Not Feeling Festive about the Festivities?
Are you stressed out about socializing this holiday season? Maybe you are looking forward to social gatherings, but you are worried about talking with people. Or maybe you wish that you didn’t have to talk with anyone or even show up at a holiday party. Although many hope that holiday gatherings are fun and magical, sometimes they can feel disconnecting and overwhelming. Figuring out how to deal with the anxiety you may feel at social gatherings can set you up for a better holiday experience.
When you show up at a party what thoughts come to your head? Are you thinking, “this is great, my friends are here!” or “this is awkward, I don’t fit in” or “did I overdo it with my Christmas sweater?” Do you wonder, “am I a boring person?” or “why can’t I just be left alone and not have to gather with a bunch of people”? If you are having racing thoughts or your mind is going blank your anxiety might be hijacking your brain.
Sometimes it can help to take a few steps back and get clear on why these gatherings can be hard for you. It can allow you to let go of judgment that you might have towards yourself for your feelings about them.
Here are some reasons that anxiety can increase at social gatherings:
You tend to look for approval from others instead of connecting with them
You know people well and want them to continue to like you (leading you to feel pressure to perform)
You do not know people well and you don’t know how they feel about you, but you want them to like you
You have had a recent life change and you don’t know how it will land with others
You might feel uncertain about what you have to offer as a person, which interferes with you feeling good enough to connect with others
Seeking approval from others is quite common, but it can put our self-worth at the mercy of someone else. While there is nothing wrong with wanting approval from others, it can be challenging when we need it from others. If someone doesn’t approve of your life choices or think highly of you, then that might influence the way you think and feel about yourself. As good as it can feel to get approval, when you can validate yourself, you can show up more authentically in your relationships. This requires being able to tolerate that potential disappointment and judgment from others. Doing the personal work necessary to see what value you have will help you to rely less on others’ views of you and better connect with them.
When we feel insecure about ourselves, we might find it hard to think that others would want to connect with us. Sometimes we struggle to take in our value because of comparing ourselves with others or believing in the negative thoughts we’ve heard about ourselves from others/society. Sometimes, we may not feel good about ourselves because we feel stuck in a job, relationship, or weighed down by life stressors. Rather than berating yourself for your shortcomings, instead you can refocus on how to make necessary life or behavioral changes. If we judge ourselves as useless, hopeless, or a bad person, we let ourselves off the hook from having to make any necessary changes. After all, if we are hopeless then there isn’t anything we can do about our situation. Sometimes just getting unstuck and figuring out how to deal with those life stressors can be freeing and build the confidence that we need to better connect with others.
It’s okay to not feel festive or excited about the holidays. Give yourself permission to feel however you feel. Socializing isn’t easy when it triggers unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. Anxiety might not go away for you at these parties, and it is not a problem to feel it. As you acknowledge your emotions and become more self-validated, socializing can feel less draining and potentially enjoyable. Socializing might just give you the practice that you need to become a more self-assured person.