One of the hardest things we can do is to put ourselves out there, to allow someone to either accept us or reject us. To be honest, I’m not very good at it. I think I’ve discussed how I’m a massive ball of fear most of the time, and that fear leads me to make the choice to stay pretty guarded and alone. It’s not always a pleasant place to be, and one of the things that I regret is that when I’ve lived various places, I haven’t made more of an effort to get out and make those new connections.
Connecting with others is hard work. Or at least it is for me. I can’t say that I have something like social anxiety or a phobia of meeting new people to explain away why I have fairly small circles of influence. The heart of it is all about the fear of rejection. What if these new people don’t like me? What if I say something wrong? What if I do the wrong thing? What if, what if, what if? It can be paralyzing and crippling all at the same time.
Because my word this year is “connect”, I’ve decided that I have to make a conscious decision to get out there. Even when I don’t want to.
A couple of months ago, one of my coworkers was talking about her book club, and the way she described it made it seem like a group of women that I’d like to get to know better. Plus I wanted to have an excuse to read more books. So I asked her if I could join her group. That was a huge step in and of itself. What if she said no? Or didn’t want our relationship to grow in that manner? It’s one thing to be coworkers; it’s another to spend time together outside of work, and in my position, it’s often not advisable to spend time with coworkers outside of the office.
I worried for no reason, though. She said she’d ask and now I’m a member of a new group of women who seem pretty cool. But getting there wasn’t easy.
I’ll be straight-up honest: I didn’t want to go tonight. There are a couple of reasons. One is that natural fear/nervousness that happens for me when I’m in front of a new group of people, with them judging me and deciding if I’m worthy or not. That’s the rough stuff. I can usually bluff my way through that kind of thing, though, so that wasn’t the real reason I didn’t want to go.
The real reason that I didn’t want to go was that I’ve been struggling mightily this past week with issues related to anxiety and mood swings. I know what the problem is, but there’s nothing I can do about it right now. I can’t help it. Yesterday I was angry; today I have been weepy and incredibly sad. I’ve cried for no reason, and there’s seemingly nothing I can do to make the situation better. Because I am so sad today and because I was terrified that my sadness would exacerbate the fear and anxiety of meeting new people, five different times I seriously almost texted my coworker to tell her that something had come up and I couldn’t make it.
I reminded myself, though, that this year is about connecting. This evening and these people were things that I had explicitly asked for, and to turn away from them when they are right in front of me would have been defeating my purpose.
Once I was in the car, headed that direction, everything was fine, which is the way that it almost always winds up. I met four new friends, and while I don’t yet know what they think of me – I’m usually pretty quiet until I figure out the personalities and know how comfortable I can be – I had a good time. Had some wine, drank some food, didn’t really talk much about the book. And that’s OK, too. While I was out, there was still the sadness, but it wasn’t overwhelming, and only once did I feel like crying.
But I did it. And I’m glad. And I’m looking forward to doing it again on March 1.
How are you facing your own “hard stuff”? Or if you’ve given yourself a Word of the Year, how are you seeing it manifest in your life?