New York – Day 4 – A little bit about Social Anxiety

IMG_4781Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone can be very difficult specially when you’re alone when you’re travelling. So as today’s weather was completely horrible and we sat in relaxing and eating pizza I thought I would talk a little more about my experience.

Talking to people and starting a conversation is something that I have always found difficult. As a kid, I used to be the one that only had a couple of friends and had my nose stuck in a book. I was never popular and I never felt the need to be. However, I did make it difficult to go up to people and start a conversation with them. I used to always listen and observe my surroundings and then decide who I could potentially be good friends with (this sounds pathetic I know). In the long term, being conservative saved me a lot of trouble and observing my surrounding created a 6th scent for sussing out people who would cause me trouble.

To those who know me for years, know that I am a chatterbox and find it difficult to keep quiet so when I tell people that I can be very socially anxious at times they don’t believe me. On my first ever job interview, for a customer assistant job, I was so nervous that my eye wouldn’t stop watering! On my first ever uni presentations my mates laughed and called me “flash”! I was literally on and off I a matter of 60 seconds. Over the years I have definitely learned some stuff that has become useful but I still get the jitters and butterflies in my stomach every time I have to present or meet someone new.

A thing which I recently found really cool was the awkward lift moments. The awkward few seconds that you have between getting into a lift full of people who you never met and getting off on your designated floor. You’re trying to not look or make contact with all the other people so you pull out your phone, or look at your shoes or pointlessly examine the ceiling hoping that the ride is over ASAP. In one of my training sessions, I got asked: “what would you do if someone that you looked up to got in the same lift as you and you had to make yourself memorable?” – I honestly never thought about it like that before. So what would you do?

The one thing I would most probably do before is just standing there and not say much because I’d feel ridiculously awkward. But it’s a lift and you don’t have much time so you cant strike out a whole conversation. Instead, I’d ask a question as simple as how was your weekend, or any good plans coming up? Or how their day is going? Asking someone questions like these makes them feel a lot more comfortable. You’re not asking anything too personal but making small conversation. It also makes you more memorable because you actually asked them about them rather than blabbering random stuff and the conversation will run a lot more smoothly.

What I also found helps most is to find a subject that you feel comfortable chatting about, whether that is your hobby, something that you recently saw on the news, a book you’re reading or even a Netflix series that you’re currently watching. What you will find is that whoever you’re talking to, you most probably have something in common and the odds are that all of you are most probably feeling just as awkward. Talking about something that you are passionate about will help you come across as comfortable so why not chuck it in!

Travelling has definitely helped me come our if my shell. I have had to become a lot more aware of your surroundings and I had to push myself to ask questions. I no longer feel uncomfortable asking the UPS guy for directions or making friends with a new person at a hostel or air b’n’b. If anything, I try to lead the conversation which helps me figure out people. Believe it or not, a lot of people won’t come up to you because they feel just as awkward about having nothing more than a chat. But being in a new country and not having anyone to turn to will push your comfort zone and that is always the best way to tackle your fears.

Prepare but know when to wing it. I have to be honest with you. Recently I had to do a presentation about something of interest to me to get into a new position at work which I really wanted. I HATE PRESENTATIONS! Despite this, I decided to do a presentation about fingerprints and DNA. I have not touched a criminology book since my last exam before graduating in 2017. I managed to prepare and looked at most up to date information. However, when I was presenting my mind just went blank like I know it always was. Yeah, I had the facts and figure written down but I honestly didn’t want to look at them because I felt like I’d come across as unprofessional. I decided to wing it and it was most probably the best thing I’ve done. I started talking about what I found most interesting about my presentation and managed to get some engagement from the people involved too! *super proud moment*

I will not lie to you and say that my anxiety has now gone away because it hasn’t but I have learned to control it a lot more and I have found ways to tackle some of the problems I have. I still get butterflies in my stomach and sweaty palms but I definitely feel a lot more confident with what I am doing. What I will say is that the more you put yourself out the and the more practice you’ll get the better you will become. For me, it was a confidence thing. Everyone has their own issue, but as long as you know what it is, there is nothing stopping you from bettering it.

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