Social anxiety is, well, awful. Things that "should" be easy, aren't. Things that "should" make me feel good, don't. I'm constantly on edge, never comfortable unless I'm at home or in another safe space. When I see other moms doing things so (I assume) effortlessly — getting coffee, going shopping, meeting up for playdates — I feel like an outsider. So many people live with anxiety disorders, so I have no doubt there are things moms with social anxiety with other moms knew.
A few years ago, when my older son was a toddler, I joined a local moms group on Facebook. All the women knew one another already and had developed close friendships as a result. While they weren't unwelcoming, I was always acutely aware of being "the new one." At one particular gathering, five or six moms and their toddlers sat and chatting in someone's back yard; friendly and familiar. I was pointedly uncomfortable and after an hour of no one speaking to me at all, I left in tears. The next day I left the group and still, three years later, refuse to go to any function where I don't know at least half the attendees. That particular incident was traumatic, and only aided my social anxiety.
So, in the name of solidarity with my socially anxious sisters everywhere, here's a list of things moms with social anxiety wish other moms knew.
In Theory, We Really Want To Hang Out With You...
The idea of having friends is appealing. Having someone to laugh with and to share the burdens of life and motherhood with is just a lovely thought, and nothing short of tempting.
We see moms groups and moms nights out and we wish we were going, even if we are invited (because let's face it, we aren't going. Even if we tell you we are, we will most likely panic and bail the day of).
...But Just Thinking About It Freaks Us Out
Even if we have this deep yearning desire to have close friends and hang out and be social, it's freakin' terrifying. We cannot think of a more triggering scenario than sitting around with a bunch of other people, chatting. Chatting? Small talk? Oh. Hell. No. Kill me know. I'll just be over here, scrolling through Facebook while simultaneously feeling jealous and alone.
We're Too Uncomfortable To Join In On The Conversation
I hear your conversation and I'm interested. In fact, I may even have things to contribute on the topic at hand. But whenever I decide to speak, I start to overthink it. "Is it ok to just jump in?" "What if I'm actually interrupting and don't realize it" "Will they think I'm weird for just insinuating myself into their conversation?"
By the time I figure it all out, the moment has passed, the conversation has moved on, and I'm left sitting there like an eavesdropping creeper.
We're Constantly Wondering What You Think Of Us...
I'm definitely wondering if you also think I'm an eavesdropping creeper. Or maybe "that weird mom." I'm second guessing what I wore and what my kid wore. In fact, I'm second guessing life, at this point.
...Or If You're Judging Us
Inevitably and without fail, I'll start to get really spun up. I just know you don't like me. In fact, I'm pretty positive you think I'm awkward and weird. You definitely think I'm fat, right? You think my hair is bad or my van is messy or my kid is odd. I just know it.
I start to get really wrapped up in my own thoughts and I project all that onto what you're thinking about me, how you see me.
We're Not Sure We're Saying The Right Things
I wonder if I'm saying the "right" things. In fact, I'm wondering what the "right things to say" even are.
Do you care what I have to say about taking my kid to the zoo or what I made for dinner last night? Does any of that matter at all and, if it doesn't, what should I be talking about instead? It's just all so much that, well, shutting down seems like an easier option.
We're Convinced You'll Never Want To Hang Out With Us Again
I'll say, "Oh, look at the time," and make excuses to leave as quickly as possible because, at this point, I'm pretty sure I'm doing you a favor. I think you'll be relieved that I'm going and that you don't have to tolerate my babbling any longer.
I don't even bother saying "let's do this again sometime" because, well, why would you want to?
We'll Probably Cry When We Leave
Once my kid is buckled safely into his seat and he can't see me, I cry. Sometimes I don't even wait till I get to the car, if I'm being honest. Sometimes the tears start leaking while I'm still walking away, because this entire outing just seems like a failure.
We'll Send You A Friend Request, Then Delete It
If we've just met, I will send you a friend request. Then I'll delete it. Then I'll send it again. Then, of course, I'll delete it. This will undoubtably continue until you either catch it before I delete it, or I realize I'm being silly and stop because of course you aren't even going to remember who I am.
If you do remember me, you'll probably think I'm a weird stalker for sending you a friend request right after meeting you.
If You Show Any Interest In Hanging Out Again, We'll Assume You're Just Trying To Be Nice
If the remarkable happens and you actually do get in touch with me to hang out, I'll just assume you're trying to be polite. I'll most likely say no.
I'll have a pit in my stomach and I'll feel like an idiot, but I'll say no and tell myself it's because you don't really want to hang out. I'll convince myself that I'm saving us both a bunch of stress. Ugh.