Taking on a New Challenge & Surviving the Emotional Rollercoaster

Want to know more about the Socially Anxious to Quietly Confident programme mentioned in today’s episode? Find out more and sign up here.

Hayley and Stacie explore the emotional rollercoaster that we experience when we take on a new challenge that evokes anxiety within us. Together, we’ll explore:

  • The Ping Pong contemplation stage that occurs before the decision to take on a new challenge is made;
  • The Freak Out that can happen once we commit and how this can show up (cue the Panic Monster, Porky Pig and Snappy Croc!); 
  • The ‘Aftermath’ shame spiral that can happen once we have taken action.

You’ll be diving into Stacie’s recent experience of taking on a new challenge in joining the Bluetits Chill Swimmers to learn ways to manage these uncomfortable stages in the decision-making and comfort zone stretching process.  Stacie reveals the mistakes that she made and how you can take a gentle comfort zone stretch process to work your way up to achieving your big stretch goal, without sending yourself into a panic!

To find out more about the Socially Anxious to Quietly Confident programme mentioned in the episode, go to: quietconnections.co.uk/services.



Hayley Stanton 0:12
Hello, and welcome to the quiet connections podcast. My name is Hayley. And today I am joined by the lovely Stacie. Hi Stacie…

Stacie Clark 0:20
Hi Hayley

Hayley Stanton 0:21
Right now we have our Socially Anxious to Quietly Confident course open for applications. This has really got us thinking about when we are wanting to stretch our comfort zones, take on a new challenge, maybe take a course or maybe join the Bluetits like Stacie has done recently – taking a comfort zone stretch. Absolutely all of these things evoke a rollercoaster of emotions within us. And it’s actually really hard to make that decision to do something. And then once you’ve committed to doing that, there’s a still an emotional rollercoaster to go through afterwards.

Stacie Clark 1:02
Absolutely, yeah. So today, we’re going to be mapping all that out for you, giving you a map so that you’re able to identify where in that process you are, what it is that you need, how to hold some acceptance around it, just really helping you get through those moments. So that you can take those very first steps of considering when you want to do something to be able to then make the decision to then actually be able to show up in that first instance. Because it’s in these two spaces particularly that we’re going to focus on today, where you might feel a little bit vulnerable to moving back into self protective strategies and behaviours of wanting to keep yourself safe and keep yourself hidden. So it’s really, really vital and important that we that we acknowledge those moments and know that one, they’re completely normal, and two, that there are tools that we can use to help us get through them, which is really what our socially anxious to quietly confident course is going to equip you with. So we’ll obviously touch on what those things are today. But if you are interested in learning how to implement those tools, then we really do recommend that you come onto this course.

Hayley Stanton 2:20
Absolutely. So let’s begin with your Bluetits story, Stacie.

Stacie Clark 2:26
Okay, so some of you may have already seen like an email that I put out a couple of weeks ago, where I started to share my Bluetits story. And so about a month ago, well actually, then let me take it back about a year ago, I decided that I would like to start the swimming, because I knew I was going to be moving to a new house and I was gonna be close to the sea. And I really wanted to make the most of living, where I was going to be living, you know, really embracing that experience of where I was going to be. And so I knew I wanted to start swimming, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. There were so many anxieties of fears around what if people saw me? What if I was doing it wrong? Will I be wearing the right things? and all those very typical socially anxious thoughts that were coming up around judgments that I thought that people would make about me. So obviously, I avoided it for quite a while. And there was also you know, that element of, I don’t really want to do it like that I was like, afraid to meet other people to do it with but I also really didn’t want to go alone because that didn’t feel like the safest, safest thing to do, you know, we are talking about the sea.

Hayley Stanton 3:42
And you are talking about the ping pong stage here. So this is like the back and forth back and forth. You know, you really want to do something, but your head’s telling you you can’t do it and making up all these stories about what could go wrong, and how people will judge you. And then you’re going into self protection mode. But really, you want to take action.

Stacie Clark 4:03
Yes, yes. And what you described there was just yeah, exactly what I was going through. I actually had days where I was like, right, I’m gonna go do it. You know, I took out all my swim stuff, and I was about to, to put it all on and then would just be like no. there was always a reason why I can’t do it on those days. And I think I probably did that about five times throughout the last year of being like, I’m gonna go swimming, I’m gonna go do it. I’m going to do it. And then in the last minute, just, you know, talk myself out of it. So like I said, Yeah, there’s definitely that that ping pong type thing going on where it’s, I really do want to do this. I knew it was something that I wanted to do, but I just didn’t quite know how to do it and just all the fears were just really present. They were very present.

