We’ve all been there. You get to a networking event, an intimate gathering, or a friend of a friend’s party where you don’t know anyone that well, and anxiety hits. While you made sure every detail of your outfit was beyond perfect and even got excited by the prospect of meeting new people, your confidence is suddenly nowhere to be found.
Does this sound familiar? Do you ever feel so socially awkward and nervous that you can’t even notice opportunities to have conversations with nice people?
This has happened to me more times than I can count, and it’s been happening for as long as I can remember (sometimes it still happens!). It took me a while to realize this was something called “social anxiety.”
I went as far as warning my friends about it. Saying things like, “So, I get really nervous when I go out. Especially if I don’t know too many people” and “There’s a good chance I am going to get super uncomfortable and want to leave early. Please don’t take it personally.” Or my favorite, “I am super guarded when people first meet me, so if I seem hangry or bitchy, just know that’s where it’s coming from.”
It got especially worse after my divorce. One of the first parties I went to after my husband and I were no longer together was a total disaster. I had spent at least two hours getting ready (which is a long ass time when you’re just going to someone’s house for a casual holiday party) only to get to the party and leave 30 minutes later….hysterically crying. Just the thought of someone asking me about my personal life terrified me because I wasn’t in a good place. So I freaked and fled the scene with a Christmas cookie in hand. Lordy.
It might be hard for many of you to believe this about me because, well, my whole brand is based on self-love and sharing that love with others. And believe me, that LOVE is beyond real. However, I am also horrible at small talk and as a result have gotten myself into super uncomfortable conversations which sometimes makes me want to avoid them all together.
Over the years, I can’t say that the social anxiety has completely disappeared, but I’ve found ways to have compassion for it and move through it with more ease. Just in case you’ve had similar experiences or are currently dealing with this kind of thing, I pulled together the three tricks I use to set myself up for social success, and I know they can help you too.
- Do Your Research. Before I go to an event or outing I always ask the host (or even research online) exactly what I am walking into. This doesn’t mean that I ask a million questions, I get basics like… Do I know anyone else who’s going to be there? What are people wearing? Are we going to be sitting/standing the whole night? Or is there food I can eat at this event? Feel free to figure out what questions are most important to you. Most of the time, when I have these basics figured out I am able to go into an evening much more relaxed.
- Stop Performing. I know that not everyone reading this blog is on TV or puts themselves out in the world as a performer, but almost all of us put pressure on ourselves to be “on” more than we need to. This is normally the main cause of my social anxiety because I don’t have the desire to be completely “on” or pulled together all of the time. In social situations, I would put so much pressure on myself to show up that way. I worried that if I didn’t, people wouldn’t like me or my reputation would suffer. What I have found over the years is that people really appreciate authenticity. Being real tends to make everyone (including you) more relaxed.
- Talking Points. So this tip might seem a little ridiculous, but I promise it helps when you’re up against an incredibly AWK moment. After realizing I would freeze when trying to make small talk, I started coming up with a few talking points before I got to my event. Yup. I would think of two or three topics that I would enjoy talking to someone about. Sometimes it would be about something I read on the news, other times it would be about a cool project I was working on. I would also think of quick questions I could ask someone to put the focus on them instead of me. That switch always helps you feel more connected to someone.
Whether you’re struggling to make it through an evening without putting your foot in your mouth or you’re having a hard time even making it to an event because of your nerves, I hope these tips will help you find more grace and ease in future social situations! Just know that we have all been there.
Now, I would love to hear from you! Have you ever struggled with social anxiety? Do you still have a hard time with it or have you figured out how to calm your nerves? Please let me know in the comments below.