Leave the Selfie Alone

I’m going to tell you why the selfie is important.  Why it matters.

  comfortis for dogs usa
When I was a substitute teacher, during a poetry lesson, I read aloud “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou and asked the classes what they thought.  Five classes of kids, and four of them would only talk about how cocky and full of herself the author was.  They talked about her with disdain, sometimes outright shock.  How dare she?

However, one class loved the poem.  The kids in that class loved how she owned every wonderful aspect of herself, in spite of what society deems appropriate.   They called her a “badass”, and asked me to read the poem again.

Incidentally, this class was also the so-called “remedial” class.  It was full of kids who lived outside the box, who spent the majority of their time bombarded by low expectations.  Those kids understood exactly what Maya Angelou was talking about.

We live in a world that actively PUNISHES confidence.  We’re not allowed to think we’re attractive.  We’re not allowed to agree with compliments.  I have spent so much of my life minimizing my intelligence, my looks, and my accomplishments; because I was socialized to believe that owning your beauty, your intelligence, your hard won success, equals being “cocky” or “full of yourself”.

It’s abusive plain and simple.

When I read people talking about selfie culture in terms of it being shallow, or narcissistic, I think about all the times I’ve really, truly, owned my own beauty.

It’s zero times, in case you’re wondering.  ZERO times.  Because it’s not allowed.  Not only is it not allowed, it is actively PUNISHED by immediate blowback from anyone who sees it happen.  I’m so conditioned to feel this way, that it happens instinctively before I can stop it.

I see people posting selfies all the time, and I never think they are being shallow or are too full of themselves.  I think “That must be nice. To feel so good about yourself in that moment that you freeze it for all eternity and post it for the whole world to see.”

I’m sick and goddamned tired of living in a world where we are forced to minimize ourselves for the comfort of others.  Where we have to actively neg ourselves so no one will feel threatened by our worth.

Millennials are growing up.  They are growing up more informed and connected than any other generation before.  THINK ABOUT THAT.  An entire generation of people who spend a large part of their lives online, talking to each other…sharing life experiences.  Learning how to understand each other, sometimes from across the world.

That kind of experience and exposure means that Millennials are very savvy.  They know bullshit when they smell it.  If they aren’t sure, they’ll go online and ask some friends.  “This smells like bullshit, but I’m not sure.”   Often, their friends then point them to some articles and studies so they can find out for themselves (don’t tell me that doesn’t happen, because I see it happen every day).  Or, they’ll just say “Yep, bullshit.”

Lovers of the status quo are secretly terrified of the Millennial generation.  They don’t want a bunch of intelligent, sensitive, and confident young people coming around and messing everything up.

The Baby Boomers have long scorned Generation X and Millennials.  They were the generation of social change!  They stopped a war!  They exposed Watergate!  They got civil rights!  And here we come along and have the nerve to question their hard work.  To complain that life STILL SUCKS, and frankly, is a bit WORSE than it was for them.

So they fight back from our accusing eyes, by calling us shallow, spoiled, narcissists.  They label social media users as “attention whores” who feel the need to share every little thing.  They look at selfies and sneer at our confident happiness.  It’s not ALLOWED, you see.

Because once you start owning your brain, your beauty, your accomplishments…that’s when you stop listening to them.  That’s when you really start to see the damage that’s been done to you and those around you by the abusive practices of the status quo.  That’s when you really start to question everything you used to assume, to wonder if maybe things aren’t as rosy and you were led to believe.

Confidence is dangerous, it can’t be allowed.  Because once we truly understand that we have EVERYTHING to offer the world, that’s the moment we cease to be controlled.

So stand up, take that selfie, and show it to the everyone.  Show them you aren’t afraid to love yourself, to KNOW yourself, and share it.  Take the status quo and shove it out of the way with your own beautiful face.

Let the world see how incredibly dangerous you can be.  Let them quiver in fear at the sight of your shameless confidence in yourself.  Then go tell someone they are smart, they are beautiful, they are successful.  Give them room to be dangerous, too.

Social Guides for the Socially Awkward: Information for Friends of the Anxious

This post was actually suggested to me by the excellent @WonderAli on Twitter.  As a sufferer of anxiety, it’s hard to remember that there are people out there who aren’t anxious on a daily basis.  There are people out there who have never had a panic attack, never lain awake at night for hours trying to remember if they locked up the office or not, never avoided going to the grocery store at 5pm…

Even typing that out it feels unbelievable.  But it’s true.  Often those freaks of nature have trouble understanding what it’s like for the rest of us.  They struggle to understand why we feel the way we do and what they can do to help.

This post is for them.

First off, most people with anxiety struggle in silence.

The thing I heard most often in the early years of talking to people about my social anxiety was “Everybody is too busy worrying about themselves to worry about you.”  Often my general anxieties weren’t met with eye rolls or “stop being so overdramatic.”  If people wanted to actually help me feel better, they would say things like “there’s no use worrying about things you can’t control” Or “It’s fine, you’re not going to get fired for forgetting to lock the office once.”

No matter how well meaning you are, your words are not going to help.  In fact, saying things like that not only undermines us, it convinces us that we’re actually as dumb as we feel.

