Nothing has suffered more at the hands of my anxiety than my social life. But after years of isolating myself, I finally decided that I wasn’t going to let my anxiety control me anymore. I made a sincere effort to put myself out there and ended up meeting the love of my life in the process. Our initial meeting wouldn’t be the biggest hurdle that I’d face, but I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and it ended up seriously helping my social anxiety. Here’s how:
- Dating Forced Me to Socialize. Bars have never been my scene, so I signed up for an art class to get myself out of the house. I thought that it would be easy to connect with people who I already had a shared interest with and I just so happened to have been sat right next to the guy who would eventually be my boyfriend. As we got to know each other in class, I found myself growing comfortable with my new routine — but I knew that we’d eventually have to wander outside of the little safety net I’d come to rely on. He had other interests outside of art and his own set of friends and family that I’d eventually meet. By incorporating his interests into my life, I was forced me to meet a ton of new people.
- My Focus Shifted Away From Myself. My anxiety caused me to think about myself a lot. I was always planning my day around limiting my social interactions with others. In the beginning, I rarely if ever asked my boyfriend what his plans were or if he wanted to do something in particular. We mostly made plans around my social phobia. Because I didn’t want him to think that I didn’t care, I started to make sure that I included him in my decisions and did things that fell in line with our shared needs. By getting in tune with his needs, I became less aware of myself and my own issues
- Getting Out Boosted My Confidence. When you’re home all the time, you’re likely to lounge around in sweatpants because you’re not around other people. Since I knew that I’d be going out more, I started to put more effort into my appearance and take better care of myself. This led to more compliments from people, and I’ve got to admit — it was a major boost to my confidence. Being around someone who told me he loved me all the time also made me feel beautiful and confident.
- I Made New Friends. Putting myself in social situations definitely caused a snowball effect. Because I was going out more, I was exposed to more people. But unlike the past, I didn’t shy away so I was able to cultivate more meaningful relationships.
- I Stopped Overanalyzing Everything. When I was out in public, I assumed that every glance, every chuckle was a dig at me when in reality, most people weren’t even thinking about me negatively or positively because they were immersed in their own lives. And it made me comfortable enough to just live in the moment without thinking that people were plotting against me.
- I Learned to Trust. When my boyfriend and I started dating, I was battling feelings of inadequacy and was honestly questioning if his motives for dating me were pure. But I learned that in order for our relationship to grow, I had to trust that he was being genuine and get out of my own head. This spilled over into other areas in my life too. I stopped assuming that everyone was out to get me and gave people a chance.
- I Had My Boyfriend’s Support. It can be embarrassing to admit to someone that you have social anxiety. People who’ve never experienced it just think that you’re just being anti-social or stuck up, so I was afraid to admit this to my boyfriend at first. Eventually, I did, and it only brought us closer together. Knowing that he was in my corner no matter what helped me to keep pushing myself to fully break free from the limitations that I’d placed on myself for so long.
- I Realized I Was Good Enough. My anxiety has always stemmed from the fear of being rejected. I thought that isolating myself would protect me from getting hurt, but I all I did was block out love and friendship. When I let my guard down and gave myself a chance, I realized that there I was just a regular girl who deserved to be happy just like everyone else.