By Viet Phan, Jaunty graduate
I've always suffered from social anxiety for as long as I can remember. During my childhood, any form of social interaction—from answering the telephone, to ordering a hamburger at McDonald's, to even speaking to my own family and friends—would make me feel anxious and tremble with fear. I was labeled as anti-social, passive, shy, and introverted, and because of that, I grew up with a lot of fear, shame, and guilt.
I coped with my anxiety the only way I knew how: by working extremely hard in life and by being really kind to others. I hoped that achieving success could help combat some of the negative labels that had been placed on me. I hoped that by sacrificing myself by helping others I would receive their appreciation and approval in return.
I worked hard at everything. I put in extra time at the office to advance my career. I trained for many hours at the gym to improve my physical appearance. I even pushed myself to take up public speaking and ballroom dancing classes to help overcome anxiety and find some comfort in my own skin. And I continued to do my best to make personal sacrifices for the benefit of others.
It all went according to plan, and eventually I found myself having everything I had ever wanted in life: a beautiful, loving girlfriend, a successful career, and the recognition from others. Everything seemed perfectly happy on the outside…
On the inside, however, it was a much different story. Despite all of the love and happiness in my relationship, I found myself overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and emptiness. Despite all of the successes in my career, I couldn't escape the feelings of inadequacy. And despite having the support of my family and friends, I couldn't help but feel exhausted and bitter from a lifetime of seeking external approval and validation.
One day, I found myself staring into the mirror and asking myself, "Who are you?" I began rationalizing with myself, "Maybe I'm just one of those people who are incapable of happiness."
I started to pull away until my girlfriend finally decided to end the relationship. Some of my last words to her were: "I'm not happy and I'm not sure why," and, "I just want to feel free for once in my life..."
After some soul searching, I started to understand that I had been suffering from depression, a low sense of self worth, poor communication skills, and a lack of self awareness. The self discovery left me heartbroken and devastated. I eventually found treatment through therapy, and started reading books about cognitive behavioral therapy, relationships, communication, self-esteem, and masculinity. I finally understood that my anxiety and unhappiness was due to my inability to love myself.
I decided to move from Los Angeles to San Francisco with the goal of pushing myself outside my comfort zone, expanding my boundaries, and finding myself. But since I was all alone in a new city, I wasn't sure where to begin. I started joining Meetup events when I saw Jaunty's free workshop on how to deal with social anxiety and improve your social intelligence. I felt that it was exactly what I was looking for.
I took the free workshop with Eric, Jaunty's founder, and was immediately impressed by his knowledge and understanding. After following up with the private session, I was sold and decided to sign up for the full six-week Jaunty course. It ended up being the best decision I ever made.
The true value of the Jaunty course is how it breaks down social intelligence concepts into really simple, yet powerful tools that anybody can use. Jaunty provided me with real techniques that helped me develop the knowledge and courage to manage my anxiety and ultimately build the confidence and ability to truly express myself.
There's nothing more powerful and inspiring than being surrounded by amazing people who are all in the same boat as you are. The inspiration and support from my classmates truly inspired me to trust the methods taught by Jaunty, to push myself to apply the things that I learned, and to ultimately hold myself accountable for my own personal growth.
In my honest opinion, the real magic behind the Jaunty course is Eric himself. Before Jaunty, I was unable to accept myself because I couldn't shake the stigma of being introverted, and the belief that having anxiety meant that I was mentally weak. However, Eric really understood where I was coming from, and helped me understand that I'm not less of a person by any means, and that anxiety is not a character flaw, but rather, something that I can work on. Eric is truly passionate about helping his students. His empathy, understanding, and support really pushed me to overcome my negative sense of self-worth and to start learning how to love and respect myself.
It's been a few months since I completed the course, and I have done things that I never thought would be possible. I have been meeting new people and making new friends everywhere I go. I had the courage to approach the most beautiful women at the hottest pool party in Las Vegas. The anxiety hasn't completely gone away, but I'm now able to embrace it and then replace it with excitement. The feelings of inadequacy are being replaced with feelings of confidence and self-esteem. Bitter resentful feelings have been replaced with feelings of gratitude and appreciation. I still don't have all of the answers, but thanks to Jaunty, I am no longer letting anxiety stand in the way of the person that I want to become.
My name is Viet and I know that who I am continues to grow with all of the new experiences that I encounter in my life. And thanks to Jaunty, I learned that I definitely am capable of happiness. And I finally feel free, for the first time in my life.
By Jaunty Social Trainer, Craig Gibbons
I was never a naturally social person. Throughout my life, I've struggled with some social anxiety. I had fear in dating as well as making friends. I often had interactions where I didn't know what to say or felt a lingering awkwardness. Making connections with others was extremely important to me, but for some reason I was unable to do so. I felt like I was in a hole, unable to dig myself out. In my early adult life, I read up on tips for self-confidence and dating as well as magic tricks that I could use to start conversations or impress people at parties. Through my personal training and experimentation, I felt pretty confident in my abilities to meet others and make connections. But I soon realized that my skills were not enough.
In 2012 I moved to San Francisco for school, and knew all of four people living in the city - my three roommates and an ex-girlfriend. Being shoved into an unfamiliar environment I was overcome by my own anxiety and clung to what was comfortable. I went from home to class and straight back home so that I could avoid awkward social interactions. Rather than making any new friends, I spent my free time Skyping or calling my hometown friends. Once again, I found myself in that same hole.
When I heard about the free Jaunty workshop, it promised the ability to connect with people and create a social circle. It sounded exactly like what I was looking for. I went to the workshop and fell in love with Eric and the skills he taught. I followed up with a six-week class, and fully immersed myself into the world of social intelligence. Focusing on the approach, assertiveness, building status, and making connections, I rapidly changed my own world. My hole became a staircase which led to the top of a mountain. With my new skills, I began coaching my friends and working with Eric, coaching other students so that I could more fully understand how it all works.
