Angels Among Us
Updated: Feb 19, 2018
Three years ago, I walked into the women’s meetup at church, and immediately felt uncomfortable. Pushing myself to socialize with people I don’t know is pretty far outside of my comfort zone.
I looked around for a safe place to sit/stand. I looked for someone to talk to who looked just as uncomfortable as I felt. I was shaking. My body felt hot. I wanted to crawl outside of my own skin and run back to my car.
I saw the pastor’s wife, whom I knew, across the room, so I timidly walked over to where she stood and smiled. She greeted me and told me how glad she was that I’d made it. I made a comment that sounded much more humorous in my head, and immediately felt awkward and stupid as the words fell clumsily from my mouth. We both stood there in silence for what seemed like forever, before she walked away to talk to someone else she knew.
Feeling rejected, I found a table with a few other ladies and sat down. I felt so self-conscious. What did she think of me? What did the rest of these women think of me? Did I look like I didn’t belong? I sure felt like I didn’t.
The women at the table were already immersed in conversation. I felt like even more of an outsider sitting there listening when I hadn’t even been invited. Like an intruder. I wanted so badly for one of them to make eye contact and smile or ask me a question. Something to let me know that I was welcome and invited in to the conversation.
It didn’t happen, and the more time that passed the more self-conscious and invisible I felt.
Once the organizer began speaking, I settled and felt a bit better. Everyone’s eyes were now on the person at the front of the room, and I didn’t have to worry about making anymore clumsy conversation.
This is how I’ve experienced these types of situations my whole life. Sometimes, it works out OK. Sometimes, an angel in yoga pants with a messy bun will approach me and smile- make a sarcastic comment or a joke- and break through my anxious layer of ice immediately.
Sometimes, I am confident enough to find myself again and make my own funny comment. If someone laughs, it can be enough to carry me through the whole event. If nobody does, I will probably curl in upon myself and not speak the rest of the time.
Sometimes, if the embarrassment and anxiety are too much, I’ll even leave early.
It isn’t because I’m some fragile, broken girl, who can’t handle rejection. It’s that my brain is my own worst enemy in moments like that, and I have a really difficult time shutting it down.
The things I hear in my own head in those difficult moments... the mean, sarcastic, angry voice that speaks to me when I’m feeling my most vulnerable... is perhaps the cruelest voice I’ve ever known. It’s as if I have this little person sitting on my shoulder, berating and insulting me constantly...and she has my voice.
In my victories, she is quiet... but when I fail...
...when I fail, she explodes in a barrage of the worst criticisms anyone could possibly hear about themselves.
Even writing this article, putting myself out there and feeling vulnerable, she’s whispering into my ear how pathetic I sound. How people are going to laugh at my words.
You all have no idea of the relief I feel when the views continue to go up. You have no idea how it comforts and encourages me when I read your messages or comments.
I am reminded that I am not the only one who struggles with feeling invisible in these situations. I am not the only mom sitting at home, surrounded by kiddos, who just wants to go to lunch with someone who understands what this life is like.
Who wants just ONE person in their life they can open up to without fear of judgement or ridicule.
Who wishes she were brave enough to go to a meetup or to a mom group without having to talk herself into it for weeks beforehand.
I am reminded that I can be that person for someone else.
As introverts, specifically those of us with social anxiety, we can be the person to make a social situation OK for someone else.
Look for the person leaning against the wall looking nervous.
Look for someone sitting by themselves on their phone.
Looks for the person nobody else is talking to, standing around awkwardly.
This may be their first time out of the house in months.
This probably took every single ounce of bravery they could muster.
Walk up to them and mention how awkward events like this always are.
Look up from your conversations and make eye contact.
Ask them a question so they know that they are welcome and included.
Laugh at their awkward jokes.
You could be the reason they stay.
You could be their angel.
No yoga pants or messy bun required.