I’ve been in a bit of a down mood lately. It’s not depressed, lonely, or bored. After a lot of self-analysis (probably way, way too much), I think I just felt stuck in a rut and a bit housebound. In my efforts to protect my health, and also not spend too much money, I keep myself from going out much.
When I started noticing that my longest ‘in person’ conversations were with the cashier at the pharmacy, and I considered going to the library to return books “socializing,” then there was a problem. I am an introvert and love my quiet sanctuary of a home. However, I still seem to need to be around people sometimes. In particular, I like to be doing something where I can be around others while doing something fun or useful. I suffer from social anxiety and am uncomfortable just standing around in groups of people. When we are involved in an activity, I can get lost in it and forget my nervousness.
So, a strange thing happened the other week, while I was pondering my ho-hum mood.
Out of the blue, I got a message from a lady named Nancy Straw, whom I recognized as someone who had shown interest in my Blog and was a Facebook friend. She thought my name was on a list of volunteers for a charity event she was organizing for her company, Deloitte.
We figured out how the name mix-up occurred, and laughed about it. Then, on some whim, I decided to ask her about the event anyway, since she lives locally. She explained that it was a Celebrity Chef tasting dinner and silent auction to benefit the March of Dimes. She asked if I wanted the email with information she was sending to volunteers. “Sure,” I said, thinking that seemed the polite response.
An Uncertain First Step
I looked over the information and got to thinking about the event. Normally I have to pass on volunteer opportunities because I can’t physically handle them, or can’t commit to a schedule because I don’t know how I’ll feel. Social activities generally involve an activity such as eating out, which I can’t do because of food allergies. But this one had something I could do. I could certainly sit at a table and check in the guests. It required only a couple of hours on one day, and I just needed to be friendly. That I could do. So next thing I knew I was signed up. My whole mood shifted immediately. I had something interesting and useful to do and look forward to!
A few days later came the day of the charity event. I was nervous, but even more I was excited to be doing something different. I was happy about getting to meet a new friend in person. It even seemed she shared some of my anxiety issues and desire to get out and do more activities.
It ended up being a lot of fun! I got there early so I would feel acclimated before the commotion of people began. I found Nancy easily and nearly knocked her over with a big hug. The time passed quickly as the guests arrived, and then they even let us volunteers sample some of the decadent foods. I was amazed at how knowledgeable and considerate the chefs were in regard to my food allergies. Far from not being able to eat anything there, a couple of them made me custom dishes and invited me to stop by their restaurants for a meal where they would make sure there was something safe for me to eat.
I was blown away by how nice everyone was and forgot my nervousness. I even let the coordinators know I would be interested in doing something similar in the future.
Finding New Adventures
Nancy and I are looking forward to finding our common interests and checking out local places and events. I have definitely learned that it is beneficial for me to step out of my comfort zone, even if it feels scary at first, and try new things.
Tips for stepping out of Your comfort zone:
1. Challenge yourself to do one activity each month that is different than your normal routine.
2. Look in community newspapers, or online at volunteer or meet-up websites for opportunities to engage with people in your community.
3. Think about what skills, talents or other assets you bring to the table and find a way to incorporate them into an activity.
4. If you aren’t sure whether you will want to commit to the group or activity in the long term, start with just trying it out once and seeing if it feels right.
5. If people don’t seem as friendly and responsive to you as you would like, consider that they may be nervous or shy in the situation themselves. Try to engage someone one-on-one at an appropriate time.
6. If the event or opportunity doesn’t work out well, or you continue to feel uncomfortable, don’t feel like a failure or give up trying. Continue to look for new ways to reach out and be more engaged and you will find your fit.