From the brilliant Dr. Andrea Letamendi: “My advice for family members is to understand that a lot of times people do not have a “choice” to be anxious and that telling them to just “get over it” or “stop worrying about it” is not generally good advice as it minimizes the problem but also assumes that the person can simply interrupt the worrying on their own with ease.“

Here’s something to always keep in mind when dealing with people who have pronounced anxiety.

We’re not stupid.

Dude, we KNOW there’s no use worrying about things we can’t control.  We KNOW that a crowded grocery store is essentially harmless.  We KNOW that statistically flying is safer than driving.

ANXIETY IS NOT RATIONAL.  You can’t talk us out of it.  When you undermine our feelings you unconsciously encourage us to hide our anxiety and keep it from you.

So what can you do?

A) Acknowledge that you feel helpless and that it frustrates you.  You care about us.  You hate seeing us like this.  You want to help, but there’s nothing you can do to fix it.  That upsets you and makes you frustrated.  Acknowledge those feelings and remind yourself that those feelings are NOT OUR FAULT.  We are not to blame for our anxiety, and therefore we are also not to blame for your feelings of helpless frustration.

A lot of times that frustration leaks out at us when you’re trying to help, and it just adds more fuel to the fire.  Now we not only have our own burden of anxiety, but we’re worried about you!  AND we feel guilty for making you feel bad.  And, again, we’re in a position where we feel the need to hide our anxiety.

B)  These words are very, very important:  “What do you need?”

For me, physical contact helps.  Hold my hand, give me a hug…something like that.  It lets me know I’m not alone and instantly knocks my anxiety down a couple of notches.

However, a good friend of mine is not a fan of being touched in general, definitely not when he’s feeling anxious. So what works for me wouldn’t necessarily work for him.

Talk to those you care about who are anxious.  Ask them what you can do to help them.

There are, however, some things that I believe are universally helpful.

C) DEEP BREATHING.  Lordy, lordy but that helps.

Keep in mind, anxiety is not just mental.  It is PHYSICAL, too.  We have a visceral fight or flight reaction in our bodies.  We get flooded with adrenaline, our heart rate increases, we sweat…it’s not pleasant.

We feel like that guy on the left.

We feel like that guy on the left.

Deep breathing lowers our heart rate and begins to alleviate some of those physical symptoms.  When I’m anxious or having a panic attack, I’ll often take a deep breath and then blow it out as though I’m blowing into a straw.

If someone you care about is feeling anxious, remind them to take a deep breath.  Breathe with them.

D) Distractions.

Make us laugh.  Point out something interesting.  Tell us a story.  Being momentarily distracted can really help.  I used to try and do the alphabet backwards in my head to get out of panic attacks.  Now I can do the alphabet backwards in my sleep, so it doesn’t really help. But there for a while it was awesome!

 

In the end, whether you help alleviate our anxiety or not, being there for us with no judgment is a truly wonderful thing.

Finally, I’m going to close with this awesome, awesome graphic.  I’ve had it for so long, and seen it so many different places, I can’t remember where it came from.  It’s titled Care For Introverts, but I feel like a lot of it is useful for people with anxiety, too.

Care for Introverts

 

For more information, Dr. Letamendi recommends the following books:

Handbooks for family members are usually written for the parent of a youth with anxiety (to help them with their therapy homework, to support them, coach them, etc).

Like this

However, I usually provide adult patients with this

Thanks for reading.  Now, GO FORTH AND COMFORT YOUR LOVED ONES!

DC Comics and Institutionalized Sexism – Purchasing Power is Not Power

For those of you unaware of what’s going on with DC Comics, please visit the most excellent: Has DC Comics Done Something Stupid Today website.  There are the links to information on the Eisner award winning creative team behind Batwoman for the past two years WALKING OFF the project, and links to information on the horribly offensive Harley Quinn contest going on right now.

This blog is not about DC Comics.  It is a reaction to the SAME bullshit argument I hear, almost always from men, that if I have a problem with a company’s practices, the answer is to simply not buy their product and tell them why.

Telling people not to buy DC Comics as a way to change things at DC Comics is short sighted and dismissive.  Not buying those comics means readers have to, not only give up on beloved characters, but pull their support of talented and dedicated writers, artists, and others.

The problem is with the LEADERSHIP.  Why would we take an action that would punish the people responsible for creating the entertainment we love?

Not only that, when we get upset by institutional racism and/or sexism and your knee jerk reaction is to tell us to stop buying their products, you are immediately taking the responsibility for those actions and placing it on us.

It is a handy way for people to disregard our complaints by treating us as though our dedication to our beliefs is not equal to our outrage.  AKA; stop making such a fuss if you’re still going to buy their stuff.  AKA; if you really cared about sexism you wouldn’t support these companies at all.

I like reading comics.  I love Gail Simone’s work.  I love Greg Rucka’s work.  I’m not going to stop supporting THEM because the DC leadership refuses to acknowledge the terrible decision-making that continually alienates a large portion of their client-base.

