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Social Anxiety and Work Gatherings

For the past few months I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to participate in set of “Emerging Leader” professional development trainings at work. I feel honored to have been selected and have been really learning a lot.

One of our sessions was about how to be your authentic self as a colleague and a leader. We did an exercise where we were asked to finish the prompt “Something you should know about me that isn’t obvious from looking at me…” Here’s how I answered the prompt:

“Something you should know about me that might not be obvious is that I experience sometimes severe social anxiety in certain group situations. This is important for you to know about me because if I seem stressed or not engaged at an event or meeting, that may be why.”

I felt nervous about stating this aloud to my colleagues. But also quite liberated after I had said it. I realized that I have been quietly ashamed of times in my life when I had avoided certain social gatherings or work events because of these feelings of intense anxiety. I came up with excuses why I wasn’t there — feeling sick, too busy, etc. When in reality I was terrified of the prospect of navigating that cocktail party, informal mixer, or afterwork drinks.

After I had said, others told me that they experienced similar feelings. Which helped me feel less alone, less like a freak, and more capable of dealing with these feelings.

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