Sunday I went on the most beautiful Mt.Rainier hike with 32 people (32!). When it comes to social situations I think it’s pretty clear around these parts that I lean towards the introverted side, and by “lean towards” I mean I have moderate panic attacks every time I am forced into a social situation that isn’t hanging out with a good friend one on one. I was extremely anxious about the journey…not only was it a very large group activity but prior to the hike I only really knew one of my fellow hikers. I tried not to waste time fretting over what to talk about or how to avoid making socially inappropriate jokes or whether or not I would look more like Elle Woods or a fashionably challenged toddler in my hot pink hiking outfit. I went against my natural reaction and did my best to just “chill the eff out”, advice I’ve been giving myself fairly often recently.
When it comes to relationships, social situations and really pretty much anything in life isn’t it better to relax rather than overanalyzing and over stressing? I decided to try my best not to over think. In the case of my lovely Mt.Rainier hike I had to give myself a pep talk prior and remind myself that more than likely none of the 32 strangers who had never met me before hated me. I thought maybe, just maybe there could be someone on the hike…besides the friend who invited me of course, who would actually want to talk to me. So I threw a few positive vibes into the universe, did my best to suppress my social anxiety and caravanned the two hours up to Mt.Rainier national park.
As it turns out my new “chill” perspective worked in my favor. The car ride up to the mountain was actually fun. Instead of stuttering awkwardly and tripping over my words I did my best to contribute to conversation. When someone cut me off in mid sentence or didn’t hear me when I spoke I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt instead of my usual fallback (assuming they hate me and think I’m stupid and don’t care what I have to say). My new non-neurotic perspective paid off. My entire hike was spent laughing, and talking with new people I had never met (in fact I spent very little time with my safety blanket, the guy who had invited me). For the first time in way more time than I care to admit I found myself truly believing that I was actually a person capable of talking to new people and dare I say it…making new friends!
Is my social anxiety cured? No. There were moments I felt insecure about being around so many new people, I felt less intelligent for not being capable of engaging in their tech talk (I was primarily around software engineer developer computer hacker people) but overall I felt relatively…normal. I don’t think I will ever be someone who goes looking for large group events (my personal preference is small and intimate) but each time I complete one without a breakdown into tears or a panic attack is a small accomplishment in my book. A baby step towards functioning like a real person right?
How were your weekends pretty unicorn babies? Did you mountain goat your way up any mountains? Make any new friends? Face any of your fears? I want to hear all about it!