I don’t know what the solution is.  I don’t know HOW we can make a change, there.  It is an institutional issue that goes way beyond DC Comics.

Purchasing power is not power.  It doesn’t make any difference to refuse to buy products that are created and distributed by companies whose beliefs we disagree with.  It just doesn’t work.

I don’t know, yet, what will work.  But I’m willing to try and figure it out.

Are you?

 

Read more about DC’s PR goofs at The Outhouse.

Social Guides for the Socially Awkward: Job Interviews!

Job interviews are tough for anyone.  Usually you’re going to said interview because you either A) want the job or B) NEED the job.  There is definitely cause for nerves in both cases. If you’re socially anxious, you may also have nerves from A) driving to a strange place, B) meeting strange people, C) conversing with strange people.  I’m nauseated just thinking about it.

A lot of my advice for this situation has already been covered in previous blogs.  The main purpose of this post, is to put those relevant bits in one place.

 

First off, get familiar with the location.  Drive up, scope out the parking.  If you can, recreate the potential circumstances of the interview.  Ie, leave your home at the same time you would to get to the meeting.  This way you can see exactly how long it takes. (Then add 30 minutes on top, just in case).

The less you have to worry about the day of, the easier things will be for you.  Is there good parking?  If not, where is the best place to park?  What is the layout?

Answering these kinds of questions will help you look and feel less unsure when you arrive.  Also, it cuts WAY down on the things you have to worry about.  Being as sure as you can of how to get there, where to park, and what time to leave so you get there early will really help soothe your nerves the day of.  Also, getting there early ensures you have time for last minute teeth/hair checks.

Next, clothing.  Pick out what you’re going to wear ahead of time and make sure it is clean and ironed.  Err on the side of OVER dressed.  Nice pants, not jeans.  Nice shirt.  NO WRINKLES.  Jacket.  If you choose to wear a dress, make sure it’s more business-like than casual or dressy.  Also, err on the side of demure.

LINT BRUSH.  Just put it in your glove compartment.  Right now.  I’ll wait.  You’ll be nervous the day of and you won’t remember.  Don’t have one?  Put it on your grocery list.  Right now.  I’ll wait.  Then take it right out of the grocery bag and into your glove box.  Somehow between my house and wherever I’m going I succeed in getting wrinkled and covered in schmutz.

I also like to wear fancy hats to interviews.

I also like to wear fancy hats to interviews.

Prior to your interview, research the company you are applying to.  Even if you’re applying at the Gap, or McDonald’s, know who you are applying to and what they are looking for.  What does the company do?  Check their website.  How do they present themselves?  Are they sleek and corporate?  Down home and personable?  What seems to be important to them.  Shareholders?  Customers?  All this information can help you sell yourself to your interviewer.

YOU ARE WHAT THEY WANT.  Know this.

 

Yup, she knows it.

Yup, she knows it.

 

Also know that they have no way of knowing that you are what they want.  By researching the company you will arm yourself with information that show them that you are what they want.

On the way to the meeting, take lots and lots of deep breaths. Listen to a song that either relaxes you or pumps you up.  Sit in the car and visualize success. Again, take deep breaths.

When you are ready to walk in pay attention to your posture.  Try not to fidget.  Give the impression of confidence.  Even if on the inside you want to run and hide, on the outside walk into that room as if you own it and it will show.  Shoulders back, eyes forward, slight smile on your face.

Be cognizant of what’s happening with your face.  You want to look professional and serious, but you don’t want to look like a miserable person.  A trick I like to do is imagine my facial muscles are tied to strings and I give them a teensy tug upwards.  Practice it in the mirror.  Stare in the mirror with your face at rest.  Then tug all those strings just a tiny bit and see how much more open and bright your face looks.  It’s a small thing that makes a big difference.

If you need a moment to calm yourself before entering, do so.  I usually do that in the bathroom while I’m fussing with my hair.

 

Just like this. Source: feaverishphotography.com

Just like this.
Source: feaverishphotography.com

 

When your interviewer arrives, shake their hand. Handshakes are very important.  Firm, not tight.  Eye contact (remember, you can cheat with the forehead), a SMILE, and a polite platitude. “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”  Or something similar.

During the interview, make sure you are actively listening.  Active listening is harder than you think.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the inner monologue.  I know you are anxious to prove yourself, but the worst thing you can do is get caught up in whatever impressive thing you are going to say next and miss what the person just asked you.

Pretend those inner voices are that annoying commercial you hate (Old Navy, how I hate you).  Tune it out, and focus on the words being spoken to you.  Tune them in.  It takes thought and concentration to listen to others when you feel anxious and uncomfortable. Focus on it like you’re Clark Kent trying to figure out how his laser eyes work.

Preferable results being the focused top photo, as opposed to the constipated bottom photo.

Preferable results being the focused top photo, as opposed to the constipated bottom photo.

If you’re armed with research on the company and your own knowledge, then all you have to do is actively listen and be fully present for the conversation.  Being impressive is a natural by-product

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

 

 

Social Guides for the Socially Awkward Part 4: Networking!

