anxiety · social anxiety

A step back

Despite my hopeful and optimistic tone in my very first post, I did not pull through with what I set out to do.

Specifically, what am I talking about?

I mean the meetup I was supposed to host yesterday, which I explained in the post I linked above.

Yes, I chickened out, and then I spent the entire day yesterday being in a funk over it, almost as if I was punishing myself for my failure.

It was probably well past midnight on Tuesday when I still hadn’t gone to bed. I felt very awake and unable to relax as I always do hours before attending or hosting an event, which makes it hard for me to put my mind to rest. I tried my hand at least getting my feelings out by writing in my personal journal so I wouldn’t be thinking about it later. Somehow this wasn’t enough.

Then, I tried to own up to what I was presently feeling in that moment. Anxiety, fear, and doubts. I told myself that there was no stopping my emotions and that regardless if I am anxious, I’ll be okay in the end. I hate just how real my fears feel prior to putting myself in the situation that’s giving me so much emotional stress. I once described to a fellow social anxiety sufferer that when I’m in this intense of a state and I attempt to fight the feeling by making myself attend anyway, I feel like I’m “marching off to a death sentence.” He countered by telling me that it’s not a death sentence, but a life lesson. One of the greatest tools I’ve learned from him since joining the meetup group is getting exposure can help quell some of the vivid imagination I have about what to expect to happen in the situation.

So what was so different about this time? By all accounts, I had done things right the first time I hosted. In my experience, the first time for anything is usually the worst for me in terms of how heightened my anxiety is. I was very nervous that day, could hardly stomach to eat my breakfast, and spent the whole train ride to the meetup location counting down the stops until it was time to get off. I also had a drastic surge of anxiety while using the map on my phone to navigate my way to the meetup location, which was a longer walk there than I thought it would be. I recall having the fear that I’d be late and then proceeded to wonder if this might be a good enough excuse to cancel the event altogether. Even when I was literally a block away from my destination, my mind was still trying to find wiggle room to not go in. I had carted seven color books and three packets of coloring pencils with me in my bag. It was quite heavy and my shoulder was starting to hurt from the pressure of having the weight of the bag over my shoulder. I thought, “This trip will have been a complete waste if I don’t use these books.” And I had spent my own money to buy supplies. Plus the fact I went out of my way to schedule the event itself. Why make the effort if I’m not going to follow through, especially since this event was my idea? Somehow, I was able to outweigh the good with the bad and didn’t run away in the end.

Now back to the early morning of Tuesday after midnight. The longer I stayed awake, the more doubts seeped into me. Would I be a good host?  What if no one showed up? What if people found the event boring? What do I say to people? I thought of answers to counter my own negativity by thinking back to my first time hosting. It didn’t go badly. Some people who attended last time even personally thanked me for creating the event.

But, you know what others say; your own worst critic is yourself. Even with the good things I experienced from my first hosting venture within the social anxiety meetup group, it’s like all I could focus on was the perceived negative aspects in myself. You didn’t talk enough. You were too quiet. You smiled too much, and people could probably tell you were nervous. You were a bad host. These thoughts swarmed me, and I started to believe that because I believe I didn’t do a good job, then the attendees must have felt the same way. I thought, “If I was so bad the first time, then I probably will suck at hosting on Tuesday too.” This is what led me to pulling up the Meetup app on my phone and postponing the event until this Friday.

Wait, what? Postponed, not canceled?

Yep. While the clusterfuck of negativity I have about myself does dominate me, a small part of me is still fighting to be better than that. It’s difficult. And maybe even a little pitiful because I hold myself in such a low regard. Self-confidence issues? Check. Low self-esteem? Check. At times, I debate if I’m worthy of anyone’s friendship or love. Who would want to get to know me, anyways?

Part of my battle with negativity is being aware that many of the things I think I know about myself are not true. My own theory about why I gravitate towards thinking negatively of myself when I’m faced with an emotionally stressful situation is because it’s the only way I know how to cope with the onslaught of anxiety. It’s my way of giving myself an “out” to let go of any responsibility I have about going through with the situation. Getting an “out” is also the origin of my avoidance tendencies. My brain has been trained to understand that avoiding a situation results in the anxiety going away so I feel better, but the consequence of doing this is my anxiety level skyrockets even more so the next time I’m faced with the same situation.

I do feel not going through with the Tuesday event was it was a step back in my progress with social anxiety. However, since the event is set to happen on Friday, there’s hope for me yet. All I know now is this “last minute cancellation” habit needs to stop. It can’t ever happen again, but at the same time, I need to find a more healthy way of dealing with anticipatory anxiety.


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