So after a year of considering and wanting to do it. And actually at one point, I decided to convince myself that actually, it just wasn’t that important to me, and that it wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I could live without it, I don’t have to swim. But I knew deep down that, you know, in my heart, there was always like, you know, you want to do this. And I just reached the point where I don’t think I’d actually left the house for a few days. And I was just like, I just felt like I was wasting, like the opportunity of where I was living. So that’s then when I started to explore how, how I could actually approach this. So I did actually use our comfort zone stretch workbook. A great tool. And obviously, in the course this is what we’re going to be using to help other people to go through this process and actually map out what their small steps are first. So for me what that looked like was I was just going to join the Bluetits local Facebook group, I was like, all I got to do, the first Step is just join, I don’t have to do anything else yet. Just join the group. And then that’s the first step done. And then I decided that, Okay, the next thing would be to just put a post out to introduce myself. And know, just see, you know, what other people were kind of doing, where people were swimming, what type of days what time of days, and just get a feel for who was in that local group.

And this all actually happened quite fast me. And I will say that this was probably a bit too quick than what I’d actually anticipated. But I put out my post, I did mention in my post on the Bluetits group that I was feeling quite anxious about it. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. And that I was hoping that by joining the Bluetits that maybe that would help give me the light help increase that sense of courage within me to actually get in the water. And to have some people to do that with. And within I think about 10 minutes, I probably had about five people respond inviting me out for a swim which I was not prepared for in the slightest. And then I ended up agreeing to meet someone that very night. So I think I had about two hours in between actually joining the Bluetits, putting out a post and then going to go meet two people for a swim. I think I would probably recommend for people to not go that quickly when it comes to comfort zones. Okay, like even for me, I’m like, I’ve been practising like the tools that I had to use for quite a while. And even that was a bit too much. And I’d forgotten that actually, I could say no, and, you know, stick to what my plan was. But I didn’t in that in that instance. So anyway, I agreed to go for a swim for Okay, this is happening. And then I entered what we call the freakout stage.

Hayley Stanton 8:19
Before we move on to the freakout stage, let’s just go over the steps that you’ve already shared that you’ve taken. So I really liked the fact that you set these little steps with no expectations at all. I’m just gonna join the group, I don’t have to post. And then I’m just going to introduce myself, I don’t have to go swimming. I don’t have to reply even. That’s brilliant. Excellent. So you mentioned that you told the group that you felt anxious? Why? Why was it important to talk tell the whole group that you felt anxious?

Stacie Clark 8:58
It was important because I specifically wanted to be approached by people who would understand that there that that I did feel anxious. And you know, that anxiety was I mentioned that it wasn’t just about the swimming part. It was also the meeting new people. And so I only really wanted to be approached by people who would read that, and would be accepting of that and would understand that. So and thankfully, like what’s happened for me is that the people that I have met, I think as a result of them reading that and probably being like, Oh, I relate to that. And you know, I welcome you. Yeah, I formed a really, really nice group of people that I now swim with on a regular basis and we’re all so supportive of one another. And our group has actually, you know, grown in size because of other people who then since I’ve joined as well put out a post saying that they were feeling anxious and that they were quite shy and they were a bit worried about meeting new people. And yeah, approaching specifically those people as well to be like, come join our little group. And so yeah, it was really important for me to make that known. So that I knew I was going to be meeting people who were understanding and compassionate about.

Hayley Stanton 10:26
thank you for sharing that, Stacie. And then you say, you forgot, you could say no. So, what would you have said no to? what actually was the plan?

Stacie Clark 10:45
so I joined on the Sunday, my plan was to arrange a swim for either like a Tuesday or a Wednesday so that I had a few days to prepare myself essentially said that that was the plan. And then obviously, I said yes to someone who offered to go for a swim that very evening, which was partly because it was a full moon that night, which I wasn’t aware of, and like the temptation of Oh, a full moon swim sounds really appealing. So it was partly because I also wanted that aspect. But actually, when I think like the following day, when I thought back about it, I was like, probably would have been the better decision to go on, like a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Hayley Stanton 11:33
So we’ve got our comfort zone. And if we imagine a circle, we’ve got our little comfort zone. And then around the comfort zone, we’ve got the learning zone or the stretch zone. And then beyond that, we’ve got another circle. And this is the panic zone. So it sounds like you may have been edging into the panic zone by going for a nighttime swim.

Stacie Clark 11:57
I did. Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. And, and this is, you know, once I recognise that, I was like, Yeah, I should have, you know, stuck to my plan and been like, No, I’ll agree to the sperm on Tuesday and say no to the one that same like, because what did happen with that short amount of time between, you know, having just signed up, haven’t just put out a post. And then, like I said earlier, like, there was only two hours between doing that, and then actually meeting two new people and going for a swim. That’s a really short amount of time, like that is really a short amount of time. So, you know, I knew I was going to feel anxious anyway, regardless of like, what day it would have been, or how long the space would have been between making that decision and actually doing it. But because the time was so short, I think like, the intensity of that that anxiety definitely accelerated. So I very quickly moved from I suppose what I would say being in a state of anxiety that would have been manageable to then going straight into panic mode. Yeah. So it was definitely a step too far.