Seven months into working with Jaunty, I finally realized something. I paused my life and stepped out of my body for a moment to see. I was at school, sitting on the grass during a hot day. I was surrounded by friends. Not just friends, but people whom I called family. I'd always known that I wanted to belong, and at that moment I realized that I did.
Developing those relationships has created a home for myself. Keeping my status high has turned many of my friendships into mentorships where people in my life look up to me to lead or give advice. This has turned into business opportunities, more introductions, loyal and giving friendships, as well as a dating life of abundance. It's all felt like magic. Most importantly, my journey has led me to a place of social freedom where I belong.
This blog post was originally published in Jaunty's December newsletter.
Interview with Jaunty graduate Su Pang, by Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
Su Pang is a graphic designer and traveler with a dry sense of humor. Though folks wouldn't have known it, she used to worry about what to say, if she'd gel with people, or if she'd be able to hold a conversation. After social interactions, she worried if she'd done the right thing and if people liked her.
She believes these insecurities stemmed from her family. Growing up in Singapore, her mom was always second-guessing her.
"She's very protective," Su explained. "It's like Asian culture times ten. She always told me not to do things because I was going to fail. Now I'm in my forties and she's still doing that! I grew up worrying people might not be very accepting or that things were bound to not work out."
But now she trusts her instinct and feels like things always work out.
Su realized she had been attracting a lot of toxic people into her life. She was in therapy to work out issues with her mother and boost her confidence, with the goal of creating a healthier social circle. More confident, and with more positive friends, Su discovered she still didn't have the social skills she needed. She wasn't sure how to work the group and couldn’t continue a conversation for more than twenty minutes. That's when anxieties kicked in.
Su found Jaunty one night when she was looking for something fun to do. She went to the free workshop with a friend and signed up for the six-week class.
"Jaunty really pushed me," Su said. It was hard for her going out and having to talk to people for homework. But the hard work has paid off and now she has more social skills to play with.
She used to start conversations with a negative slant. Now she's more aware of that tendency and starts with something positive. Also the class reminded her that you can be super friendly, but not everyone is going to accept you.
"But that's not about you," Su said. "If you're talking with someone and they're not really welcoming or warm, just move away and talk to someone else. I used to think about it for days and feel really bad about it." Now, she just moves on and doesn’t worry about it. "That's a big deal for me because I'm a thinker." These days she tries not to get too attached to the outcome of any one interaction.
Since discovering Jaunty, she's gotten a new job and started dating a passionate woman. Incredibly, she got the job within three weeks of being back from a two month vacation in Iceland. During the interview, she used high status humor and other Jaunty skills. Her honey has told her she was most attracted to Su's confidence. Su said she'd never heard that from anyone before and used to feel nervous dating.
"Especially when you have parents who don't reassure you, it means a lot to hear something like that," Su said. She knows she's worked hard to build that confidence and is proud of how far she's come.
"This class teaches you confidence but it also teaches you to love yourself," Su said. She believes Jaunty is helpful for everyone, even if they don't have social anxiety. "This could easily be a class for public speaking and leadership. It's a class to help you live the life you want to lead."
By Adrienne Fraser, Jaunty graduate
My close circle of friends know me well and probably wouldn't have seen me as someone with social anxiety.
But in big groups and work events I used to drive through any anxiety by gritting my teeth. "Just get through it, just get through it," I'd tell myself. And I did, but with very little joy.
I have always been an introvert and preferred to make deeper "one on one" connections in lieu of having many acquaintances and a large social circle. But as I've grown older, this preference has not always served me well.
Recently, I found myself in a time of transition. Close friends had moved away, I was recovering from burnout, two knee surgeries and a break-up. Additionally, I was pursuing a new tangent of my career at a much larger company. I needed to quickly establish connections with my new co-workers. I was missing out on important off-the-clock conversations - things I needed to know about.
Yet, despite having made some crucial changes for the better, I was still on the defensive and my various stressors exacerbated my social anxiety. I knew I needed to find new ways of interacting with people and move on with my life.
Every week, I set my goals and pushed myself to meet them. About halfway through the course, my friends and family said, "Wow, you seem so different and happy! It's great!" I felt lighter. I was actually having fun approaching new people, engaging in interesting conversations with ease and was invited to lunches and happy hours at work. I was brought onboard for new projects, presented business plans to directors and even received top marks in "people skills" on my annual review.
With the help of Jaunty, I blazed down my new path of social freedom. I went from stiff, guarded, introvert to a smiling, confident, woman of the world in six weeks! Now, I feel amazing and self-assured that I can approach anyone and talk to anyone. In fact, I'm off now to make dinner for new friends. We're having enchiladas, tonight. Sounds good, right?
So there I was, sitting at home, cat in lap, searching for classes on Meetup that might help. I had dreams of dinner parties and arranging intimate gatherings where friends meet friends and maybe even fall in love. You know, things we read about in books set in France. Then I came across Jaunty.
The six-week course seemed perfect, an individualized experience with the support of a classroom environment. Just what I needed!
There I was on my first day of Jaunty, crossed arms and stiff jaw, in essence protecting myself from strangers in an unknown environment. But with the support of Jaunty and my classmates, I learned to slow-down, release tension and allowed myself to open up to my dream of a new and improved social life.
I used to have so much fear in approaching new people and starting a conversation. I was scared people would think I was bothering them, or that strangers might be mean to me. Through Jaunty, I realized that my belief was not grounded in fact, and usually quite the opposite was true. Over time, my old belief was replaced with my new belief; in essence, there are people out there in the world just waiting to meet me!