My web guy actually encouraged me to write about this subject, because he thinks I have become a master at creating life the way I want it to be. Learning to be social in a world where out faces are planted directly in front of our phones, can be even more challenging than it was before technology took over our lives.
Meeting people, getting out and doing things can create all sorts of feelings of anxiety. The reason for this is we are not “flexing our social muscles” metaphorically speaking. We can stay inside and do just about everything, shop, order food to be delivered to our door, bank, communicate with others all without ever even speaking or seeing another human face to face. It was hard enough to get the courage to speak to someone we found interesting, but did not know, before our phones became our closest companions.
These days we see more depression and anxiety than ever before, my theory is this is caused by the lack of personal interaction. When we speak to people in person there are all kinds of obvious cues that give us feed back so we know we are communicating effectively. When we rely on texts or emails, we constantly question how our message is received. People then subconsciously worry about interacting with others more and more, until they start to get into a reclusive pattern which is created by assumptions and negative self talk. Without body language and facial feed back, that we receive from face to face interaction, many people make negative assumptions about their ability to socialize. This is why it is critical for a person’s self-worth, self-esteem and growth, to get out and meet people.
Yet when I am working with clients they say things like, “I don’t have friends to go out with”, “I used to go places with my (spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend or significant other) but now I am single I am not comfortable always being the third wheel”, “I am not interested in the things my partner likes”, “I don’t care much for my partners friends”…the list goes on. I had one client who had tickets to a concert but his girlfriend had to work, he told me that he sat there for hours trying to get up the courage to go by himself but could not do it. The next day he was so frustrated that he missed the concert he called me, that issue caused him to finally seek “help” to learn to get out on his own.
So what do I do? people assume that I am just naturally social. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I could easily spend the day in my garden, hiking alone, writing, doing projects, working, all without interaction with another human. There was a time in my life I would plan to do something in the evening but then when the time rolled around I would make an excuse to myself and say I was too tired or I I had other stuff that needed to get done and going out was frivolous, a waste of time. But I noticed that I was getting more and more nervous about things that never bothered me before, so I pushed myself out the door.
I was divorced, I also had split up with my fiance and was heartbroken (both my decisions because I was not happy in those relationships). I had relocated to a different state, a different job and did not find people at work very interesting. I tried a dating site, I did not like that. I found out about Meetup and looked for things I was interested in. All it took was one interaction and I made a new friend. From that initial group I met and got invited to a few other events. Instead of making excuses and staying home I went, even if it meant staying up later than I was used to. I was attending all these events alone, but meeting new friends each time. Within just a few months I was hiking, going to the beach, out to dinner, working on projects, doing stuff I liked to do. Before I had always ended up doing only the things my significant other wanted to do. As my anxiety subsided, I began to branch out. I would hear about something and think, ‘that sounds fun’, even if I had no one to go with I would take me, myself and I. I attended drum circles, dance classes, small venue concerts… as I moved out into the world my life expanded and I found myself with an incredible group of diverse friends that did things I loved to do, things I was interested in.
It all started with a little push not to give myself and excuse to stay home…I turned my life into a masterpiece because of it, you can too. Socializing is so much more significant that we make it out to be. Overcoming that fear can feel insurmountable but if you keep trying a few different groups you will find a person you “click” with and then it will get easier.
One last word of advice…don’t get caught up in gossip, it can ruin the adventure.