Photo by Kelsey Chance
One night I was out at a party with my family and I was sitting at a table alone. My Dad came over and sat down next to me and I said, "I'm just taking a little break before going back out." As silly as it was, I felt insecure that I was sitting alone. My social anxiety can get the better of me at social functions, and this time was no exception. My Dad laughed and said something I'll never forget. He told me that about ten years ago, he was tired of trying to find a group to talk to at a party and went and sat down by himself.
"That night I had the most fun at a party that I have ever had. Because people came over and sat down to talk to me for once, instead of me trying to work my way into conversations. I realized that other people are looking for someone to talk to just as much as I was, and they were happy to come over and grab a chair."
My Dad told me that next time I'm at a party and have no one to talk to, instead of looking around for someone to talk to, just go sit down alone at a table, and wait to see how many people come over.
I love this story about my Dad, because it touches on an issue that I think about quite frequently: why do things that are supposed to be fun and relaxing (like a party) often cause us severe stress and anxiety? As a mom who works full time from home, I'm constantly aware of my time and energy and how to spend it, because I feel like I have so little to spare. This leads me to often feel stressed out by social invitations as opposed to looking forward to them, and it bothers me, because I know that this is not how I am supposed to feel.
I feel the same way when I'm at a party and I can't relax because I feel awkward or like I have nobody to talk to. There's nothing worse than being surrounded by people who are having a good time and wondering why you are not. What time and maturity (and my Dad) taught me is that getting caught up in this stress is not worth it. Whether it's feeling stressed by social engagements because you don't have the time or energy to put yourself together, or feeling stressed because you feel like you don't fit in, the best thing to do is just take a seat.
Now, I have decided to metaphorically "take a seat." The reality is that I don't have time to attend every event, and when I do, I am never as groomed, punctual, or energetic as I would like. The good news is, nobody cares. I've decided to show up as I am rather than miss out, and it's been a great experience.
Same thing goes for parties. Ever since my Dad gave me that advice, I decided to stress less when I was out in public. Who cares if I'm seen standing alone? Who cares if I don't have anyone to talk to for a five, ten, fifteen minute lapse? When this happens, I think of my Dad, and take a seat and enjoy the peace and quiet. And inevitably, every time, someone comes and joins me.
Give it a try. Next time you're feeling self-conscious, just give yourself a break. Go sit down, smile at the next person who looks alone, and start your own conversation instead of fretting about joining someone elses.