Networking.  A special kind of nightmare.  Not only are you going out in public, you’re going to an event.  Not just any event, an event full of colleagues whom you respect and/or whom you desire to respect you.  It’s not the kind of event where you can just hang by the cookie tray, leave after an hour, and feel like you accomplished something just by going.

Nope.  The whole reason for going to this event is to meet and/or converse with people.

The good news is that a lot of these events involve people you already know from work.  Even if you don’t like the people you work with, familiar faces will help your anxiety.

The tips I put forth in my first post all still apply.  Feel free to go back and reference those.

Here are a few essential tips that come in handy for successfully navigating a networking event:

1.  Handshakes.  Very important.  Firm, not tight.  Eye contact (remember, you can cheat with the forehead), a SMILE, and a polite platitude. “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”  “I really admire your work, sir.”  “The presentation you gave last month was really great.”  Open every new meeting with a smile and a polite platitude.

2.  Introductions.  Sometimes you are in the position to introduce two people.  A proper introduction really makes a huge difference.  Introduce each person with a tidbit about them, or with pointing out a similarity between the two people.

A) “This is Jane, who heads up our department’s graphics projects.  Jane, this is Christopher, first assistant to the CEO.”  Now they know a little bit about each other, and conversation will start much more easily.

Even better, if possible, is option B) “Jane, this is Christopher in the CEO’s department.  He’s the one that got me into the New 52.  Chris, Jane is a hard core Marvel fan.”  Or, “Chris, this is Jane from the Graphics department, she went to college in Wisconsin.  Jane, Chris grew up near Madison.”  Now they immediately have something to converse about.

A good introduction can be an immediate and smooth way to instigate a nice conversation among co-workers.

3.  Research who will be there.  Who is it important for you to talk to?  Find out something about them.  Even better if it’s something you share. “I hear you’re a Knicks fan, too.” Or if it’s something you don’t share “Bill was saying you go rock climbing regularly. I’ve always wanted to try that. Is it difficult for a beginner?”

I know it feels false, but you are making an effort to connect with someone at an event organized specifically so people can make connections to each other.  It would be like going to a Singles Event and feeling bad for asking for someone’s phone number.  It is WHY you are THERE. Don’t feel bad about it.

Is it stalkery to research ice breakers ahead of time?  Maybe, but do it anyway.  It’s hard enough for people with anxiety to socialize at all, when you add the extra pressure of specifically going somewhere to talk to new people…any tool you can arrive with to make that process easier is essential.

Source: kikifindsfit.blogspot.com

Just pretend someone told you. A co-worker named Google. Source: kikifindsfit.blogspot.com

BE GENUINE. Don’t pretend to be a Knicks fan when you know nothing about basketball.  Why pretend you know something about basketball when you can ask that person to tell you how they got into the game?  Now you’ve got them talking about something they love, and you haven’t had to lie or pretend anything that is untrue.

Go in armed with information, and it will make the entire process so much easier.  On top of which, if you go in knowing who you want to meet, then you can concentrate on meeting them and then, once you do, getting the hell out of there.

Now, one more thing.  This is one of the few times I will recommend a Designated Wingman.  The types of events where networking happens almost always disguise themselves as parties.  Husbands, wives, significant others, and sometimes older children are invited to these things.

Now, we all know the world is not an ideal place.  We don’t all have awesome Wingmen standing in reserve to toot our horn for us and chat up our boss’s super boring surfer boyfriend.  That’s ok. The above tips will help you tremendously. However, if you DO have a Wingman candidate…read on!

Choose your Wingman with care.  Being a Networking Wingman is a skill, make no mistake.  I won’t lie, I’m an excellent Networking Wingman. While I find it impossible to toot my own horn, I’m more than happy to toot the horns of others.

Think of your Wingman as your Horn Tooter.  Choose someone who will look presentable, and knows how important the event is to you.  It doesn’t have to be a significant other.  Hell, it could be your sister.  It doesn’t matter.

Try and pick a better conversationalist than this wingman. Source: worldofawesome.blogspot.com

Try and pick a better conversationalist than this wingman. Source: worldofawesome.blogspot.com

Wingman Responsibilities:

1.  Chat up the fellow Wingmen.  Let’s say you want to say hi to the CFO of your company, but you’re totally freaked out.  Your Wingman will go up the CFO’s date/spouse and compliment them on their suit/tie/purse/shoes/whatever.  Now you’ve got an opening, because your CFO is right there.  Another example, your boss calls you over to a conversation with a few coworkers about a project.  Your Wingman will chat up the significant others while you all talk business.

You’re probably wondering what the point is.  In these situations the Wingman helps you A) break into conversations and B) look like you belong there even if you feel like you don’t.  I promise, if you start to feel like a fish out of water, seeing your Wingman chatting up with your boss’s wife/husband/teenage kid will help you feel like you have a place.

Conversely, after that party those people will chat about who they met.  If your Wingman chats up the other “extra” people at the networking event, it makes them feel good.  THEY don’t want to feel left out either.  The Wingman handles making them feel comfortable while you talk business.  All of that is a good reflection on you.

