I find it very difficult to relax and enjoy myself in social situations. My friends are always inviting me to parties, although I suspect this is only because they feel sorry for me, and every Friday afternoon I dread the inevitable invitation to “drinks” after work. I don’t even like drinking alcohol!
Every time I make an excuse for not attending a party or get-together I go home feeling ashamed and left-out. If I feel I can’t get out of an invitation and I do end up attending a party, I almost always spend the whole night having painfully put-on conversations with people who try to get away from me as soon as it is polite to do so, or I stand in the wrong place, getting in people’s way, feeling awkward. I can’t even pluck up the courage to thank the host and say my goodbyes when I’ve had enough, so I either sneak off when no one’s looking, or have to stick it out until lots of other people start leaving, so that I don’t draw attention to myself.
At work, or with one or two close friends I feel very comfortable and confident being organised and busy. I enjoy interacting in these situations and believe that I am a good worker and a helpful friend. But in social situations, I feel like I have nothing to offer. I watch other confident girls who can dance and make people laugh, and always seem to know how to say the right things. Compared to them I feel old, and frumpy and useless.
I’m 28 and don’t have a boyfriend, or even anyone who seems to be interested in me. I fear becoming an old maid who stays at home and never has any fun. I truly do want to find a sould mate and fall in love, but how will I ever meet anybody who will love me like this?
Do you really believe that anybody else in these social situations is scrutinizing or criticizing you as harshly as you are judging yourself? I would say that they are probably far too busy trying to impress each other with their stories and jokes, and trying to keep up appearances to notice anybody else’s discomfort or awkwardness. Don’t be fooled by confidence. Most of it is just well-rehearsed bravado that people use to cover up their own insecurities. Have a look at all the people who need to drink or consume drugs in order to enjoy themselves in social situations. Or all the comfortable couples you see at parties. Or the ones who play music or dance or eat… These are all coping mechanisms that people use to avoid feeling left out, inadequate or exposed when they are in a situation without any obvious task to perform except to enjoy one another’s company. This in itself, for a lot of people, can be extremely difficult, tiresome or frightening. They way you feel is perfectly normal. Most people would feel exactly the same way if it weren’t for these ‘props’.
The fact that you have the courage to attend a party at all without drinking, without putting on an act or without a partner to hang off, is a very admirable thing in itself. Your honesty is much more than a lot of people can offer to these situations. Why do you need to offer anything more than your honest presence anyway? Imagine how much you would appreciate meeting and talking to someone just like you at one of these intimidating parties. How refreshing it would be to find someone who is real and sincere and not pretending to be anything more than that! The person who will love you will recognise this and will notice you because of it.
I don’t suggest that you make yourself attend all of the painful parties or get-togethers that you are invited to. Only go to the ones you genuinely do think you would enjoy, and leave whenever you want to. You are not under any obligation to stay if you are not enjoying yourself. You don’t need an excuse to leave. Be gracious and say goodbye confidently. Be aware of what you are projecting. People who shrink or apologise are often seen as victims or get-in-the-ways. You have no need to behave in this way, and if you do, it’s only because you automatically choose to do so.
Remember that when you go to a party or “drinks” with colleagues, you are doing so because it’s an opportunity to relax, enjoy yourself, and enjoy other people’s company. You don’t need to provide anything more than your presence and you don’t need to achieve anything at all. Even if you don’t enjoy yourself, just observe it and accept it. Move on. Treat every occasion as an entertaining experiment that you participate in, rather than a test that you will either pass or fail. You don’t need to hide or be ashamed of yourself. You are your best quality!
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