This isn't what you usually write about, but I know you've posted about it before on Instagram. I've been getting a lot of social anxiety lately and the worst part always comes the day after the event. I beat myself up about everything I said until I feel like I should never go out again because I'm such a screw up. What do you do on those days?
This is really something I can relate to and I'm sure a lot of others will as well, so thank you for giving us an opportunity to talk about it! My own social anxiety has definitely increased in the last couple of years, especially when it comes to events around body positivity. There it can feel like people already have an expectation of who I am, and I'm always scared of disappointing them in some way. I can spend days afterwards convincing myself of the ways that I did.
I don't have any quick fixes or definitive solutions for stopping anxiety in its tracks, but there are a few things that I try to remind myself on those days that I'll share with you:
Think about someone you love, a friend, a family member, anyone who you value as a person. Now imagine that they were in your shoes at this event, they said all the things you said and did the things you did. The next day would you tell that person any of the things you tell yourself? That they failed? That they're a screw up? That they should never go out again? Of course not, even if they'd bombed spectacularly you would still give them a break and believe they were worthy of your love.
There is no reason that you deserve to treat yourself any differently to how you would treat that person. Hold onto that.
Whenever I write about anxiety online, there are a few people who don't understand and say the wrong things, but there is always an overwhelming wave of people saying 'I feel this way too'. Even if the recent rise in talking about mental health issues doesn't bring us concrete answers, it at least has shown us that we aren't alone.
Which means the chances are that the majority of the time you spend second-guessing what to say or worrying about what other people think of you at these events, most of the other people there are doing the same thing. They are far too consumed with their own self doubt and insecurities to be keeping a record of everything you're saying, or judging you as harshly as you judge yourself.
After an event last month, I was so anxious the next day about the things I'd said and done that I ended up messaging multiple people to apologise for my perceived mistakes. They had no idea what I was talking about. They hadn't even noticed. People just aren't tuned into everything single thing you're doing in the same way you are.
The things you said that you're beating yourself up for now, why exactly were they not good enough? Did they not sound intelligent enough? Were you not funny enough? Were you a bit clumsy or just lacking charisma? Because if those things are the criteria for going out in public then only genius comedians who move gracefully through the world dazzling everyone in their path would be worthy of going out.
You don't have to be revolutionary every time you speak to be worth listening to. You don't have to put everyone in stitches with each line for people to enjoy your company. You don't have to dazzle to deserve to be seen. And you don't have to be perfect to hold value as a person. You just have to be.
Give yourself permission to be an imperfect human being, just like everyone else. And if remembering all that doesn't work, you can do what I do and spend the next day playing the Sims and spending time with your dogs who sure as hell aren't judging you. Or y'know, any distracting activity of your choosing and any beings that make you feel safe and loved.
Love & bopo,
P.S. If you like this column and want more advice like this, I wrote a whole book of it! You can find Body Positive Power here.