It’s easy to feel alone in the crowd sometimes, but we’ve got your back.
Motherhood has been an amazing journey for me, filled with both wonderful and frustrating times. As moms, we all face everyday challenges, such as not getting enough sleep, giving up alone time, or simply feeling lonely.
I’ve been there, too, but my biggest motherhood challenge is one that is often overlooked: dealing with social anxiety.
I have always felt a bit socially awkward and out of place suffering from social anxiety.
Motherhood has magnified this feeling because of all the different social events in my kid’s life that I have to take part in, such as school performances, friends’ birthday parties, group volunteer projects, and even play dates.
The situation I dread most: Walking up to a social event and noticing everyone else already mingling with someone else.
Naturally, I feel anxious and “weird” about approaching unfamiliar faces in an uncomfortable setting.
Do I just interrupt a pair or group of people who are already in the middle of a conversation?
Do I wait until people are finished while I awkwardly look at my phone (this is usually what happens)?
Here are my personal strategies for controlling anxiety and making facing the crowd much less intimidating.
It is said that “The early bird gets the worm,” but in this case, the “early bird” gets to easily find someone else to socialize with.
Showing up a few minutes early ensures that most people either have not arrived yet or the people who have arrived most likely haven’t found anyone to talk to yet and are looking for a partner.
It is also common for the socially anxious person to worry about how they will be perceived.
I’ve often wondered: Will this person think I’m weird? Will someone not like me? Will I be viewed as a boring person to talk to? What if they talk to me because they feel like they have to, but don’t really want to talk to me?
Practice shutting these thoughts down the minute you notice them creeping up, by reminding yourself that we are all human. Others are likely just as nervous as you are and hoping someone will reach out to speak to them, as well.
Apply Thought Records
Having worked as a professional therapist, I am lucky enough to possess knowledge and training on proven strategies to deal with “irrational thoughts,” that can often trigger social anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic method that helps address these pesky thoughts through the use of “thought records,” leaving room for a clear mind before any social event.
Here’s an example:
- Situation: I’m at a holiday volunteer event, where I need to talk to other parents about my daughter’s school.
- Identified emotion or feeling: Worried
- Negative thought: Nobody is going to want to talk to me because I’m not that likable.
- Evidence that supports the thought: Some people at the last volunteer event told me they can’t talk to me because they were in a rush to get somewhere.
- Evidence that does not support the thought: There were other people at the last volunteer event that did stop to talk to me.
- Alternative thoughts: Some people are busy, so they can’t always stop to talk to other people. They also just might not be interested in the cause I want to discuss. It does not have to do with who I am as a person or my character.
Working on thought records can ease the tension before any social event. It is important to realize that not all thoughts are based on true facts.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
Before I attend any social event, I usually do deep breathing exercises. This helps me relax, reduce my feelings of worry and manage my stress more effectively.
Utilizing breathing techniques is known to lower anxiety levels and relieve stress by slowing down your heart rate.
One strategy is to practice slow breathing, and to breathe gently, steadily, and deeply. While breathing, take note of any parts of your body that are tense, and slowly release any muscles that are tight.
Social anxiety can make you feel isolated, especially when surrounded by social butterflies. I come from a culture that celebrates friendliness and sociability, but I have always been a naturally quiet and reserved person.
Over the years, I have worked hard to conquer my fears and break out of my “shell.”
To all the mothers struggling with social anxiety out there: You are not alone. It does not define you as a mother or as a human being, and it is only a small part of a much bigger picture. By practicing these steps, you can learn to face the crowd — I’ve got your back.