Hi guys! So in this post I wanted to talk about anxiety and making friends because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve always considered myself to be a bit more secluded than others ever since the start of high school. And that worked out well for me at the time, I didn’t feel like I needed loads of friends. Being at university forced me to move away from the friends I had made and start living independently. It kind of forced me into making friends (as living with 9 other people would), and now I have another best friend as a result! So far I’ve made friendships when they come along my way, which has gotten me this far, but now I feel the need to seek out people to connect with. This might not seem like a big deal, in fact you might be thinking “good for you, so what?”, but for me this marks a change in my life- from going it alone to outreaching to others.
I feel like anxiety has played a big part in how I’ve made social connections in the past, and it would be an understatement to say that it’s limited who I talk to. Anxiety is very good at getting you to think about things in a certain light, and it’s a master of coming up with any excuse available to talk you out of doing something. For some individuals this revolves around people, for others it crops up in everyday situations. For me, during high school and the start of university it was clearly related to interacting with people. If I talked to anyone my mind would masterfully come up with 20 negative opinions that the other person could be thinking. Over time this essentially convinced me that nobody liked me, and so I didn’t try to make friends and generally avoided talking to people when I didn’t have to. As of the past few weeks I feel like I’m moving away from these thoughts, for now at least, and my slowly growing confidence is making it easier to reach out and form connections. This past week I’ve talked to over 10 new people and spontaneously asked someone to coffee (!!!). That’s more than I’ve done over the past year, and in all honesty it’s felt exhilarating. Right now I feel like a completely different person and it’s so bizarre to me. I always had such an anxiety around talking to people and fearing their judgement of me. Now I’ve been doing it with such ease and it’s a lot easier than I ever expected it to be. And to be able to do it without the anxiety feels absolutely amazing, to put it lightly.
I’m not expecting this to last forever, there’s no guarantee my mental state will stay this way, but there’s also no expectation for me to stay socially anxious forever. For now at least, speaking to people is giving me confidence, and I want to embrace that. Now that I’ve experienced social interactions with no anxiety, I will be able to sit comfortably with the knowledge that any future anxiety is not forever. But further than this, I want to be able to experience anxiety and become more comfortable with experiencing it (as much as one can be). When feeling anxious, it’s very easy to listen to the voices in your head that tell you something is wrong with you. When I went Brighton for New Year’s, there was some text on the front of a beach hut, and it read:
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.
I think sometimes it is best to wait out the storm that is anxiety, it can be absolutely exhausting. Now that I’ve experienced this new confidence, I think I’ll be able to chill a bit more when talking to people (dancing!). I don’t expect this to be true for everyone- people feel different things at different points of their lives, or in different situations. But that’s okay. And accepting that is a big step. It’s okay to not dance in the rain. The point to aim for is to be comfortable, no matter how much anxiety is happening, it’s okay.