“Just put yourself out there”, “it won’t come to you, you have to go and get it” or even, “life is meant to be lived out there, not inside.” We’re pretty familiar with these words; they’re comments we’ve all likely heard, even if they were not directly aimed at us. Yes, sure, they can be spoken with the best intentions to help motivate, encourage and rally spirits to take positive steps. On the other hand, they can become slightly annoying to the recipient… who needs someone repeatedly drumming these ‘words of wisdom’ into our heads when we already know them and we’re doing the best we can? My advice to anyone, while it is fantastic to make positive changes and fearlessly embrace life, always do everything at your own pace.
We are often our own worst enemies. At some point in our lives, we have all wrongly punished ourselves for being weak or cowardice. Instead of allowing the voice of pressure to haunt you, when you first feel the twinges of social anxiety, just breathe. Simply take a step back from the feeling of anxiousness and let your breath fill your body, then when in a calm state we can remind ourselves: it is ok. We are all unique and beautiful individuals, made with different quirks and charms; we should honour our originality by living as freely as we choose. We do not have to live in accordance with another’s journey and standards. When an uncomfortable situation arises, or someone’s advice grates against you, think: it’s ok, this is my life, I am going to live it my way and take every step at my own pace. This is your story and your only obligation is to do what makes you happy.
My experience of social anxiety saw me isolate myself from the world; as a result, many of my friendships were affected. As I withdrew and retreated into social exclusion, loneliness snuck up and I knew there was something lacking in my life. The line “only you have the power to make change” used to replay in my head like a broken record. In my heart, I knew I had to take the first step but I found it hard to rustle up the courage to do so. Eventually, when the time was right for me, I took a baby step.
Though initially daunting, one morning I decided I wanted to try something new. I signed up to a befriending and social website, Citysocializer. After I had created my account I was bombarded with pub-crawl and drinking night events, a.k.a. my worst nightmare. I was never going to attend one of those social events; the thought of walking into a room of strangers and then having to interact with them was enough for me to buy a ticket and runaway to Timbuktu. I felt deflated; it looked like my previously believed positive step was turning out to be a waste of time. Nevertheless, I kept my account on the off chance something worthwhile popped up. I’d gotten this far, why turn back so soon? Low and behold, the very night after I had signed up, I received a message from Joel W. A wave of happiness washed over me, something good had developed from my action. If I didn’t want attend a social event, perhaps it would be beneficial to chat to someone. After all, I got friendly vibes from his message and my gut told me to write back. In just one day I had made a new friend. Unknown to me, I had also just met my boyfriend.
My message is this: you don’t need to throw yourself into the deep end or succumb to any pressures. To truly flourish and radiate joy and confidence, you simply move and take steps at your own pace. To this day I have not attended one single of those social events and I signed up almost a year ago. By taking one small step, in my own time, something amazing happened. If your heart and gut tells you that you’re ready, try it, because you never know, something magical may occur. The world is a beautiful place and there are so many brilliant things headed your way. As long as you breathe and remind yourself that it’s perfectly ok to go slow and gently stretch your comfort zone, you are doing magnificently. Enjoy the world and living your life authentically for you, as you!