Hayley Stanton 13:20
thank you for sharing that. I think that’s really important to know that actually, this is what we tend to do in life, we think, yeah, we can go and take on this challenge. And we jump in the deep end. And we end up feeling overwhelmed, like we’re drowning. And then we freaked ourselves out, and we don’t get back into it again. So it’s really important to take those smaller steps and work up to that, like if you had been going on your swims for a little while, probably. Now, if you were asked to go on a nighttime swim, you would be comfortable with that.

Stacie Clark 13:55
Yeah, absolutely. I wouldn’t be second guessing that at all now, because, you know, I’ve been doing it for a month now. I’ve been sticking with my plan since then. That one little hiccup. And, and yeah, like the the anxiety is gone. I would say almost like with the social aspect anyway. So the comfort zone has definitely increased, I would say when it comes to this, and so that’s been great.

Hayley Stanton 14:28
Well done. And yeah, just a month. That’s amazing.

Stacie Clark 14:32
It is Yeah. Even within that first week, I felt that it had already expanded. And you know that there was still some waves of anxiety that were there but they were definitely lesser, less intense than that very, very fast.

Hayley Stanton 14:51
How many swims Do you feel like it took for you to start feeling calmer about it?

Stacie Clark 14:58
Good question, I think It was, for me, I was about nine swims in, which I think was about two weeks. So that was two weeks of doing that regularly. Which again, was part of my plan, because I knew, I might also have a tendency to do it just that one time. And then this is another part of the process, like where will that shame comes in afterwards and then not go back again. So it was important to me to stick to my plan of scheduling regular swims with people so that I kept going because I knew the only way that I would start to feel comfortable with the whole situation was to keep doing it.

Hayley Stanton 15:43
Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so we’ve spoken about comfort zone stretching process. We’ve spoken about the ping pong stage. So let’s talk a little more about the freakout stage. What is it stacie?

Stacie Clark 16:01
Okay, so the freakout stage, is when you agree to something, you’ve made that decision. You’ve said yes. And then you go, I’m going to swear sorry, but this is what my mind goes, you go “Oh, shit. I’ve actually got to do this now”. So this is the bit where you know, that wave of anxiety like the chances are, you’re gonna feel that wave of anxiety come in. And for some of us that might feel like panic, we could go into a state of panic. Yeah, your mind just races with all those statements of I can’t do this. What am I doing? What am I doing? Like, Why did I think that I could do this? And in fact, for me, like, if I go back to like, my bluetits story, I found myself sat on my toilet, like seat down I was sat on the toilet just in the bathroom. And I very quickly went from I can’t do this to I’m never going to be able to do this. So that level of like catastrophizing really kicked in as well, that it was not just I can’t do it in this one instance, it was I’m never going to be able to do this. Like, I’m so stupid. Why am I doing this? Like, why did I think I could do this? And those are really the the main things that kept going around my head. And yeah, I think I just I kept calling myself like, stupid and a dickhead. And I do apologise for the swearing but this is my internal chatter it’s not very nice. And, and yeah, just I felt like a failure. Part of that as well actually was, you know, obviously, for that one moment, I thought, Oh, no, I can do this. I can give this a go. And then all those doubts and those fears come in. And I was like, No, I can’t. And now, I’m a failure, and I’m never gonna be able to do it. So that was definitely one thing to acknowledge. And and I think like move into a space of compassion with

Hayley Stanton 18:16
Yeah, let’s talk about how, how the freakout stage was showing up for you.

Stacie Clark 18:23
Okay, so in this particular instance, it was definitely a panic state,

Hayley Stanton 18:27
the panic monster

Stacie Clark 18:30
the panic monster! So yes, the panic monster definitely reared its ugly head in that instance. So yeah, and like I said earlier, there was that very accelerated sense of anxiety because of how quickly it was all happening. So that was definitely a panic monster situation. But I have also noticed that there are other other forms of freakout that we can go through. So there’s other ways in which it can show up. So again, another little story from a couple of days ago, my partner asked me if we wanted to go meet a few of his friends and these were some people that I think I’d only met one of them maybe once before, but there was going to be two other people there that I’d never met before. First of all, I did say yes, so again, I’ve made that decision. I just said yes, it was a part of me that did want to go I thought, okay, no, be quite nice, nice way to spend the evening. But then straight after that, the freakout stage came in, and all these reasons as to why I couldn’t go. And I started reeling off these reasons and my partner like I could see this look on his face where he was kind of looking like he was trying not to laugh. And he was just like, Stacie, there’s aren’t even good excuses. I definitely knew what I was doing. He knew I was doing as well. Going into pokey pig mode. I convinced myself of all the reasons why, why it’s not a good idea. I can’t go. So yeah, this is obviously when we make up stories basically to get ourselves out of those situations. And I know I’ve done that a lot in the past. That is probably actually my most common form of freakout is all the stories that come up and the reasons to get me out of something after saying yes, in the first place.