2.  Toot that horn, baby!  For example, a few friends of mine happened to get lost with Gail Simone at Geek Girl Con a few years back.  We all ended up wandering around the convention center looking for a way in.  We got to chatting, and we all, of course, told Gail how awesome we thought she was.  Because she’s a sweet person, she asked about what we do.  We all kind of froze up, so I popped out out “Sarah wrote this awesome book called One Con Glory.  It’s really great!”  So Sarah ended up giving Gail a copy of her book!

Sarah, like many of us, is modest.  (Her book is awesome read it) It’s a great quality, but that mixed with some shyness over meeting a fellow writer whom she admired could have mixed into a missed opportunity.  However, I love Sarah and am happy to tell everyone how awesome she is when she gets shy.

Seriously, read it. www.oneconglory.com

Seriously, read it. www.oneconglory.com

Of course, right after that Sarah said “Jessica made a show called Awkward Embraces!” and we ended up tooting each others’ horns like awesome friends do.

Again, not everyone has a good Wingman in their life, and that’s ok.  Truly, even if you go to the event and stand next to the cookies, or just talk to your cubicle-mate the whole time, GOING is always better than not going.  It’s important for people to see your fact, and have a chance to talk to you outside of work.  It really does make a difference. I hope these tips can help you at your next networking event.

Thanks so much for reading!  Leave any comments below, or any tips you have found that work for yourself.  Let’s all help each other!

Next week: Job Interviews!

In Anticipation of Having to Defend Myself for My Gaming Videos

I posted the trailer for N00b Chronicles yesterday and have been both excited and incredibly nervous about it.

Excited because I’m having a lot of fun playing my way through Bioshock.  That, despite pressures to be some kind of Kickass Femme Gamer, I’m really just a dork who dies a lot.  But I have fun doing it.

So, I finally got the courage up to display that for all to see.  Because it’s not fair that A) Women who want to game get bullied out of it and B) That women who game but aren’t that good at it are ridiculed even harder.

I will never be able go on XBox Live and school some bully pre-teens.  I’m just not very good.  For a long time I was ashamed to even PLAY XBox, because I knew I wasn’t very good.

Somehow I felt like I wouldn’t be allowed to be mediocre.  And I knew I would never be GOOD, so I stuck with Super Nintendo and Game Boy.

But then I won an XBox in a contest and suddenly I had a chance to game all alone by myself with no one judging me.  And I had good friends who were just excited that I wanted to play and helped me learn the ropes.

And I have fun.

But I’m braced for impact.  I’m braced for women to criticize me for being a “stereotypical girly gamer”.  I’m braced for men to claim I’m pandering to the gaming community.  Hell, I’m braced for women to claim I’m pandering.

I’m making N00b Chronicles because I shouldn’t have to be braced for impact.  People have been making Let’s Play videos for years.  Because it’s FUN to make Let’s Play videos.  It’s fun to WATCH Let’s Play videos.

Ladies, it’s ok to be a mediocre gamer.  IT’S STILL FUN.  Ladies, it’s ok to be super excited that your Halo character’s armor can be pink (mine is aqua).  Ladies, it’s ok to want to try out video games and to giggle and shriek and be silly and suck at it.  Because it’s GAMES.  GAMES ARE FUN.

I just felt anxious sitting here waiting for the inevitable fallout.  So I decided to release an official statement.

I am a girl.  I wear makeup and curl my hair.  I love playing video games.

Hi, my name is Jessica and I’m a mediocre gamer girl.  We exist, and that’s OK!

More information on N00b Chronicles here. 

Social Guides for the Socially Awkward – Dating Part 2

All right.  We talked about the initial introduction in last week’s post.  This week, I’d like to talk about the ACTUAL date part.

First, I’d like to reiterate a few things I touched on in the first post

A few tips for socialization. 

Active listening is harder than you think.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the inner monologue. Pretend those inner voices are that annoying commercial you hate (Old Navy, how I hate you).  Tune it out, and focus on the words being spoken to you.  Tune them in.  It takes thought and concentration to listen to others when you feel anxious and uncomfortable. Focus on it like you’re Clark Kent trying to figure out how his laser eyes work.

Personal space is important.  Just imagine everyone has a bubble around them, and try not to pop it.  If it’s hard to hear, lean in with your ear to the person so they know you are trying to listen.  It’s a universal signal for “TALK LOUDER PLEASE”.  Women especially can feel threatened if a strange man stands too close, so try to keep that in mind.

Don’t stare.  Of course, you may be working up the nerve to talk to someone and that is totally natural.  But try and look in their general direction, and not directly at them while doing so.  While you’re in your head trying to encourage yourself to walk up to them and speak, all they see is the creeper staring at them.

When conversing, try and make eye contact.  This can be difficult for some, so compromise by looking right between their eyes on their forehead.

 

Try and keep those things in mind.  They are very small things that make a big difference.

OK, for the date itself.  I have a few recommendations.

My favorite is the Group Date.  It sounds unconventional, but I swear to you group dates are the BEST.

