Remember “The Butterfly Effect” movie? Chaos theory has always been fascinating to me. You just never know what kind of an effect anything you say or do will have on anyone else around you. I try to keep that in mind and do my best to keep a positive attitude and to use kindness to everyone around me, even in the smallest interactions. It doesn’t always happen, but I think I do better when I stay aware of my thinking.
One of those moments, one that changes your thinking in some small way, happened to me last week. I didn’t know it was happening at the time, but once I took a moment to meditate on the meeting, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I was out for coffee with a new friend and we were talking about people, the town we live in, politics, the kinds of things you talk about over coffee. Coffee meetings need to happen more often folks, seriously. We could be doing wonders in this world!
He was talking about hiring new employees and had come across a young adult woman recently that said “No, don’t call me. I have social anxiety. I’d rather just text.” This is something I have said myself and was thinking, “That’s a girl who knows herself.” That’s when I was sent in another direction.
He said, “Can you believe that? That’s what we’re calling immaturity now, social anxiety. Grow up. People have to talk on the phone and in person to get work done. Yes, you may not like it and it may make you uncomfortable, but you have to grow as a person not just sit in your first instincts like an animal.”
I smiled and nodded, politely mentioning that I’ve struggled with similar issues myself, but we moved on to a new topic quickly, so I didn’t get into it much. To be honest, I was a little put off by his attitude.
We finished our coffee and conversation over the next hour or so. It was a glorious morning. Talking with new people, especially ones I feel I can be open and honest with and that want to hash out life’s intricacies really lights my fire.
On the way home, I kept thinking about what he had said about social anxiety. I’ve struggled with it all my life and about ten years ago realized that it was common and that there were millions of people that felt the same way. We want to interact with people. We aren’t introverts, happy to be alone, but for some reason we’re fearful of people. I’m not sure whether my feelings were caused by some traumatic event or if it’s just my natural inclination, but I’ve pretty much always felt it. Talking on the phone, specifically, has always been a problem for me.
My mother tried her best to help me over my natural “shyness” to no avail. I’ve had friends that have coached me on how they deal with the anxiety, the fear really, of dealing with new people over the phone and in person. But once I found out that there was a diagnosis for it, that other people “suffer” from it, I pretty much stopped trying to learn new ways to cope and get stronger and started using it as an excuse not to do things I didn’t like doing. Besides, the invention of texting and email made it very easy to avoid.
What kind of a life is that? It’s not like I’m happier alone. I crave contact with other humans. I love having lots of friends to talk to on the phone, through text, or in person, but for the last ten years or so I got it in my head that I was not capable of overcoming my shyness. I took refuge in raising my sons and being near my husband and left it at that. I had social anxiety. I had an excuse. What could I do?
There are lots of things shy people work to get over; speaking in front of groups, going to parties, not looking like a stammering idiot at interviews. It’s good for us to try and push our boundaries and do things we aren’t naturally comfortable doing. So why would I give up on something as simple as being brave enough to make a phone call?
So, this past week, I’ve worked on that. I’ve called people I don’t usually call. I’ve answered the phone instead of letting it go to voicemail. Once, when a local friend texted me, I offered to meet at McDonald’s and talk over a big iced tea. We had a great time and we’ll probably do it again soon!
Now, what I want to know is, how do I keep a hold of this “empowered” feeling? If I can overcome one fear, I bet there are others I can face up to as well!