Hayley Stanton 20:27
And this one’s really subtle as well, you don’t always know that this is happening. And I think one of the most common excuses that we come up with is that we’re busy, we’re too busy, we can possibly fit this into our lives. I have to say, I’m very guilty of this. I’m definitely a Porky Pig. But I think that actually, it’s really easy to make ourselves busy to keep ourselves so busy that we can’t possibly do these things that we actually really want to do at our hearts. And it’s just another way to avoid it isn’t it?

Stacie Clark 21:05
It is exactly. Because especially like, if you believe all the reasons that you’re saying as well. Yeah. So for example, like, I’ve even felt physically ill, to back up the story of I don’t feel very well to then avoid a situation just because I’ve been feeling anxious about it. And, and then after, like you, you’re, you know, you’re out of having to go to that situation, you miraculously start to feel okay, again. And, you know, part of that is levels of anxiety can can make us feel a little bit unwell. But it also can become a really good reason to get us out of showing up to things because we’re feeling anxious about them. So yeah, that their Porky Pig excuses. Finding reasons making up stories is definitely another way. Yeah, definitely a big a big freakout or strategy, shall we say there that I’ve used?

Hayley Stanton 22:07
Yeah, is is a good avoidance strategy. I did use that a lot, because I was so nervous about doing something and really wanted to avoid it when I had to do a presentation. Yeah, and, you know, great, I got out of it. But, you know, I didn’t learn and I didn’t grow. And I eventually had to face that. Because I had to go and do a degree or I really wanted to go and do a degree. And my fear of presentations and all the excuses that I had that I couldn’t do them just kept holding me back from the thing that I wanted to achieve.

Stacie Clark 22:42
Yeah, it’s just putting it off, isn’t there it is prolonging the, the anxiety about those situations.

Hayley Stanton 22:49
Yeah, at some point, if you want to grow, and you want to achieve the things that you want to achieve, you have no choice but to face that discomfort to be with that anxiety, for long enough to move through it and prove to yourself that you can do these things. So those excuses really do hold us back. And, and I think this is where we end up feeling like we’re falling behind in life. Yeah, that’s such a big thing for anyone experiencing social anxiety, that sense of falling behind and, you know, not being able to go to university or not being able to get that job or get the progression in your career that you really want or get that relationship. And a lot of the time it boils down to these excuses that we are telling ourselves that are often happening very unconsciously. And we’re not really picking up on the real problem, the real anxiety. But once we kind of open the curtains and we can see what’s really happening there, we can see that it is a avoidance tactic, then we have the power to do something about it, that awareness is key.

Stacie Clark 23:53
Absolutely. And that’s what I described with you know, when I was saying that I convinced myself like going like, starting swimming wasn’t important to me, that was that that Porky Pig, showing up that very subtle way of like, oh, it doesn’t matter i can i can get by. It’s not important. But it was important, it was important, and it just prolongs that that sense of anxiety of When am I going to do it? When is it going to happen? And once I realised that I was just feeling very anxious about it, I was able to start Okay, I can make a plan. Let’s explore ways in which I can move through the anxiety that I’m feeling so that I can actually do the thing that I want to.

Hayley Stanton 24:41
How do you feel now looking back and going I could have been sea swimming 11 months and two weeks ago and feeling comfortable with it?

Stacie Clark 24:49
Well, then there was a part of me that’s okay that it took a year. I can hold acceptance for that because I just recognise Okay, I felt anxious and That’s okay. That’s there’s nothing wrong with that. And it’s very normal. I acknowledged it, I noticed that and I move through it, and now I’m doing what I want it to do. There is also another part that was like, Damn, I really could have done that a lot sooner. I missed out for a whole year. Oh, yeah.

Hayley Stanton 25:20
Okay, I want to know about the third way the Freak Out shows up.

Stacie Clark 25:25
Yes. So this one. I’m gonna laugh because actually, I find this one probably the most uncomfortable for me anyway. And this is what we’ve called the crocodile. So the third way that the freakout can show up is through a feeling of like frustration or irritability, perhaps you catch yourself being a bit snappy with other people, or even maybe with yourself. And so again, I noticed this, I was doing this the other day. I have a lot of these stories, by the way. So the freakout is something that I experience quite often. So again, I caught myself doing this my partner the other day, where we were on our way to meet some, some other people. And I was just getting very snappy at him. And like, just feeling very, very irritable and almost a little bit angry. But it was definitely more of a frustrated feeling. And reflecting back on that, I can see that I was definitely trying to create some form of conflict always between us so that I didn’t have to go. It’s almost like, I don’t know if it’s the same with everyone. But for me, it was almost about having, like creating a situation where someone would tell, like, push me out of the situation, or be like, you’re not welcome to come anymore. I don’t know. Like, it’s definitely like a self defensive.

Hayley Stanton 27:04
Yeah. That’s the word that was coming up for me. Defensive. And I think that this is something that we can feel instead of feeling the fear.

