Attending MommyCon while battling Social Anxiety Disorder
Just the other day my husband asked, “When are you going on another of your little escapades?”
Last year I attended ABC Kids Expo in Vegas, MommyCon Orlando, and so far this year I have attended MommyCon Chicago. MommyCon Orlando 2017 is coming up again and truth be told, I had made my mind up that I wasn’t going to attend. Why? Well that’s the question at hand. Because my social anxiety told me not to. That’s why.
You might be reading this thinking, Julie you’re not socially awkward, you don’t have social anxiety, you’re outgoing! That’s my trick, my coping mechanism. There’s nothing more anxiety inducing for me than silence in social situations so I’ve learned to fake it, to be the conversation starter, no matter how much I don’t want to do it.
My faux outgoing personality has actually sometimes even worked against me instead of for me. I’ve met people whom I felt I had a lot in common with, only to have them tell me later that they’d written me off as being someone they couldn’t relate to because I was outgoing and because they considered themselves socially awkward or an introvert. I wanted to scream “BUT wait I am an introvert too!!!!”
I’ve also met people whom I’ve heard say, “I don’t have time for socially awkward people.” To which I shrink, all adding fuel to the fire which feeds my social anxiety demon.
I’m aware that my social anxiety is related to insecurities and that they feed off of each other. I’m aware that being socially awkward or experiencing social anxiety is considered a weakness and a flaw. This pains me. My social anxiety disorder is just that, a disorder, one that I will likely battle my entire life and one that I’ve been consciously attempting to beat into submission since middle school.
What is social anxiety and how does it manifest itself for me in situations like MommyCon?
Social Anxiety Disorder, not to be confused with simple shyness, nervousness or stage-fright, is defined as a chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety.
The keyword here is IRRATIONAL.
My social anxiety tells me I say all the wrong things.
During or immediately following most conversations, even with strangers, I analyze over and over what I said and worry that I said the wrong things, that I offended someone, that something could have or was taken the wrong way or that I embarrassed myself.
This obsession with over analyzing every social interaction even applies to interactions as basic as a conversation between myself and the grocery store cashier.
My social anxiety tells me that people I consider friends may not actually consider me a friend.
I have a tendency to question friendships. My disorder tells me that despite feeling like I hit it off with a person, that I actually may not have, that maybe they’re just nice to everyone and that there was nothing special about it or about me.
My social anxiety tells me that I don’t have anything in common with others.
I remind myself constantly that I wouldn’t fit in, that I’d be seen as an outsider or that there are a multitude of reasons why people don’t or won’t like me.
My social anxiety tells me that I don’t need friends.
This is a bit of a cruel trick. My social anxiety can comfort me in this sense. It tells me I am special, unique, that I like being alone, and reassures me that I don’t really need or want friends, that I’ve got my husband and kids and that it’s okay for my (real life – not online) social circle to be very small if not non-existent.
My social anxiety tells me to stay in my comfort zone.
I have let local relationships go due to my inability to commit to attending meet ups, events and playdates that would help grow relationships and connections with people I know. I am the Queen of excuses when it comes to rationalizing why I can’t make plans or need to cancel commitments.
My social anxiety pretends to know and see the future.
“Don’t go to that event, don’t accept that invitation, don’t try.” It tells me. It convinces me that I’ll feel left out, that I might be canceled on, that my worst fears will come true and that I will definitely say the wrong things and regret going.
Unfortunately this list could go on forever. The bad news is that the more I let my social anxiety win, the worse it gets, the less I get out, the more of an irrational recluse I become. The good news is that I know from experience that the more I challenge myself, stand up to my disorder and get outside of my comfort zone, the more I prove to myself that all the things my social anxiety is trying to convince me to believe, are wrong.
My social anxiety doesn’t mean I can’t be social or that I’m not good at being social. In fact I’ve found that I am pretty comfortable teaching, leading a Facebook live and I have even felt like a natural speaking on stage in front of others. I’ve climbed the wall that’s stood between me and the upcoming MommyCon Orlando event and I’ve made it to the other side. I will be attending. I will be social. I will overcome my irrational fears and I will be happy I that I attended.
Do you struggle with social anxiety? How does it manifest itself in your life and what are your methods for coping?
Save $5 off the regular ticket price at any 2017 MommyCon event with code DIAPERGEEK17.