I am not very good with the introductory meeting of people. After “Hi, How are you?” I end up rambling or stumbling to find things to say. Often times, I just ask questions. It’s the easiest way for me not to have to talk but make the other person know I’m interested. Me as a writer and me as a talker are two very different beasts.
Step 1: Signing Up For It
In order to conquer my social anxiety, I signed up for a watercolor class. I thought it would be fun for my next couple of posts to talk about what I learned in the class. But for this post, I wanted to talk about the awkwardness of the class and how it went.
I got enough bravery to sign up for the class and was excited when I even found a groupon that would let me take it less expensively. The class was a 20 minute drive from me and at a place I’ve never been to before. It involved meeting new people, learning new things, and being ok with my imperfection in front of people both with art and with talking. So it was a good place to be: uncomfortable, yet non-threatening overall.
Step 2: Getting There
The day of the class came and I was feeling a sense of dread as I usually do with these things. I decided not to eat anything because that would make me sick, so I just drank some water and then got my things and left. I was extremely nervous about just getting there because it was in a city I don’t go to that often and I was worried about getting lost. I was able to find it though and once I got there, half of the anxiety I had at the onset was gone. I walked up to the desk and asked about the class and what room it was in. The greeter didn’t seem to know what class I was talking about, so I had a few seconds of internal doubt, then quick panic because I wondered if I had the wrong day, the wrong time, or something else. Turned out it was the greeter who was wrong.
Step 3: Meeting New People
I walked into the class and was sort of flustered. It wasn’t that it was overwhelming or I was overly anxious, but having to talk to new people just makes me a jittery mess. I seem to lose my bearings a bit, and in this instance, I thought one of the students was the teacher and tried to pay her. She said “Oh, I’m not the teacher.” Oh crap. I was able to swing things around though when I said “Oh, you look very teacherly though!” and the class laughed. Oiy. I have to learn to be ok with my human-ness. I usually beat myself up for such mistakes, but today I wasn’t about that.
Thankfully the teacher was a bit of a mess herself. She was an older woman, very laid back and comical, and her knee was in a brace. Because of that, she couldn’t teach exactly how she wanted and that made for an interesting class experience. Most of the students were older except for me and another woman. There were only 8 people in the class. Most of them were very nice although the woman I mistook for a teacher seemed kind of cranky. Other than that though, I liked everyone.
Step 4: Talking About Myself
In the beginning of the class, we had to go around the room, say our name and something interesting about ourselves. This was another “oh crap” moment for me. I hate speaking in public and I especially hate talking about myself in front of people. Somehow, I managed to calmly speak, and was rather relaxed. I just reminded myself that no one was judging me. I didn’t want to come up with “something interesting” because I didn’t feel very interesting as a person, but I told everyone I was a triplet (leaving out the sad bits of my brother’s death) and joked that my sister and I looked so much alike, but my brother looked like he belonged to someone else’s family. They all laughed. And I relaxed a lot more after I realized I didn’t sound too much like an idiot.
Step 5: Getting Comfortable With Others
After a bit, the lady sitting next to me told me she a daughter who had twins, but the twin died at birth. I didn’t share my story or go into detail about my life. But I did offer her sympathy. She seemed to warm up to me throughout the class and I tried to help her when she didn’t understand what we were supposed to do. I laughed at my mistakes and she laughed at her own. Towards the end of class, she created a colorful background with watercolors and used an effect that we learned and I told her how interesting that turned out. I used the opportunity to try to open up with kind words, although I didn’t care to share anything more about who I was. As an INFJ, I find this extremely difficult to do and it’s not something I do with most people until I trust them completely. But, I have no qualms about being kind hearted and caring about others. So, that’s what I did.
Step 6: Serving & Helping Others
At one point, the teacher asked if I wouldn’t mind passing out some materials. I had to get up and go to each person and pass out soap, salt, and plastic wrap. I realized that I do enjoy the “helping” parts of things. I think it’s just in my nature to help others. If I had to do life all over again, I’d probably pick a career in therapy or a hospital setting. But even though I never went into those fields, I still have always been a helper with children and the arts. While I was in class, this was something that really struck me about myself and made me realize why the work I have been doing (I work from home) has been so unsatisfying. But that’s another post for another day.
After we finished, we all cleaned up and some of the classmates said “goodbye” to me. I will return next week to that same class and do the last lesson. After three hours, I felt fine but I was also glad to go home. Being around people and being “on” the entire time is hard for me and a little exhausting. But I think overall, I did really well and I was able to get my feet wet around people and realize it wasn’t so scary after all.
Thoughts on Anxiety of Meeting People
Most of the anxiety of meeting new people or going new places is anticipatory. I think the worst or wonder about the unknowns and work myself up into thinking it will be bad. Then I feel dread. But once I’m in it, it goes well. I’ll never like talking in front of people, but I have learned to do it. It helps when the class is small. I can’t stand being put on the spot, but I endure it most of the time. The lesson I took away is that most of the time, my imagined scenarios are completely false and I end up having fun. That was the case with the watercolor class.
Learning New Things & Perfectionism
As far as what I learned, I actually knew a good portion of what she was teaching so maybe that was why my comfort level was good too. I didn’t feel too much like a screw up and even when I did mess up, everyone else was too. The perfectionist in me has a hard time messing up in front of other people whether that’s talking, doing projects, or even if I’m just sitting there and feel like someone is judging my appearance. I don’t like being watched while I work either so sometimes in classes like that, I tend to get nervous. But I was proud of myself for following through, doing well, and not letting anxiety control my time there.
Practice, Practice, Practice
I think the more I try meeting new people, the better I will get at it. It’s hard to walk up to someone and greet them, but practicing helps. I am realizing that meeting with people isn’t some big, scary monster. People genuinely are kind towards me because I’m kind towards them. I realize I still need to protect parts of myself with boundaries, but not everyone is the big, bad wolf out to get me and ruin me (like they have in the past).
Being hurt by people is the hardest thing to have to work through, but the process is freeing when you do realize you matter and that there are others out there who genuinely care. It’s taken me awhile to get to this point because of all the damage the wrong people caused for me in my life, but shutting out everyone was only damaging me.
My goal moving forward is to embrace my imperfections and enjoy myself more. I do have a lot to offer the universe, but not everyone will be apart of my journey.