What’s a group date?  It’s when you and a couple of friends meet up with that person and a couple of their friends and everyone goes and hangs out somewhere.  No pressure!  Tons of other people!  A group date to a place like an arcade or theme park or museum or something like that is perfect.  An activity that everyone can partake in and get to know each other.  Not only do you have moral support leading up to it, but everyone can help carry the evening together.  If it’s a disaster?  You aren’t alone!  If it goes well?  You and that person can hover in a corner chatting, or go off on your own to look at something or whatever.

Um... I googled “Group of partiers” and this happened.  Sorry, not sorry! :-D Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mother-made/3937731381/

Um… I googled “Group of partiers” and this happened. Sorry, not sorry! :-D
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mother-made/3937731381/

 

 

Seriously, though. How fun would a group date RPG be! Source: http://www.outlandarts.com/TME-huh-rpg.htm

Seriously, though. How fun would a group date RPG be!
Source:
http://www.outlandarts.com/TME-huh-rpg.htm

No pressure, moral support, easy out…it’s the ideal way to get to know someone new for an introvert.

However, maybe a group date is not possible.  Or, maybe the group date goes great and you get a one-on-one!  What do you do then?

In that case, I’ll point you to a piece I wrote for Tech Republic last winter: Places to take an introvert on a date.  (http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/geekend/great-places-to-take-an-introvert-on-a-date/)

Great ideas for places that introverts can go where they will feel comfortable, be able to really get to know someone, and have space to gather themselves if they get nervous.

Sometimes, however, the asker has a plan that they don’t clue you in on.  Sometimes that works out great, and sometimes not.   Either way, the unplanned happens.  A few tips for dealing with the inevitable surprises and uncomfortable moments.

1.  Deep breaths.  It’s a simple thing, but it makes a difference.

2.  If you’re prone to being really uncomfortable in certain situations, be honest UP FRONT.  Don’t try and pretend you are something you’re not!  This person has to date YOU, not the you that you wish you could be.  Just say “Hey, I’m not great in big crowds, so maybe we can go somewhere quiet on our date.”  Easy peasy.  TRUST ME, they will appreciate your being honest up front.  And if they don’t, they’re a jerk anyway.   If someone isn’t willing to work around your feelings and anxieties, they were never going to be right for you.  It’s better to know that at the start.

3.  Take time if you need it.  Step away to the bathroom and sit in a stall for a few minutes if you need to.  It sounds silly, but sometimes a bathroom stall is the only place you can get away from people and have four walls around you.

Myrtle knows all about it. It’s not pathetic, it’s taking time for yourself. Pop in your earphones, play a little music, and head to your happy place for a few minutes. Source: http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/artists/245638452?view_mode=2

Myrtle knows all about it. It’s not pathetic, it’s taking time for yourself. Pop in your earphones, play a little music, and head to your happy place for a few minutes.
Source:
http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/artists/245638452?view_mode=2

4.  If it gets bad – be honest.  Apologize for not being up front about your feelings before the date, and then explain what you need.  If the person is caring at all, they will want to help you feel better, BUT most people who don’t suffer from our anxieties have a lot of trouble understanding it.  Get out of the situation quickly, and explain when you have more time.  Be specific about your needs.  Once you are out of the situation and no longer freaking out, it will be easier to explain yourself.  Keep in mind, this conversation is always easier before the date has been planned, so try and go for #2 if you can.

 

No matter what happens, you deserve congratulations.  Dating is HARD.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.  But getting out there, making an effort, will be so worth it in the long run.  If nothing else, you’ll conquer your own fears and get out into the world meeting people.  You never know where that will take you.

Try and look at it as a challenging adventure.  I sincerely hope that these tools will help you to experience it as something fun, rather than something to be endured.

Thanks so much for reading.  Comment below with any questions or comments you may have.  Let’s all help each other!

Next week I’ll cover Networking!

 

 

Social Guides for the Socially Awkward Part 2: Dating – First Things First

I know I was going to post about Networking this week, but I got to thinking about dating as an introvert with anxiety, started to freak out at the thought of it, then decided to write about that instead.  In more than one post, because it’s a HUGE topic.

Dating: Say it with me friends…

It’s.

The.

WORST.

I start having panic feelings just thinking about saying HI to a stranger, not to mention actually setting a date, worrying about said date until it happens, feeling nauseated all day, going on said date, freaking out about whether or not the conversation is flowing well enough, does my laugh sound too obnoxious, I feel a booger in my nose, is it showing? Should I go to the ladies room and blow my nose? Oh god, what did he just say?

Nope, nope, nope, nope.  I’d rather sit in the back corner of the coffee shop with my headphones on and my face buried in my laptop while tweeting with the hashtag #ForeverAlone than deal with that kind of nightmare.  Seriously.

However.  I am sure we are all aware that we are not an island and that a functioning relationship can be a wonderful, life enhancing experience.  We should all make an effort, if we do want someone in our lives.  So….  Here we go…with dating.

Telling socially awkward people to relax is useless advice. Hopefully mine is better

Telling socially awkward people to relax is useless advice. Hopefully mine is better

First Things First:

Here’s the thing.  Those of us with social anxiety have such a hard time doing things that are so easy for others that we can sometimes put more weight into things than other people do.  Walking up to that person, the barista you see every day, the fellow dog owner you nod at from across the park…it’s a huge deal for us.  A HUGE DEAL.  We think about it.  We plan it out.  We rehearse what we’re going to say.  Because of that, we can take what we perceive as rejection very, very hard.  All that work, just for them to blow us off.  That kind of let down can put us right back in that #ForeverAlone hashtag for who knows how long.

