Recently, I’ve come to realize I have much more anxiety than I thought. Not on a daily basis worrying about life issues, or work stress, or kid issues, or anything like that. Mine is in the form of SOCIAL anxiety, where the introvert in me wants to run for the hills every time she is around strangers.
I always knew that new people made me uncomfortable, but it’s only been recently where I have developed this blatant awareness of “situational aversion,” let’s call it.
Whenever I have a family affair to go to locally, I have a panic attack. Don’t get me wrong—my OC family is absolutely amazing and warm and loving and I adore them. But, realistically, at a large social gathering with them, they obviously are the hosts and have to mingle with all of their other guests. That leaves me to my lonesome, and in the incredibly scary territory of having to mingle with strangers, strike up random conversations, and try not to look like a weirdo doing it.
I recently had to go to one such event, and I had a plan to escape within the hour—but instead, I channeled the deepest recesses of my soul to find common ground with some strangers and luckily ended up chatting with a variety of very nice people. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed myself and stayed two hours longer than expected! I forced myself outside of my comfort zone, faced my fears, and was proud of myself for not shrinking away into a lonely table for one.
But then came one of the biggest social challenges I have ever encountered in my life—auditioning for a community theater musical in front of close to 100 strangers.
Holy Hell. Literally. I knew ONE person in that room. Now, understand that I have auditioned for musicals before, and performed on stage, and I didn’t have a lick of anxiety (except for the very first time, before knowing a single person. But now, we’re all friends and it’s no biggie for me). Those same people at the other studio were also a crowd of maybe 10, 80% of which I knew, so with a majority presence of friends, I had very little to stress about.
But at this new place, which filled an auditorium and was so seriously professional? I had the biggest panic attack of my life as I was called on stage to audition. I froze. I was God awful. Not that I can sing all that well to begin with, but they surprised me by having music, and you cannot do that to a Virgo who prepared to sing acapella. So there I was, in front of a sea of unknown faces, about to have a meltdown and in tears. I dd find the courage to ask if I could do it again without music, and while I fared better, I certainly did not win over or get the opportunity to show them my stage potential.
The anxiety continued the next night with a dance audition. It was almost debilitating, but the fact that I got to do it with 3 others on the stage at the same time made it less horrific to endure. By night three, it was acting—and while again, I wouldn’t win any Oscars with my abilities, maybe the fact that it was speaking and expression—no different than me giving public speeches, which I actually love doing—I had much more confidence and the anxiety lessened a bit.
But the struggle continues even now that casting is done, I’ve met nice people, and we’ve moved on from that kind of spotlight.
I am still having issues being in that crowd. I feel overwhelmed. There is so much social stimulation that I am not enjoying myself as much as I should. I LOVE acting. I LOVE being in musicals. I LOVE doing this with my daughter. I love everything about the stage and spotlight—but not here. Not in this big of a cast. In this serious of a performance (Which is amazing, by the way. Top notch. Just not as relaxed as I personally had hoped it would be).
For those who know me, they think I am this extrovert, and tell me I’m crazy whenever I say I really am an introvert. When I am around people I know and love—or even meeting people in a one-in-one situation, like in dating, I am perfectly fine. I am my sparkly self, full of life and engaging. So, of course, people who “know me” can’t believe that I would be anything but.
However, I’m not like Baby from Dirty Dancing. You can stick me in a corner, and I’ll be just fine there.
I don’t know if I will ever commit to this theater again and go through the social pressure it creates within me. I don’t know if I will ever feel comfortable in large party situation without at least a plus one who is as unknown as I am. I don’t know if putting myself in these situations will ever “cure” the panic or fear that bubbles up that makes me want to cancel and hide under my covers.
But what I do know is that when I push myself to face it, whether it’s a good outcome or meh or a disaster, it’s always worth it to try. Because sometimes, I have surprised myself and had amazing experiences that warm me up on the inside—and that potential reward is good enough for me to keep trying my best and opening up in uncomfortable situations.
Have you ever felt this way? Share your experiences with me <3