Socially Competent AND Anxious

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Post by kleenestar on Fri Jan 30, 2015 1:27 pm

I know a lot of people here struggle with social anxiety, so I thought I would tell you all that I am experiencing severe social anxiety right now, and point out a couple of useful lessons that might help others.

Party and event planning makes me horribly socially anxious. I come up with elaborate scenarios where I've done something horribly ill-mannered, or made people feel unwelcome or excluded. I tend to do okay at the event itself, though I find it far more exhausting than small-group or one-on-one scenarios, but oh my god the planning makes me sick to my stomach.

I bring this up because right now I am trying to figure out how to introduce my colleagues to my baby daughter. We are having a little open house on Sunday and I am freaking out. Did I invite the right people? I can't invite everyone - I think I invited all the people I am close to, but what if I made someone feel hurt or left out? Did I make it clear enough that family members are welcome? We are keeping the food very simple - what if people don't enjoy our hospitality? I am stewing over these questions and feeling super anxious.

The reason I'm posting about this is not so much to get advice - I know how to handle my anxiety - but to remind folks struggling with anxiety of a few things.

1 - Being socially anxious doesn't mean you aren't socially competent. You probably all think of me as someone with good social skills, but that doesn't stop me from being horribly anxious about situations like these. If your jerkbrain is saying, "You're anxious therefore you're incompetent," it might be wrong.

2 - Social problems can be contextual. I'm incredibly charming with friends one-on-one, I am a fabulous public speaker, I'm beloved at work, and I am really good at maintaining my romantic relationship. Parties, on the other hand, throw me into a freaking tailspin.

3 - Following social rules helps. I asked a trusted mentor to give me some guidelines for how to invite people without offending anyone. Even though my jerkbrain wants me to know I'm going to piss people off anyways, I can remind it that doing what this mentor suggested means I'm doing a good enough job.

I'm not particularly looking for advice about reducing my party-planning anxiety, but it's welcome if you have a good idea or two. I'm also very happy to talk about the points above, or anything else you see in my story.
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Post by Guest on Fri Jan 30, 2015 2:41 pm

kleenestar wrote:I know a lot of people here struggle with social anxiety, so I thought I would tell you all that I am experiencing severe social anxiety right now, and point out a couple of useful lessons that might help others.

Party and event planning makes me horribly socially anxious. I come up with elaborate scenarios where I've done something horribly ill-mannered, or made people feel unwelcome or excluded. I tend to do okay at the event itself, though I find it far more exhausting than small-group or one-on-one scenarios, but oh my god the planning makes me sick to my stomach.

I bring this up because right now I am trying to figure out how to introduce my colleagues to my baby daughter. We are having a little open house on Sunday and I am freaking out. Did I invite the right people? I can't invite everyone - I think I invited all the people I am close to, but what if I made someone feel hurt or left out? Did I make it clear enough that family members are welcome? We are keeping the food very simple - what if people don't enjoy our hospitality? I am stewing over these questions and feeling super anxious.

The reason I'm posting about this is not so much to get advice - I know how to handle my anxiety - but to remind folks struggling with anxiety of a few things.

I wanted to say that everyone has their thing that causes them, not just social anxiety, but anxiety in general.

I would get pretty bad anxiety attacks when I worked at a t-shirt printing store/company. I still don't know what triggered it, but I remember that I would shake and have a shortness of breath sometimes. Probably what got to me was the pressure of getting the shirts made right, as well as designing them and not fucking up/wasting material. I remember the anxiety got so bad I hadn't slept well in about three days and I'd dream about the shirts and pulling out the vinyl patterns.

Ugh. -shudders-

kleenestar wrote:
1 - Being socially anxious doesn't mean you aren't socially competent. You probably all think of me as someone with good social skills, but that doesn't stop me from being horribly anxious about situations like these. If your jerkbrain is saying, "You're anxious therefore you're incompetent," it might be wrong.

2 - Social problems can be contextual. I'm incredibly charming with friends one-on-one, I am a fabulous public speaker, I'm beloved at work, and I am really good at maintaining my romantic relationship. Parties, on the other hand, throw me into a freaking tailspin.

3 - Following social rules helps. I asked a trusted mentor to give me some guidelines for how to invite people without offending anyone. Even though my jerkbrain wants me to know I'm going to piss people off anyways, I can remind it that doing what this mentor suggested means I'm doing a good enough job.

I'm not particularly looking for advice about reducing my party-planning anxiety, but it's welcome if you have a good idea or two. I'm also very happy to talk about the points above, or anything else you see in my story.