First off, you can’t take it personally when you try and talk to someone and they don’t react the way you’d hoped. Does it suck? Yes. Is it because you are hideous/repulsive/worthless/stupid?  Probably not.  A million and one factors go into every single interaction with another person and most of them are beyond your control.

When a person you are trying to talk to for the first time acts curt or disinterested or in any other way disappointing to you, remind yourself of all the times you’ve reacted that way to someone else.  Why did you do it?  Were you stressed about an exam? Did you not sleep the night well the night before? Were you pissed off at the person you spoke to RIGHT BEFORE and take it out on someone else?

These things happen all the time.

The second thing you need to do before trying to jump into the dating pond is to change the way you perceive the initial interaction itself.

Every time you go to ask someone out, don’t think of it as the first step to getting a date.  Try and think of it like leveling up.

I’m being totally serious.  You’re not asking someone out…you’re pushing yourself.  You’re going for that extra rep at the gym, you’re climbing three feet higher than you did last week, you’re walking into Bowser’s Castle.

It’s practice.  It’s getting comfortable talking to strangers.  Is it going to be hard?  Yes.  But by accepting that this isn’t about finding a date, but simply about having a nice conversation with someone, you are no longer holding that person you are asking up on a pedestal.  When it takes us three days to three weeks to get up the nerve to say hi to someone cute, the eventual interaction grows and grows in importance in our mind and starts to become vitally important.

That’s too much for any human to live up to.

Here is a Universal Fact about Socializing.  That person you are talking to poops.  They eat asparagus and get stinky pee.  I don’t care how hot they are, how smart they are, how intimidated you are… they fart in bed.  And if they are any fun at all, they have Dutch Ovened a significant other at some point in their lives.

Please do not allow rejection to demoralize you and make you feel like you will be alone forever.

So go talk to someone cute. Just say hi.  Think up an ice breaker, practice it if you want to, and give it a shot.

My tips:

A) Smile.

B) Try to stay outside of their personal space bubble.

C) Keep your opening lines short. “Hi, I’m so and so. I see you here all the time and just wanted to introduce myself.”  Boom.  Done.  Non-threatening.

D) Maybe this is the first time you’ve seen them. Same thing, but ask a question. “My friend’s wife would love that shirt. Where did you get it?” “This is my first time at this comic shop, do you know if they have blah blah?”

Keep it simple to start with.  Open a conversation. It’s possible the person you dreamed of from afar is actually dumb as a box of rocks.  If you lead with asking them on a date before you talk to them, then you could end up stuck on a date with an imbecile. Plus, a conversation gives THEM a chance to get to know YOU and discover that they would like to get to know you better…perhaps on a date.

Things may not go well, or as planned, but at least you did it!  You won’t always wonder what would have happened if you had talked to them. Not only that, but with every small introduction and conversation, you’ll LEARN something and apply it the NEXT time you talk to someone cute.

Eventually, one of them is going to like you.  They may even say yes to a date.  And THEN what are you going to do?

Good Question

I’ll talk about that next week.  Thanks for reading! Please comment with any questions or thoughts of your own.  Let’s all help each other.

Social Guides for the Socially Awkward Part I: Making New Friends

I’ve been rolling over and over in my brain how best to continue the conversation on social anxiety.  What I finally came around to (after much deliberation, convincing myself I had something to say, convincing myself it was ok to say what I had to say, talking myself out of it, deliberating, and then deciding again), I have now settled on a ONE TWO PUNCH.

This week I’ll be premiering my Vlog series: Anxiety and Public Speaking.  In tandem with that, I’m starting this blog series Social Guides for the Socially Awkward.

I’m taking everything I’ve taught myself over decades of shyness, introversion, general, and social anxiety and packaging it up in what I hope will be a useful medium to help others who suffer as I do.

My Golden Rule of Social Anxiety: FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT.

Part I: Making new friends

Step one in any challenging journey is always the hardest.  When seeking to accomplish any goal, even one as seemingly simple as going to a party, I find breaking the goal up into small steps helps keep me from feeling overwhelmed.

So, you want to get out of the house and meet like-minded individuals?  The first step is to find where those individuals meet.  Love reading? Book club! Love being active? Rock climbing gym! Meetup.org has tons of groups for every interest in the world in most areas.  This is the best place to start.  Check them out online.  If they have a website, they also have announcements for events.  I, being a geek, would check out a local comic shop.  Most comic shops have round table discussions, game nights, book clubs, or even special release events.  If they don’t have any events listed online, give them a call.  They should be able to give you a heads up on some fun events involving geeks in your area.

Event Prep

PLEASE, do not talk yourself out of proper preparation because it feels silly.   DO NOT allow the following phrases to make you feel bad about being nervous: “It’s just a party, relax.”  “People do this stuff all the time, quit being overdramatic.”

