If you’re anything like me, you get a little nervous to go out and socialize. Parties are supposed to be fun, but if you suffer from even a tinge of social anxiety, things can get a little hairy leading up to the event.
You may start worrying about what to wear, convincing yourself that you’ll either be underdressed or overdressed. You may obsess about your weight, and whether people will judge you for having put on a few pounds. Perhaps you fear that you won’t know what to say in conversation, or put your foot in your mouth at some point.
Pre-party jitters are pretty normal. Everyone feels a little unsure of themselves when anticipating new social situations. If social anxiety is a very familiar experience for you, here are some tips and things to remember:
- They aren’t thinking of you!
It’s easy to get worked up when we imagine that people are going to notice the zit on our nose, or that our clothes are a little out of date. But the truth is that no one is that interested in us! Mark Twain said it best: you wouldn’t be nearly as concerned about what people thought of you, if you realized how seldom they do. So be comforted in knowing that people are too busy thinking about themselves to notice every detail about you. Just go as you are and don’t worry about “what they think”…because chances are, they aren’t.
- You look great
If you struggle with self-esteem at all, you are likely underestimating how good you actually look. You probably look better than you realize. We are our worst critics so our self-evaluation is never going to be spot on. We are hyper-aware of our flaws, flaws that no one else will even notice. So just practice saying “I look great—I am enough, just the way I am. Say this to yourself all the way to the party.
- Keep your eyes peeled for “Nervous Nellie”
When we’re nervous, it’s so easy to think that we’re the only one feeling that way. But there’s a good chance that someone else at the party is even more nervous than you. Of course, most people won’t appear to be nervous, but keep a lookout for someone who may be standing or sitting alone and then approach him or her. Strike up a conversation and before you know it, you’ll both be feeling more comfortable. It may not always be easy to walk up to a group that’s already engaged in conversation, but you can bet that someone who isn’t talking to anyone will be very open to having a friendly person to chat with.
- Offer to help out
My best weapon for party awkwardness is offering to help out. I usually don’t even offer, I just start doing it! I take a few dirty dishes into the kitchen, look for a bowl of chips that needs replenishing, etc. And when I do ask the host what I can do to be helpful, she always looks at me with such relief! She is trying to do everything herself, forgetting that others want to help out. And to know that someone took the time to ask, and is available to help, makes her load immediately lighter. You will easily connect with others who are helping out, which will make you feel connected and useful.
Avoiding parties simply because you feel uncomfortable shouldn’t be an option when you employ these tips to help you have a better time. Push through the early moments of awkwardness, get outside of your head by helping out or reaching out to someone who looks a little lonely and you’ll see how much fun you can have. We all crave connection…we just have to step outside our comfort zone to achieve it.
Tricia Nelson is the host of the Heal Your Hunger podcast and founder of Heal Your Hunger Inc., which helps people get to the heart of why they overeat and how to stop. Get more of Tricia’s free holiday tips here.