Stacie Clark 27:17
Yeah, there’s almost that idea of fear, fear feels vulnerable, doesn’t it? And you know, within our society, we hold a lot of misconceptions that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. So, you know, if anger is seen as being, like something strong, then and fear is being seen as something vulnerable, it’s very easy to see why we might move into anger more than then feel the fear.

Hayley Stanton 27:44
Yeah, pack down the fear and sort of bypass that and get to the anger. Yeah, that’s really interesting. So this is your snappy crocodile mode.

Stacie Clark 27:52
Yeah. And recognising that, again, that’s just another another way that that freakout stage is, is showing up. It’s still trying to find a way of avoiding the situation. Yeah, you know, it’s just another another approach that we might unconsciously choose to take.

Hayley Stanton 28:17
Okay, so we’ve got the Panic Monster, we’ve got the Porky Pig, and the Snappy Crocodile. So I think that’s really helpful to have those things to hold on to so that you can see when they’re coming up in here and really get curious and ask those questions about, you know, what is this? What’s it trying to do for me? And like you say, often, it just wants us to move into that protective mode, go back into avoidance crawl back under a rock, you know, it’s too scary. It’s too big. It’s too hard. We can’t possibly do this. Let’s run away and hide and not even give it a go. But you deserve more. You deserve to give yourself a chance.

Stacie Clark 29:02
Absolutely. You deserve to have all those experiences that you want.

Hayley Stanton 29:06
So how can we help ourselves when we are experiencing the freakout? We’ve made this decision. Now we’re in freakout, what do we do?

Stacie Clark 29:15
Okay, so for me, I found the best route to take is to really bring into practice those anxiety calming techniques that that I’ve learned over the last few years. So the first thing I did was that if I go back to my bluetits story, and the panic monsters there, I’m in that freakout stage, the first thing I did was to actually acknowledge feeling anxious, and I’m freaking out. So the first step is definitely awareness and acknowledgement and acceptance. To know that actually, that’s that’s okay. So there’s bringing an element of self compassion there of okay, it’s okay that I’m freaking out. And I do actually physically say this to myself, because it helps to just hear the hear the words, it’s okay. I do tend to hug myself as well.

Hayley Stanton 30:18
Yeah, that’s nice, some self-soothing.

Stacie Clark 30:21
Yes. And from there, once I’ve acknowledged that I know that I can move into actively calming myself down. So this is then when I will bring in breathing practices, and start to alter my breathing. So if I’m in that high panic state, then I’ll usually begin with some like, really slow exhales, and just do a lot of sighing to initially like get the get the breath out, and then move into some more balanced breathing. I also tend to try and actively help the anxiety, relief, like from my body. So if we look at that, in terms of like, there’s lots of anxious energy being stored and rushing around in your muscles and your body, or physically, like shake myself to try and help release some of that and even cry if I need to. And then from now, just continue to tell myself, it’s okay. And to keep implementing those, those calming techniques, bring in a bit of mindfulness. So redirecting my attention, externally focused on something outside of myself. So yeah, those that are mindful bits to help engage some other senses. I think that’s all I did to initially to initially like, bring, bring the anxiety down. So to get myself calm, and then from there, it’s, you can then start to, I think, challenge some of those thoughts that you’re having. So turning the statements into questions. And so what did I say? I was saying that, like, I can’t do this, I’m never gonna be able to do this. And that turned into Well, what if I do do this? And this is those what if questions are really, really important and really helpful… what if? because then you open up space for possibility. So they turned into a what if questions, what if I can do this? What happens if I do? And, and then also, like, you know, what, if I did do this, how amazing my I feel afterwards and how proud I’m going to be. So there’s almost like a projection, like a future prediction as well of what I’m going to gain from from doing this situation, wherever it is that you find to do. So that got me out the door. And then as I was approaching, you know, so that very initial bit just before you’re about to show up to something, again, it was just a real focus on breathing and where my attention was. So that external, mindful based attention of paying attention to the trees as I was walking on the road, just feeling the wind. And just yeah, redirecting my attention outside of myself, keeping yourself in the present. Yes, that’s it.

Hayley Stanton 33:33
Yeah. It can be really helpful to also think about, you know, what will I lose or miss out on if I don’t do this? Like, what opportunities am I letting pass me by? and for how long am I willing to do that?

Stacie Clark 33:51
Yes, yeah. So I mean, I had definitely reached a point where I was I had not willing to wait, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do. And I must admit, in that situation, it was, I’m either gonna do this now or I’m not. So there was that there was a sense of motivation and drive there to cultivate a bit of courage.

Hayley Stanton 34:14
You put a bit of a deadline on it.

Stacie Clark 34:15
Yeah, I guess.

