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.