My weekly coloring event for the social anxiety group is coming up again tomorrow. To brief how things went my last meetup on Friday, once again I was surprised with how things turned out because it’s never how I imagine it to be.
For starters, I showed up early and quickly settled myself at an empty table to prepare for any incoming attendees. I made sure to write a comment on the event page telling people how to find me once they arrived. Twelve o’clock rolled by. I looked up expectedly and met the eyes of anyone who came close to my table, trying to sense if that person was here for the coloring event, but every time, the person kept walking and I realized I was mistaken. I felt both disappointment and relief at this.
It was perhaps a little after 12:10 pm when the first person showed up. The shock of suddenly having someone in front of me was like being thrown into ice cold water. I sputtered out a hello. He said his name. Brian. Still off balance, my mind was scrambling for what to say next. It felt like a tornado was plowing through my brain as I tried to get a grip on my spinning anxiety. Instead of replying with my own name, as I knew I should have, I choked out something about the meetup group. He gave a light chuckle and asked for my name.
This is just one of the missteps I feel I made that day. I’ve never been good at being a leader, but I definitely feel responsible for (and scared of) the people who come to my coloring events. I want to be warm and welcoming for their sake as well as my own because I know what it feels like to show up and already be very nervous around other people. I will never judge anyone for coming to my event and not talking very much. It’s a big accomplishment for someone to come in the first place.
Being that I am the host of this social anxiety activity event, I realize I put too much pressure on myself, with the assumption that I have to be very talkative during the event. This gives me unnecessary anxiety trying to live up to this standard. However, I don’t think it’s really my style, and I’m trying to accept that it’s completely okay for me to be quiet or just wait until I feel comfortable in order to say something.
Only six people in total, excluding me, came to color. The tables at the meet up location were not allowed to be pushed together (because security said so), and so we ended up just sitting in a circle around one table that usually only seats four people.
I found it interesting that this meetup had a different feel from the first time I hosted, in which everyone was at different tables and most people were quiet and only some conversed with those near to them. But this time, everyone sat more closely together and I felt everyone was included and has chances to talk briefly even if it was to just answer a question someone else asked him/her.
Someone suggested we go around in a circle and introduce ourselves. As soon as this was said, my heart rate spiked out of no control. I have never done well with this type of thing in the past, particularly having to wait for my turn and the discomfort I have about talking about myself to other people. It wasn’t mandatory, so when my turn did come, I decided to pass. I wasn’t the only one to skip, too.
The times I do force myself to talk when I feel uncomfortable, I get very nervous. My perception of myself during this phase is that I look nervous to other people, and I often wonder if my shaky demeanor will make others around me uncomfortable as well.
The main thing is I judge myself too harshly. I mean, this is a social anxiety meetup. Everyone is bound to be awkward at some point. I’m still trying to overcome the separation I feel when I see other people in the group be more open or talkative than me. I feel separate in the sense I don’t belong or that there is something inferior about me because I can’t be like them.
One of my friends, Annelise, showed up later to the event. She attended my first coloring meet up, and had become friends that day. I was so relieved to see her because I know her personally, and her presence was a comfort to me.
She had plans to go to another meetup event afterward at the Cloisters Museum, and she begged me to come with her because she felt nervous about going alone. I was reluctant at first but decided to go for my own sake as well, just to see if I could enjoy the event despite feeling anxious about being there.
Definitely, I think I made the right choice to go with her. I got to know some people there, and some expressed interest in coming to my coloring event in the future.
I hope that the more I host the coloring event, the easier it gets for me. Of course, I get cold feet about hosting my own event, but it helps that I must be there.
This is really bad, but on Sunday, I was supposed to go to a board games meetup. There was some talk during the coloring event about who was going, and I said I was going. I had been excited about the event, but the night before, I started to waffle. Some of the people who came to the coloring event were also going. One part of me felt relieved I would be around familiar faces, but another part of me absolutely dreaded what it would be like to be around them at a different meetup event. I ended up sleeping horribly that night and didn’t go.
What I think I need to work on is sticking to my RSVPs when I decide I want to go to an event. The reality is everyone is nervous about showing up, and it’s not any different for me.