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!