How I handled social anxiety at a Balinese Festival

It's been a bit longer than usual since I sent you my last email, and that's because I've been going through some big changes and transitions. 5 days ago, I moved to Bali! My mind is buzzing with all the new impressions to process, all the different feelings and thoughts, to the extent I struggled to decide on a particular topic to write about today. I always feel like I have a million stories to share...


I definitely want to tell you more about why I've decided to move to Indonesia for these next 3 months. Because a lot of it has to do with my continuous learning journey as a coach. But I'm putting a pin on that for now, because today, I want to talk to you about social anxiety.


Why? Because I've experienced a lot of it since arriving here. Now not all gifted people struggle with social anxiety per se. But a lot of us do struggle with trying to fit in, and we get stressed about it along the way. So there you have it: social anxiety.


Visiting a festival in Bali on my own


I moved to Bali not knowing a single person here. And part of why I moved here is that in Croatia, I was missing a sense of community around me. Bali has a thriving digital nomad community, and it attracts coaches from all over the world. So one of my intentions for my time here is to spend more time socializing.


That's why I decided to go to a spiritually oriented festival that happened over the weekend, which would bring a lot of the international community of the island together in one place. Now, I do a lot of things on my own without any hesitation. But large social gatherings without knowing anyone there? Umph... That's a thought that immediately creates a sense of anxiety inside me.


I spent all Friday going back and forth, weighing up the pros and cons of going. It kept me up for a big chunk of the night, as I continued overthinking the whole thing and creating awkward scenarios in my mind that almost made me decide to not go after all. Thoughts like: what if no one wants to talk to me? What if I'm gonna be standing by myself all awkwardly? I could already see myself taking out my phone, pretending to be typing messages to fake looking occupied. Or sitting all by myself eating lunch, with everyone else seated together around big tables. All the sort of stuff that used to happen to me at school...


Three tools for dealing with social anxiety


I noticed the anxiety within myself, and realized what a beautiful opportunity this was to apply some of my coaching tools to myself. Here's what I did:


1. I comforted myself. I told myself out loud that I saw all the worries, and sensed all the iffy feelings. And that it was OK for me to feel that way. That it was safe. This comforting luckily calmed me down.


2. I went back to those scary 'What If' questions and actually answered them (we don't typically do this, but if you actually answer them, you'll often notice that it the worst case scenario isn't that gloomy and terrible after all).


For example: 'What if no one wants to talk to me?'.

My answer: 'Well, that would be a shame for them, because I'm an interesting person and they would be missing out on a good conversation.' Do you see how the energy around this question just shifted? Adding confidence to the equation works wonders...


3. I reminded myself of the kind of person I want to be, and how she would be handling this situation. I call her Simone 2.0. Aka. the upgraded version of myself. She is future me, the me I'm in the process of becoming. I imagine I'm her already, and then I show up as her here and now, today. Simone 2.0 would feel the fear that the thought of attending a festival all alone would cause her. But she wouldn't be held back by that fear. She would comfort herself. She would remind herself she could always leave if she wanted to. She would push through and do the things that scare her, because she understands that's how growth happens. So that's exactly what Simone 1.0 did ;)


When your fear becomes reality


So how was the festival? I'll be honest. It turned out to not be great. I did end up feeling like an outsider because the kind of people that showed up and the type of events that took place weren't my cup of tea.

What I had feared so much had come true: I didn't fit in. And I didn't end up making new friends as I'd hoped.

But I did talk to people. And when the time came to sit down for lunch, I brought up the courage to walk up to a table with an empty spot to ask: 'Could I please sit here?'. And they were like 'Sure, please join us!'.


There were a few moments where I felt tempted to bring out my phone to fake being busy, but I resisted the urge. I reminded myself it's OK to stand by myself for a bit. Truly, everyone is focused on themselves anyways. So I comforted myself and instead, I ended up observing how this gathering at this spiritual festival worked. This actually brought my mind to brim with ideas for creative photo projects and research ideas (I probably won't execute them, but it helped me turn the event into an intellectually stimulating happening).


The worst thing that could happen was to not fit in. It happened. And that's totally OK.


Even though I didn't fit in, it wasn't so bad. It doesn't mean I'm not likeable. It doesn't mean I'm socially inept. It doesn't mean I'm not interesting. It only means that I gave it a try but that it wasn't my scene.


Do I regret going now? Not at all. Why?

Because I got to practice showing up as Simone 2.0. And I completely nailed it.


 

What's coming up for you as you're reading this? Do you recognise yourself in (parts of) the story I just shared? Will you try out some of the techniques I explained above? Let me know! Email me your reflections, or post them in the comment section below the blog post version of this article on my website. I legitimately enjoy it so much when readers reach out.


Ps. Want some help in dealing with social anxiety? Want to build your confidence as a gifted person so that you too will be able to do things that scare you? Want to get to know the 2.0 version of yourself? I have spots open for 1-1 coaching this month. Send me an email and we'll chat to see if I can support you on your journey.


Feels scary to email? Well then you know exactly what to do... ;)

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