Updated: Dec 24, 2019
So a couple of months ago I did something terrifying for me.
I talked to strangers.
It was one of the hardest things I've done in a long time.
See, I've struggled with social anxiety for much of my life. Most of it, actually. I can't really remember a time when I wasn't anxious socially. Well, that's not true. There have been pockets of time where I wasn't. Where I was even confident. Months. Even a year or two.
But it's been a while since the last pocket.
I started working on my mental health seriously about 8 years ago. I started researching and studying and thinking and pondering and praying. A lot. Trying to understand what was going on with me. What had been going on with me for most of my life.
And I've found a lot of answers.
And I've grown a lot.
And it's been really hard and really painful and sometimes I've felt like I've gotten worse rather than better.
But a few months ago, I knew I was at a pretty good point, and I wanted to move a little bit more toward health and connection and vulnerability.
So I thought I should try talking to some strangers.
And I was terrified.
I went to this nature path over by my house where a lot of people go to walk. It's really beautiful and peaceful. There's a little river running through it and tons of trees and plants. Right in the middle of the city, it's like an oasis.
I love nature and I think it's really, really important for us to be in it as much as possible. So I try to do that as often as I can.
But on this particular Saturday, apparently everybody in the world and their dog (literally....well, okay not literally. But there were a lot of dogs there) felt the same way.
There were people walking alone, people walking their dogs, people walking in groups, and then a million people taking engagement photos. Around every bend there seemed to be some new couple hugging and smiling and looking longingly into each other's eyes while a photographer quickly snapped photos and gave instructions.
I actually love love so I didn't mind. But it was a little awkward at times trying to navigate my way right through the middle of someone else's intimate moment.
I had my camera with me because I had a plan.
I had been working on a youtube channel for a little while. My focus was on vulnerability and connection. I had done a few interviews with people that I met on Instagram, and that was a little bit nerve-wracking. But not so much because it was planned and they were expecting me and expecting a conversation.
But talking to strangers was different. It was unpredictable. Nobody was expecting me. Nobody was expecting me to ask them questions. So the chance of rejection was there.
I think that's what scared me.
I think that, at the core, is what always scares me.
I'm working through it, but I think that's the trauma.
That I might be rejected. Because I'm not enough.
So anyway, this day I was carrying my camera and my plan was to ask people to answer a vulnerable question for my youtube channel.
So I started walking around that place. I walked. And walked. And walked. Each time I approached someone, the anxiety started building. The closer I got to them, the more intense it got. My breathing and my heart sped up. My mind was racing. Sometimes my body even gets shaky if I'm really anxious.
For probably an hour I walked around that path, passing by many people. Backing out at the last moment and just passing them by.
Sometimes I would give them a nod or a smile, or even a "hi, how are you?".
And then immediately I would be frustrated with myself because I hadn't done what I set out to do. Because I had been too scared.
Until then....I finally did it!!
It was awkward and clumsy. I think it made that first lady really uncomfortable.
When I asked her if she would answer a vulnerable question on camera she turned me down. Nicely. But still a rejection. It's really understandable. A stranger approaching you and asking you to answer a vulnerable question on camera? A little scary. So I totally get her hesitation.
And yet, it felt like a failure. And it was discouraging.
BUT...I tried again. And again.
By the time I went home I had two interviews with strangers. Short ones. They answered the question "what do you like about yourself?". Their answers were wonderful and interesting and inspiring even.
The most interesting thing I took from that experience was how I was technically proud of myself for having done such a hard thing, and yet my emotions were still mostly in line with how I felt before.
My thoughts were critical. Harsh. Instead of thinking about the fact that I had just pushed through some fear and connected with some people and done this really challenging thing, I was still also thinking about all the things I said wrong, or the right things I should have said but didn't.
What I realized was how unwilling I am so much of the time to accept positivity. Kindness. Peace. Love. Praise.
That's not meant to spark pity. It was a revelation to me. It inspired me to ask more questions. To be more honest with myself. Why was I so unwilling to accept the goodness? The love? Why was I unable to rest in the thought that I had done a good thing? Why couldn't I feel like it was enough? Like I was enough?
The answer is complex and filled with old stories and traumas and things that are not meant for this post. Maybe some future one.
But mostly I became aware of some patterns. Some mental habits. Very critical ones. Negative ones. Harsh ones.
There is this quote from Brene Brown that says: "Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love."
I don't do this. I mean to. I try. So I guess sometimes I do it. Well, what I should say is that I used to not do this. Now I'm trying to.
Trying to change those mental patterns. Those mental habits.
It's been a slow process, but a really important one.
Just to be aware of what I'm saying to myself internally all the time. It's a mean place to be sometimes. And I am trying to face that. And challenge those beliefs.
And as I do that, over and over again, I reprogram. I set new habits.
At least that's the goal.
Oh, if you want to watch this video that's a little cringey for me with poor audio, here you go:
There you go;)
Oh and you can also get my book You Are Enough here. It's my attempt to convince you that you are always enough for love and happiness. As it was my attempt to convince myself of the same thing.