Most people are really surprised to learn I have social anxiety. I don't really fit their preconceived ideas about how a person with anxiety looks and acts. I am a total extrovert. I love to share my thoughts about issues, speak out, and advocate for others. I've been an actress and singer since childhood, often performing for large crowds. I have been known to share even the most private details of my life with the world through my writing. So, honestly, there are plenty of things moms with social anxiety won't tell you, but I will.
Things like how hard it is for me to make friends and how much I worry about my ability to fit in. I can testify in front of Congress without breaking a sweat, but there's no way I would ask another mom out for coffee. And when I do meet up with new friends, I constantly worry that I will do or say the wrong thing (and sometimes seriously put my foot in my mouth). To make matters worse, I seem to have an invisible tattoo that says, "Tell me your life story." Not a day passes that I don't hear intimate details of a stranger's life in the check out line. That is, if I leave the house.
My husband once asked me why I have so many friends on social media. Honestly, it gives me a chance to screen people before I let them into my circle and to think about what I say before I say it. Also, it helps that I can edit my statements when communicating online. My editor doesn't work very well in real time and especially not when I feel anxious and awkward. And don't even mention talking on the phone. It is seriously my nemesis. Not only do I have to think fast, but I can't see the look on people's faces when I say something super awkward like telling the school secretary, "I love you," before hanging up.
Here's just a few things I wish I could let people know about my social anxiety. (I'd be lying if I told you that writing this didn't make me freak out a little.)
If I don't seem anxious, it's because I've gotten pretty darn good at hiding it. Somehow, when you have blue hair and bright red lipstick, people assume you are confident. I have also come up with quite a few safe topics of conversation, stock responses, and easy ways to disengage if things don't go well.
So scared. I don't want to embarrass myself, or worse, hurt someone's feelings. When you are as socially awkward as this hot mess mom, it happens, as lot.
I flipping hate play dates, unless they involve me wearing pajamas, drinking wine, and watching Netflix. Alone. Wait, that doesn't sound like a play date, you say? Exactly.
I want my kids to have friends, go to parties, and have play dates. I really do. So, I suck it up and go (making myself a miserable mess) or I find an excuse not go, feel terrible about it, and bribe them with a safe activity like going to a movie or baking cookies instead. We bake a lot at our house.
This one is funny, because I am literally the answer to the question, "Which one of these people does not belong?" when it comes to our neighborhood and my kids' school. As a blue-haired, tattooed, outspoken feminist in a red state, I actually don't fit in, which makes me even more anxious, especially when I have to do business or advocate for my kids.
Nope. Not doing it. It's like major dental work to get me to place a phone call to a stranger. You are better off texting me or sending me a message on social media, if you want me to respond.
As much as I need other people to fuel my inner extrovert, I also need some serious alone time. I need to be able to calm and build myself up before heading out to face the world, and sometimes that means hiding in the bathroom or locking my bedroom door for a minute.
You can tell I am anxious when I suddenly verbally vomit all over someone to avoid literally vomiting all over my shoes.
It takes a lot of energy to get through the day when you have five kids, and even more energy when you spend a lot of time worrying about the next play date or parent-teacher meeting.
Meeting people is so scary for me, that I often don't go. I'm that person who RSVPs yes, and then finds an excuse (any excuse) to change my response. Annoying AF, I know. Sorry, but I really can't help it.
I promise, though, when I actually get to know you, we'll hang out (if you promise that it can be one-on-one and at my house).