Thursday, June 13, 2013

Guest Post: On Learning to Say Yes.

Friends! I have a special treat for you today - a guest post from Stephany of Stephany Writes! I couldn't even tell you when I started reading her blog or why, but she's one of the few bloggers I seem to totally "get" because we see some parts of life through exactly the same lens. As an aspiring writer (because if you write, you're a writer!), Stephany challenged herself to write 50 guest blogs this year and I was happy to open up my blog for her to take one more step towards that goal. I asked her to share her thoughts on balance, since that is the title of my blog, after all, and I really enjoyed what she came up with.

On Learning to Say Yes

I don't lead a very busy life. My calendar is not filled up with social events and appointments. In fact, I don't even use any kind of planner because there's not much to, well, plan. Any time a friend mentions getting together, there's not a lot of juggling I have to do. My weekends are pretty low-key and uneventful, where meeting a friend for lunch or a movie date is easy to slip in.

So when Cait asked me to write about how I try to find balance in my life, it threw me for a loop. Balance? I thought. If anything, I need more unbalance in my life!

I've never been the girl who needs lessons in saying "no" to opportunities. I'm a pro at that. If someone mentions something I don't feel like doing, I can make up an excuse out of thin air. Wine tasting?
 Oh, sorry, my weekend is jam-packed with... stuff. Beach trip with some girlfriends? Oh, I'll be in Orlando that weekend. Rain check?

For me, it's not so much about saying no but about saying yes. Learning to say yes to things that I wouldn't normally think I would like, but doing it because, well, YOLO and why not be a little adventurous? Why not take people up on their offers to do something and stop being so stingy with my time?

It's not as if I'm a hermit. Well, not really. I just really love my alone time. I guard it fiercely and I don't like spur-of-the-moment social plans. I'm a homebody and I love that part of me. I have learned to embraced my introverted nature and understand when I need space and time alone.

I learned a little over a year ago that I have a form of social anxiety. It means being around people and having to engage in conversation with strangers (and even people I know) stresses me out. It's why I subscribe to numerous Meet-Up groups and get emails constantly about hangouts but never click the RSVP button. I want to be more social and get myself out there more, but those first few moments of going somewhere where I don't know anybody takes the most courage and bravery I think I possess so I constantly talk myself out of going. 

In some ways, knowing I have social anxiety came as a relief. So there is a reason why meeting new people is so hard for me. I always knew I was an introvert (and a shy one at that!) so social events were never very fun. They were filled with anxiety and fear and stress and I was just praying for the time I could go home and curl up under my sheets. There was a name for the way I felt - and I wasn't alone in my hatred for social gatherings.

In other ways, social anxiety began holding me back. If I felt any sort of anxiety about a particular social hangout, I could bail easily and then blame my social anxiety. I let that be my excuse for why I didn't have more friends or do more things. 

Two things happened that have deeply affected my quest to be more social. One, I attended a local blogger meet-up where I had brunch with about 10 other Tampa-area bloggers. It was a horrible experience where everyone knew one another and I didn't know anyone. I felt alone and awkward, as if I were intruding on their brunch. I think said five words total the entire meal. And now every time I think about joining a new social group, I remember that experience and it holds me back.

The other thing that happened was I joined a book club. This was probably six months after the blogger brunch experience and I was scared to death to attend, but joining a book club was something I had always wanted to do so I summoned up all the courage I had and went. Now, that book club is one of my favorite things to do every month. I feel so comfortable and engaged with the girls in the group. That's the experience I want to remember over the blogger brunch. I want to remember how I felt at the beginning (scared, fearful, shy) to now (excited, happy, welcomed). 

I want to find a better balance in my life between being a homebody and being social. As humans, no matter how introverted we are, we crave companionship and the human touch. We need time with girlfriends, we need romantic relationships, we need family gatherings. We need to connect with people and be engaged with others. I think introverts need this even more than extroverts because our tendency is to hide away and stay inside, when sometimes what we need after a long day is happy hour with people who get us - not lumping on the couch with pizza and a movie. (Although sometimes, that is necessary. Just not every weekend.) 

My life is falling too far over on the homebody side. I need to start inserting opportunities on the social side to achieve a better balance in my life. I've never wanted to be the girl that stops getting asked to hang out because she always says no, so what's the point. I want to be the girl who knows when to go out and when to stay in. The girl who is comfortable being alone, but also comfortable within a group. I want to be even more aware of my strengths when I'm with a group of people and stretching myself to not hold back so much. 

My social anxiety is a real and live thing in my life. It's something I will always need to be aware of, but it's not something that should hold me back from seeking new opportunities to meet new people and grow my social skills. I will probably continue my low-key weekends, sprinkling in opportunities for new friendship in the midst of them.

I want to stop being the girl who always says no all the time, and become the girl who has no problem saying yes.