Hayley Stanton 34:19
And you mentioned courage. And I think a lot of us can feel like, you know, I’m not a courageous person. But it’s not a type of person. Courage isn’t the type of person it’s a strength that every single one of us has, we might use it to different degrees. But we all have access to that beautiful well of courage that we have deep inside of us. And I think sometimes we can misinterpret what courage is. it’s really not an absence of fear, but we can expect it to be. Courage only happens when there is fear. And it’s then that you can really tap into that courage and take that action do that thing that you want to do. And I feel like, it can be really helpful to think about, who do I want to be? we so often think like, what do people like me do. And when we think about who we are, we think, you know, I’m anxious, I’m quiet, I’m introverted, I can’t possibly talk to people, I’m not good at this, I’m not good at that – we focus in on all the things that we feel is wrong with us, or the things that we think we can’t do. And, you know, if we just stripped back all of that anxiety, if we weren’t anxious, if we weren’t afraid of failing, what would we be doing? What would you be doing?

Stacie Clark 35:43
He has very easy for us to get caught up in identifying with with our fears, as opposed to what’s the actual thing that that we want to do? Or the other reason why we feel scared, not not the fear itself. I mean, obviously, we all have the capacity to feel fear. So it’s a normal part of being who we are, but it’s not who we are.

Hayley Stanton 36:07
It’s a normal part of our human experience, but it’s not who we are. It’s a feeling it’s something that will come and go in and out like the sea, Going back to your mindfulness techniques, Stacie, I think it can be really helpful to think about, who are we when we are at our best, if it was our best self turning up – that person who you were using all those skills that you have to manage those anxious feelings? You were bringing forth your strongest courage? Who would you be? If you were your best possible self, what would you do? How would you act? write about it, visualise it, see it happening. Really make that something very colourful for you.

Stacie Clark 36:52
Yeah, make it clear, and tangible that you can actually hold on to. Again, I feel like so so many of us like when we start to explore these things, we don’t tend to have a very clear picture as to what that version of us is.

Hayley Stanton 37:06
we have a clear picture of the other version, everything that could go wrong, we really put effort and time into thinking about that. our imaginations are great with that. We just have to equally put the effort and time into thinking about, you know, what, if things went the way that we want them to go? What if we really enjoyed ourselves? and cultivate that hope.

Stacie Clark 37:26
Absolutely. Yeah, make that clear picture.

Hayley Stanton 37:29
So we’ve cultivated all of our hope and our courage, and we’ve gone and we’ve taken action. So tell me about the Aftermath for you, Stacie.

Stacie Clark 37:43
So the aftermath, this is the other bit that we need to be very mindful of, and to, you know, acknowledge, recognise and accept. Because the aftermath is the bit that comes obviously after, after you’ve done the thing you want to do. And this is where we start to replay everything. So we start to go over and over in our heads, analysing and breaking apart every tiny little action we made, everything that we said that we thought we shouldn’t have said, we start ruminating over it, and we start making up those stories about what other people are thinking of us, or what they must be thinking. And this is really where we can head into what Brene Brown describes as being a shame spiral. So for example, with me, the day after I did, the bluetits first swim, that full moon swim. I spent a lot of time The following day, thinking like I said some stupid things. I also went into like I wasn’t loud enough. So now I was being too quiet that classic shame response that many of us have. You know, also because it was my first time going in the sea that I was really cold. And I actually struggled to stay in the sea. So I was in the in the short amount of time and I’m shivering the whole time. So the following day, I was also like, I made such a fool out of myself. So just all these thoughts of how wrong everything went that at that point, I don’t think I was really focusing on anything good that I had experienced, which there were plenty of good things as well. But my mind was just so focused on everything that I felt that was wrong, you know, with myself and then making up stories about how everybody else would have been judging me and thinking that I was an idiot and that I was too quiet and therefore they would never want to swim with me again.

Hayley Stanton 39:53
It’s interesting to see how those thoughts spiral too.

Stacie Clark 39:57
Yes, yes, yes, exactly.

Hayley Stanton
So you went from, you know, not just the one situation, but again, blew it out of proportion to like, you made meaning out of you being quiet, and associated something negative with that and then decided that everybody thinks something negative about you. Therefore you cannot possibly show your face again.

Stacie Clark
And that’s the thing isn’t it, cause then you’ve reached the point of another decision to make. And, you know, there was a strong part that was like I can’t go back. I can’t, I can’t do this. I don’t want to. But I did I did want to do it again, I knew I really wanted to but it’s just that I get that fear coming in, of like, you know, I don’t want to go back because I feel embarrassed.

Hayley Stanton
and it can be a cycle because what you’re describing is coming back around to the contemplation stage of do I really want this? I dont know if I can do it.

Stacie Clark
It does, it does go around in the cycle. So, you know, it’s really about learning how to move through the stages. As you can probably start to imagine now it is really key because that is what keeps us going and gets us comfort zones to start to expand and start to grow. Without that awareness, we’re just going to be dropping off at each of these points, because these are the points that we’re going to feel the most vulnerable, and the most susceptible to returning back to self protective mode and hiding away, and keeping small.

