I’m honest, I’m still working on this. Some of this was done in counseling, which I wholeheartedly recommend, and the rest of it was me and God taking steps day by day, together. I’m still a little anxious at times but I’ve moved into a place of acceptance. I started meditating last year and it’s really helped. I also restarted therapy sessions with a certified professional, and I’m practicing mindfullness and loving-kindness towards myself.
I know I’ve shared a lot but I encourage you to find out what your thing is. What are your habits? What part could your upbringing have played in how you are now? Through a deep dive with myself and others I learned both of my parents struggled with anxiety. I literally found this out within the last 30 days. With that knowledge, I now know what to do.
Everybody has a thing. Maybe it’s not anxiety. Maybe it’s the repetition of confidence zapping thoughts, or a damaging relationship with food or others – maybe it’s an overall mindset that needs to change, maybe it’s fear. Regardless, figure out what your thing is, get to the root of it and do the work. Life is much better on the other side!