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What you need to know about joining a Quiet Connections Cornwall gathering when you experience social anxiety

Quiet Get-Together - Charlestown Walk

When you experience social anxiety, social gatherings can seem endlessly daunting, and it can often feel as though the safest option is to gracefully bow out and avoid such situations. I know this because I have done it countless times, and I know I probably will do it at least a few more times in my life. We often feel as though there will be a certain pressure when engaging in social situations: what if I say the wrong thing; what if people laugh; what if something- anything- doesn’t go the way I expect it to? I know the feeling of a thousand and one questions and fears swimming through my head regarding events, parties, gatherings, sometimes even just meeting up with someone to have a drink. I am slowly learning to overcome those thoughts and fears, and I want to share my experiences of joining social gatherings in Cornwall so that you can too.

What I’ve experienced at Quiet Connections social gatherings

Earlier this month, I attended a coastal walk with Quiet Connections from Charlestown to Porthpean, and I won’t lie I was a bit nervous beforehand. I brought my younger sister along (she’s on her school holidays and wanted something to do!), and I was aware that I might have to make a conscious effort to bring her into conversations since I already knew people who were going on the walk and she knew none. In hindsight, I should have remembered that it wouldn’t just be me looking out for her, but everyone on the walk. There were a small group of us, and not once did she feel left out or awkward, despite going into it only knowing me. I felt ridiculously proud of her, as whilst I think she was a bit unsure at first, she didn’t shy away from conversation, and I know that even if she had, she would have had everyone’s support.

It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that regardless of the fact they’d never met her before, they still had her back and made her feel comfortable. When I first asked her if she would like to come along, I wasn’t sure if she would accept or not, as I knew it might seem a bit intimidating to join a group of new people, and I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had graciously declined. I think that it really helped that I was able to explain to her what to expect and how lovely everyone would be, as it reassured her that she was capable of it.

I’m writing this in the hopes that others like my sister who are interested in joining in with any of Quiet Connections gatherings but feel a little socially anxious, might feel a bit more informed and ready to take that step. Any Quiet gathering exudes a welcoming feeling, and whilst you are fully supported to contribute whatever you might like, there is absolutely no pressure to do anything that you don’t want to. Everyone will 100% understand if you don’t feel entirely ready to fully join in, they get that sometimes it’s a big enough comfort zone stretch to attend the gathering, and you may want to work up to contributing to conversations or activities. It can feel daunting, and nobody will begrudge you the fact that it might take a lot of courage to attend. Everyone attending has experienced social anxiety on some level before. But when you do join a social gathering, it can be incredibly worthwhile and pride inducing overcoming something that does feel so achingly scary.

When I attended my first Quiet Connections gathering, I was ever so slightly freaking out beforehand, as I had only ever met Hayley once, and aside from her, knew nobody else. I was welcomed so easily and it made me feel so valued, I was endlessly glad that I hadn’t made up some excuse as to why I couldn’t go. It’s kind of like dipping your toes into a pool: worried about how cold it’s going to be beforehand, and then once your toes are in, the rest of your body follows, and eventually you don’t even notice that you are submerged in the exact cold that you were worried about before. (If you’ve read any of my other blog posts then you’ll know that I love a vaguely odd analogy!).

Your questions, answered.

Let’s go back to the questions that I laid out at the beginning; the questions that we fearfully focus on when thinking about social gatherings, and truthfully answer them:

What if I say the wrong thing?

You’re going to be with people who get exactly what it’s like to stumble over their words, or panic and say something they didn’t really mean to say. No one will hold it against you, and nothing bad will happen. Nobody is perfect, and if it happens, people will get it.

What if people laugh?

No one will laugh, it’s as simple as that. I know it’s not easy to make yourself believe this, but no one will laugh at you. No one is here to make you feel bad. When I attended the Speaking Connections group, I choose to join in with a game where we used situation cards from a game to create a story, and my group ended up making the most ridiculous story (I’m talking defeating the monster and then using our leftover food card to suggest a bbq), and whilst we did laugh a hell of a lot, it was with each other, not at each other.

What if something doesn’t go the way I expect it to?

Everything will be okay. Like I said before, everybody is incredibly supportive and understands how you feel, so you won’t be alone or feel isolated if something doesn’t go how you expect it to. There will always be a Quiet Connections’ Coach there to support you, and the group looks out for each other too. Often going into social gatherings, we expect things to be worse than they actually are, so perhaps things not going the way you expect them to could actually be a good thing.

Want to know more about Quiet Connections social gatherings?

Hopefully this post helps to make the Cornwall social gatherings seem less daunting for you if, like me, you experience social anxiety too. And that it gives you a better idea of what to expect when you attend a Quiet Connections gathering to put you at ease. If you have any questions whatsoever regarding our social gatherings, please leave them in the comments below so that we can dispel any worries or hesitations that you may have.

To find out when the next Quiet Connections gathering is, Join the Quiet Community or Follow us on Facebook.

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