When I was 32, my family and I decided to move out of state. The state I had lived in all my life, where almost all my family and friends lived. Most of my friendships were childhood friends or friends I made in college. I made very few new, adult friendships after college. Maybe I felt I didn’t really need to because there was always a friend I could call. Or maybe, I didn’t want to step outside my comfort zone, face possible rejection, and felt it was just easier not to talk to people (hint: it was definitely the latter).
When we moved, my friends and family were now multiple states away. I knew no one. Not a single friend. Not a single family member. Now what? I needed friends. I was a stay-at-home mom who needed someone to talk to besides my husband. Another mom to text random things, escape together, have playdates, and be there when my husband was out of town.
I needed to step outside my comfort zone. I needed to fight past the anxieties that made me want to run away from social situations. I needed to remind myself that it was okay. It’s okay if we end up not being friends. It’s okay if I’m not their person. It’s okay if it ends up not being the friendship I imagined.
Anxiety is hard, but so is being lonely. Change is hard, but so is being unhappy.
I started fighting my thoughts. The thoughts of “they aren’t going to like me.” “What if I don’t know what to talk about?” “What if they think I’m boring?”
I knew I couldn’t keep running and hiding just because something felt uncomfortable. In that moment when the anxious thoughts started flooding, I needed to fight back. I wanted friendships. I needed friendships.
To meet people, I had to leave the house. Going for walks and playing outside with my kids helped me meet neighbors. Finding play areas for kids helped me meet other local moms. Finding a church helped me feel part of a community.
What happened when I started talking back to my anxious thoughts? I exchanged phone numbers. I said yes to the playdates. I fought through the worries of I shouldn’t text this; they will just think it’s stupid and pushed send. I started talking more to people. I started wondering how many people feel the same way I do about adult friendships.
Talking back to anxious thoughts doesn’t make all the anxiety go away, but it does quiet it enough to allow you to do what you want to do. It allows you to say hi. It allows you to carry on a conversation and not try to bail right after that hi. It allows you to ask someone for their phone number. Anxiety can run the show, and it’s hard—I get it. But you can take control. You can run the show.
The more you fight back and challenge the anxious thoughts, the easier it becomes, and the more change you will see. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes. Challenging my anxious thoughts related to talking to people has trickled into other parts of my life. It has helped me gain confidence, take more chances, be vulnerable, and have new, incredible people in my life. It has helped me rediscover who I am and have the confidence to be who I am in front of others.
The anxious thoughts still come. The worries are still there. But now . . . now my voice is louder.