Hayley Stanton
And just on the other side of it, for anybody who runs a service, it’s really important to know these points, and then to up the support that you’re providing at these stages. So this is what we do with quiet connections, like everybody who has just signed up to our course, they’re about to get lots and lots more information to help them to go through this freakout stage, so they’ve literally just signed up this week and they’re going to be in the freakout stage over the next coming few days. and then they’re gonna come up and they’re gonna do the thing. And then as they’re going through the course, they’re gonna participate and then go into aftermath and then come back and go can I show up next week, and eventually with that support building and going around this process several times, they’re going to get to the phase where actually they’re not coming around the process, they’re going, you know what I’ve learned that I can do this. And that’s what we are trying to teach ourselves, is that we can show up and we can do this and I think when we are socially anxious, we avoid so much that we don’t learn that we can do these things. And this is why we start feeling that like we’re falling behind with everybody else and we look around and where everyone else is managing with ease. They’ve done these things they’ve been round and round and done these things a lot more than we have a lot earlier than we have. So we need to start we need to give ourselves that chance, and there’s no safer place to do it than within the quiet connections community is there!

Stacie Clark
no, there’s not. And, you know, for example with me, I reached out to you when I was in that aftermath and was like spiralling. So we need that reassurance

Hayley Stanton
and that’s one key way of getting through that shame spiral is actually reaching out talking about the experience. And it just allows you to let go of it and shame is something that just can’t exist when it’s out in the open when it’s been spoken about.

Stacie Clark
Yes, it definitely breeds in the darkness, isn’t it, and then I just want to touch on a little bit that you just said there about, you know, we have to go through this process, a number of times to get to the other side of it, and I think I mentioned at the start that like the freakout and the aftermath is something that I experienced a lot of, but that’s because, you know I’m always trying to do new things. And there’s, there’s an awful lot of things that I do do now that you know, I started off by going like cycling through that process, a number of times and now I’m at the point where it’s like I’m okay with it. So, again, it’s not like the aim here is never to eliminate these processes, you know entirely from your life, you know, there’s, there’s always going to be situations in the future where you recognise that or feel like you’re going through that process. Because this is new, and it’s a little bit scary and I’m unfamiliar with it and I’ve never done it before. And that’s just how we learn. It is how we learn and how we grow eventually with everything and we stick with it, learn how to manage these processes, you get to the other side.

Hayley Stanton
I’m curious Stacie, How many times do you imagine you cycled through this process?

Stacie Clark
With just the bluetits? Quite a few times. I haven’t sat down and actually worked out a specific number but I definitely, definitely gone through the process. And interestingly, it was with I would say different levels or layers of the things that I was feeling scared about. So it started off with just obviously showing up and doing it for the very first time like actually getting in the sea. Being with new people. So I cycled through that a few times. Then, after I almost like became a part of a group within the much larger group with the bluetits and we started forming our little group, and then reach the point of actually making genuine connections with people that brought on a whole other level of anxiety. And, and another then process of cycling through everything. And again, then I was having you know aftermath, thoughts of like, oh God, these people, you know once they get to know me that they’re not gonna like me. And then, you know, going back to that consideration phase of like how long can I keep this up for like that, there was yeah there was a definite sense of imposterism kind of coming off as well, like, these people are going to like, get to know me and then realise that I’m not who they think I am; not that I know who they think I am, so then I had to cycle through that and the shame of, you know actually being vulnerable enough to allow people in and sit with the discomfort of forming new connections and forming new friendships, and then interesting actually, I think we had a chat, the other day within my group and somebody else mentioned how nice it was to like have formed like, like what feels like a proper little friendship group. Oh, like Yeah, it does, and it was, you know, so that that there are levels to the process and you may find that as you go through, new experiences that the other fears and insecurities might come up beneath like these, these initial bits. But, yeah, you go through the process a number of times and then hopefully at the end realise that actually I’m okay.

Hayley Stanton
And the more you keep showing up like you just shared, you find your tribe, whether that’s in quiet connections, whether that’s the quieter people we didn’t the bluetits. You know, it’s so lovely that we attract people who feel really good to us to be with.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s the other thing is recognising that like you don’t have to stick with people that you are not feeling good around, You can say no, find your people. But there have been people that I’ve met for one or two swims before and that actually I haven’t gone back and swam with them again because I just didn’t feel as comfortable around them as I have around some other people so it’s knowing that it’s okay to spend your time, your energy with people you feel like are lifting you up and that are accepting you for who you are and that’s how, that’s how we make our connections, I think we spend a lot of time in our life chasing the wrong people.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, and when we stop chasing and start following our heart and doing the things that we really want to do. Those people naturally come to us. I have one more question for you Stacie. How is the story about who you are that you tell yourself changed?