A lot of people are uncomfortable in certain social situations. Like this guy.

A lot of people are uncomfortable in certain social situations. Like this guy.

You are not being overdramatic.  Your feelings of nervous apprehension are completely valid.  The most important part of event prep is to take a deep breath and allow yourself to feel however you feel.

Check out the venue.  Drive up, scope out the parking.  If it’s an open venue, ie a comic shop, go in and look around.  The less you have to worry about the day of, the easier things will be for you.  Is there good parking?  If not, where is the best place to park?  What is the layout?   Is the event in a special back room or upstairs?  Is there a good hovering spot to gather yourself?  Answering these kinds of questions will help you look and feel less unsure on the day of the event.

The final aspect of event prep is an outfit.  Even if you’re a dude, this is important.  Pick out something that makes you feel your most attractive and confident.  For me, it’s a funny t-shirt, jeans, and boots.  For one of my guy friends, it’s a geek tee, suit jacket, and jeans.  Another friend of mine loves to wear dresses and skirts with geek jewelry.  Whatever works for you.  Make sure it is clean and mostly unwrinkled by the time the event rolls around.

Event Day

I am never able to avoid thinking about the event the day of.  Rather than go over all the things that could go wrong, I practice ice breakers in my head.  If the event involves a certain subject, I do a little research/refresher into the subject so that I can contribute to conversations.  I also prepare questions.  People love questions!  Questions are also great because they put the onus on others to say stuff.  Examples:  “What’s your favorite blah blah?”  “When did you first start reading whosie whatsit?”  “I love that shirt, where did you get it?”  Anything like that is a great ice breaker.  Keep a handful in your brain’s back pocket.

It's ok if this happens to you. Take deep breaths, and try active listening. Source: http://xkcd.com/1089/

It’s ok if this happens to you. Take deep breaths, and try active listening.
Source: http://xkcd.com/1089/

Active listening is harder than you think.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the inner monologue. Pretend those inner voices are that annoying commercial you hate (Old Navy, how I hate you).  Tune it out, and focus on the words being spoken to you.  Tune them in.  It takes thought and concentration to listen to others when you feel anxious and uncomfortable. Focus on it like you’re Clark Kent trying to figure out how his laser eyes work.

A few tips for socialization.  Personal space is important.  Just imagine everyone has a bubble around them, and try not to pop it.  If it’s hard to hear, lean in with your ear to the person so they know you are trying to listen.  It’s a universal signal for “TALK LOUDER PLEASE”.  Women especially can feel threatened if a strange man stands too close, so try to keep that in mind.

Don’t stare.  Of course, you may be working up the nerve to talk to someone and that is totally natural.  But try and look in their general direction, and not directly at them while doing so.  While you’re in your head trying to encourage yourself to walk up to them and speak, all they see is the creeper staring at them.

When conversing, try and make eye contact.  This can be difficult for some, so compromise by looking right between their eyes on their forehead.

Walking in

The next, and possibly biggest step, is actually walking into the event.  You’ve practiced the drive.  You’ve found parking ahead of time.  Now you’re in the car, and it’s time to go in.  Play a song that either relaxes you or pumps you up.  Sit in the car and visualize success. Take deep breaths. I have sat in my car for up to 20 minutes before. Do what you need to do, but make sure you don’t stay so long you talk yourself out of it.  Few things feel worse than getting all dressed up, parking at an event, and then driving away 20 minutes later without even getting out of the car.  I can say that, because I’ve done it many times.  Pick a song or two to get you ready and by the time they are over, get out of that car and into the venue!

When you are ready to walk in pay attention to your posture.  Try not to fidget.  Give the impression of confidence.  Even if on the inside you want to run and hide, on the outside walk into that room as if you own it and it will show.  Shoulders back, eyes forward, slight smile on your face.  If you need a moment to calm yourself before entering the crowd, do so.  Look at photos on the wall, or stop for a drink at the bar.

Remember your prep.  Your ice breakers.  Personal space, eye contact.

And remember the most important thing:

You’ve specifically chosen an event full of people with like-minded interests.  It is the friendliest crowd you could find. 

Also, Rome was not built in a day.  Take your time.  Make it a goal to talk to just one person this time.  Next time, try two people.  Don’t expect to walk away from the first event with your social problems solved.  Take it easy, and be kind to yourself.  Living with shyness and social anxiety is not easy.  Any time you are able to find the courage to step out of your comfort zone is a huge win.  Allow yourself to feel it as such.  And keep on trying!

Next time in the Social Guides for the Socially Awkward: Networking!

Battling Gender Roles: One Toy Department At A Time

Every time I pass a store with toys, or I’m in a store with a toy department, I have to browse.  You never know what cool action figures or LEGOs will be available.  That’s where I got my awesome Iron Man headphones, and they sound quality is AMAZING.
Today, while in the toy department, I spied this:

image

What you can’t see are all the fun cowboy hats and guns that are behind me in the same “Boys Role Play” area.

I got mad.  Really mad.

So I did this:

image

I replaced the “Barbie” sign with the “Boys Role Play” sign.

NOT SORRY AT ALL.