The Wordstrumpet has a nice posting about anxiety called “The Things that Scare You.” For her it was going out and eaten alone in a nice public restaurant. She even commented how this sounds really silly to most people.
Thing is though I don’t think it sounds nearly as silly as she might think it does. It turns out a lot of us, maybe even most, have insecurities that we work very hard at not letting other see or we avoid situations that make us feel uncomfortable. For me, (only one example of many) I’m not a party person. I feel very uncomfortable in social situations especially when I don’t know anybody. I’m like a spectator – observing but removed. To top it off I have trouble reading people’s reactions when I am talking to them. Odd, how if I was at another table watching myself I can pick up the subtle clues, but I am blind when they are directly in front of me. This may be something as simple as not catching on that the other person is not interested in what I’m talking about or because they’re being nice to me thinking they actually like me – when actually they’re just being congenial.
So in the past I would just sit in the chair watching everybody or stuffing my face full of food and point of full mouth indicating I cannot talk. What I discovered, which seems to occur 15+ years later than I really need it, is the majority of people in the room are also insecure, they’re just better at hiding it. They have no interest in me and are not keeping a scorecard. The basic truth is that no one cares that I am a dork except me. This was a very liberating realization, almost an epiphany. This freed me to approach people and introduce myself without the fear of them worry about who is this bozo coming over here.
Do you recall the Star Wars Kid? He was this kid who made a video of himself pretending he was in Star Wars. He was publicly humiliated at his high school causing him great distress. And yet – if he had decided to embrace his inner nerd, he could have become a celebrity and have used that fame to advance himself. When I first saw the original clip I had two reactions. The first was that this poor guy was making a fool of himself and being humiliated, and the second was a wish that I was daring enough to put myself out like that.
We are in far more in control over daily lives then we actually know. It’s easy to say don’t be afraid to do something different. It’s harder to do it. I was always scared about what people thought of me. The realization that people actually don’t care about me at all let me take control of the situation. Showing confidence, even when I wasn’t, people just assumed I was in control. Long time ago I walked into a restricted area by accident. Because I acted like I belonged there no one questioned me. It’s kind of like Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer. He talks about projecting the energy that lets your dog know who’s in control. Well the same thing is true for people – by project confidence and they are confident in you. So those of you who have an anxiety that is hindering you, just remember that everybody is as screwed up as you are and that most of the “successful people”, like myself, fear that someday it will be discovered that we are faking it. So pick a situation that makes you anxious and confronted. Start out small. It may be hard but you will surprise yourself, you will live through it.