Stacie Clark
That’s a nice question because I don’t think I’ve asked myself that yet but yeah so interesting that I don’t think it has anything to do with swimming. the most important thing that I feel that I’ve taken away from this new experience. Because what I might like to add also is that, for me, this feels like it’s been the biggest comfort zone stretch that I’ve done over the last few years, outside of connections. This was like my first external, I would say comfort zone stretch with with people that I didn’t know if they were going to be accepting of quiet and being slightly quieter and all those types of things

Hayley Stanton
so you literally did this all by yourself.

Stacie Clark
Yes. With QC support so obviously, I still use that support even if I am a team member. So yeah, I think the biggest thing that I’ve recognised about myself over the last month, is that, as if I were embarrassed saying this but I’m a nice person, and actually I can make really good connections with people, and I can also help other people to feel welcome into things, and I think I’m a joy to be around.

Hayley Stanton
How does that make you feel about your quietness,

Stacie Clark
good it makes me feel good, like, I know that there are strengths in that.

Hayley Stanton
And we knew that anyway, but doing something like that, just enhances it doesn’t it,

Stacie Clark
it does, it does, because you know, it gives you just the real experience of it, like really deeply I think accepting it and being like, yeah, do you know what it’s all good. I don’t have to change who I am. And interestingly actually I noticed that I’m feeling more courageous with other things now as well. So like I said like, just this month alone I think I’ve met more new people in the last month than I probably have over the last couple of years, and just really embracing those opportunities to get to know more people to get to know new people. And I must admit I’ve been really utilising everything that I’ve learned over the last few years like asking questions, getting curious about other people. Someone actually the other day and I took this as like quite a nice compliment actually someone described me as like your quiet but you’ve got some oomph. I have no idea what that means but I like it.

Hayley Stanton
Do you want to sum up the key things that you want our listeners to take away today.

Stacie Clark
I really want you to know that experiencing the ping pong ball phase, experiencing the freakout stage, experiencing the aftermath and going through those number of times are like is such a completely normal part of the process. You know, I think most people actually go through this, whether they’re talking about it or not. And just know that like you can learn ways to get through them and to me I feel like that’s the key thing here is, is not that you can’t move through these phases, it’s that you just don’t know how, currently, what strategies to use to help you get through those. And, you know, because for years, I didn’t, and I would just continue using my self protective things and then just not do the things I wanted to do. So, it is a learning process of giving your mind and your body different new ways to be able to respond in those situations, so that when that happens you can go, oh wait, let me try something new right now and see if that helps. So it’s definitely about learning, giving yourself opportunity to learn those things, knowing that it’s okay if it does happen. And just, you’re far more capable of showing up in life, and being yourself and connecting with other people than what you might imagine right now. And I was just thinking actually Hayley about the applications that we’ve had to come in so far for the Socially Anxious to Quietly Confident course and the letters that people have been writing to themselves have been so, so beautiful to read because I keep looking at them, and I’m like, you already know that there are parts in you that already knows that you’re worthy enough and that you can do this, that you have courage, that you have strength, that you’re courageous like you already know those things, that you have self belief and, you know, those parts exist because those parts wrote this letter to the future you. And this course is just about bringing those parts of you to the front, and allowing those parts to lead and to hold the hands of the parts that feel scared.

Hayley Stanton
I suppose I would just end on saying that it’s time to change the story that you tell about yourself. It really is. Look to role models who maybe have similar characteristics to you. They might be quieter, they might be more introverted and they’re still up there doing things that are scaring them, taking on these challenges, and know that they are scared and self doubting, at times, they’re going through this process, just the same as you. But really, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and take a chance on yourself, you can do more than you think you can.

We’re really excited to see you in the Socially Anxious to Quietly Confident course. Hopefully this episode has helped you already to move through the freakout stage, and we will be supporting you every step of the way. You can find out more about the course at www.quietconnections.co.uk/services.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai





  • Hayley Stanton

    Hi, I’m Hayley - the original quieteer. I, too, identify as a quiet person. I’m naturally a highly sensitive introvert and I love and appreciate my quiet strengths now, but I spent much of my life not feeling good enough and experiencing social anxiety. I missed so many opportunities because I was afraid of being judged harshly, criticised and rejected – and because I doubted that I had the ‘right’ personality to succeed. Quiet Connections exists in part because I had a fantastic coach who helped me to work through old patterns of keeping myself small and hidden so that I could show up and be seen to play my part in creating the more connected, curious and compassionate world that I dream of. Now, I’m passionate about helping quiet people discover their unique qualities, gifts, passions and experiences and explore how best to use these to express themselves more authentically and contribute to the world in a way that works with their quieter or more sensitive nature. Get to know me here.

  • Stacie Clark

    Hello! I'm Stacie... I was the girl who awkwardly blurted out half-formed sentences. Pretended to not know much - about a lot of things! Would go on a date to sit in silence. And nervously laughed to hide the fear of speaking. I support people like yourself, who feel anxious in social situations, because I’ve been there too and I know it sucks. I believe we all have amazing gifts and qualities within us, waiting to be expressed, and I love helping individuals like you, find your own quiet ways to let them shine.

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