1. Ding! Oh, I know I'm pretty good at most social situations and I've learned to adapt over the years how to handle flubs/freudian slips/fuck ups/etc. But like I said, there will always be your own little kryptonite that will keep you from having a level head.

2. I'm the same way, minus the romantic relationships, those throw me off like no other. Razz

3. For social rules, this is where it helps being the strong silent type, because it allows you observe and you learn quickly what not to do. At least, it's helped me. Razz But even then, nobody's perfect, so mistakes can and will be made regardless of how much you've observed.

I don't have much advice to give you since you seem to have a handle on some of this better than I do. The only real advice I can give is to take deep breaths and slow down your thought process while taking things one step at a time. In addition, take care of things from the biggest priority to the lowest priority. IDK if you do this or not, but that's the thinking I revert to when I feel overwhelmed, if I'm busy with work and school and I have to do things apart from that, welp, somethings I'm gonna need to save for another day, especially if they're not as important.

I'm sorry I don't have any more solid advice, but this old bear is sending you the warmest Mikeyhug he can. :3

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Post by Guest on Fri Jan 30, 2015 6:33 pm

Coming at this from someone that suffers severe social anxiety when it really ramps up, planning parties has always been one of the easier things for me to handle.

It's kind of stupid, and it doesn't really work make sense for the kind of gathering you're having, but parties I've planned have always been setup in such a way that it's not about me at all. Even if the event is 'about me'.

For example, my 18th. I used the local primary school hall, loaded it with 60 inch flatscreens and hooked up gaming consoles to it. Ordered a ton of pizzas and other bits and pieces and just let people do their own thing, pick whatever games they want out BYO and what I had etc. So I just joined in or slinked out of the action to catch my breath and all the focus was on the entertainment and not me.

So, as an addition to kleenestar's above points, it's worth trying to arrange a party like that if the social issues on the night itself are a worry.

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Post by reboot on Fri Jan 30, 2015 6:40 pm

MapWater wrote:Coming at this from someone that suffers severe social anxiety when it really ramps up, planning parties has always been one of the easier things for me to handle.

It's kind of stupid, and it doesn't really work make sense for the kind of gathering you're having, but parties I've planned have always been setup in such a way that it's not about me at all. Even if the event is 'about me'.

For example, my 18th. I used the local primary school hall, loaded it with 60 inch flatscreens and hooked up gaming consoles to it. Ordered a ton of pizzas and other bits and pieces and just let people do their own thing, pick whatever games they want out BYO and what I had etc. So I just joined in or slinked out of the action to catch my breath and all the focus was on the entertainment and not me.

So, as an addition to kleenestar's above points, it's worth trying to arrange a party like that if the social issues on the night itself are a worry.

That sounds like such a fun party!

I do not have anything to add because my anxieties are triggered by scents/sounds/specific environmental cues, but I am curious about one thing, kleenestar: exactly how many spreadsheets does this party involve? I know it is a non zero number Grin
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Post by Guest on Fri Jan 30, 2015 6:50 pm

kleenestar wrote:
3 - Following social rules helps. I asked a trusted mentor to give me some guidelines for how to invite people without offending anyone. Even though my jerkbrain wants me to know I'm going to piss people off anyways, I can remind it that doing what this mentor suggested means I'm doing a good enough job.

You had help from an actual 'Mentor' mentor? As in like, a social coach? Or just a person you knew who was good at organizing party invites?

If you don't have an intuitive grasp on what the social rules actually are, then how and where do you learn them from?

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Post by Guest on Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:03 pm

reboot wrote:That sounds like such a fun party!

It was very fun! I spent a good chunk of it out of the way and very satisfied everyone was enjoying themselves. Grin

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Post by kleenestar on Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:03 pm

reboot: just one spreadsheet. I know, I know, I'm slipping, but it's hard to spreadsheet effectively while holding a baby!

HermitTheToad: yes, an actual mentor-mentor. This is a woman who I know from work and who originally connected with me around issues of women in science. One of the things she told me is that she was available to help with social-rules stuff, since making the transition from being a graduate student to being a professor can be difficult. She's very socially skilled herself, and she also has nearly three decades of experience navigating tricky social situations in our shared field. We've had two big-picture conversations about it where she gave me some general principles to follow, and she's been amazingly available for specific questions by email - she was great about making clear that no question was too small or too foolish, and that she would never judge me for asking.

So, you can try to connect with someone like my mentor in the same way I did - by coming at it through a different shared interest.

Another thing I did was read the new Miss Manners book, which has some very explicit rules for a variety of situations, but also helps you see how the specific rules are really instantiations of general principles, so that as you move away from needing the step-by-step guide you can start to figure out how the general principles apply in new situations.
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