Dear Miss Penny,
I would love your advice on how to go to a place I have never visited before, and not feel the dire need to look for a man or feel obsolete when I am in new surroundings. I do not typically go out to clubs/parties, but if I do go, it’s usually with friends. I always feel quite shy/nervous/scared to explore any place on my own. It’s like I use the other person as a crutch to feel safe, I guess. I don’t particularly like the feeling of “not belonging” or “being the new person in the room”. I also sometimes feel like going out is pointless. How can I get to a point within myself where I am satisfied with just enjoying my surroundings, without being with someone else or feel like I am in search of someone (to meet or date)?
Dear Miss Shy-Cautious-Curious
First of all, let me say that feeling shy about meeting new people, going to places you have never to before, and experiencing new things in general is a NORMAL thing. Getting on a flight for the first time, driving for the first time, being on your own at college for the first time…etc. All these FIRSTS can be both exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
Growing up in general, often means being put into situations where you have to do things on your own and take steps you have never taken before.
How do you overcome fear? This is a loaded question. It starts with practice. Baby steps to be precise. Here is a concrete suggestion: find a coffee shop you love. Go to it every day for a week. Each time you go, sit in a different spot. Order a beverage, break out your laptop or book, and sit there while you get some work or leisurely reading done. Why did I suggest a coffee shop? Because most people go there to get work done, and although you can socialize, you can also bury yourself in your computer or book and look up and smile or start a conversation when you are good and ready.
Another thing – I personally think there is absolutely nothing wrong with a having a good friend with you when you do go to a party or club, for a few reasons: 1) Yes, it is safer to have someone with you, especially in environments where alcohol is served or it is late in the evening, etc. 2) There is comfort and security in having a wing-man or wing-woman with you as you enjoy an evening out. It is nice to have someone to talk to as you meet other people.
Now let’s say there are places or events you would like to go to by yourself. Honestly, I bring my phone. Everyone is busy these days. And there is always something of interest you can read on your phone or on the internet while you are sipping on hot chocolate, a martini, or whatever. If this is a place where you are meant to mingle with others and being on the phone would seem rude, bring something in your hand that you can read. This way you can be in a place where you haven’t been to before…warm yourself up to the new environment you are in… at your OWN pace…and lift your head up and smile at a passerby on YOUR terms (meaning when you feel comfortable enough to do so).
Now let’s be clear, I am not telling you to keep your eyes glued to whatever you brought to distract you, but it doesn’t hurt to be productive while you wait for the moment where you feel inclined to engage with someone. Wing-people, phones, computers, etc. may all be seen as crutches, but I like to think of them as stepping stones. Stones that lift you to a higher place within yourself that help you climb and grow into becoming a secure, evolved adult. Again, nothing wrong with that. Sometimes it is more important to place emphasis and focus on the destination instead of the path.
Next step: how do you engage? And why should you engage at all? It all starts with a smile and a simple question. People gravitate towards kindness. Be welcoming in your approach. And just because you are striking up conversation or networking, doesn’t mean you are in search of a man or friend, it just means you are being personable. You never know who you will meet or click with and how that person could contribute to some aspect of your life in the future. Be brave, take steps you have never taken before, and you will actually get results you have never had before. This will contribute to the feeling of fulfillment you are looking to feel and in turn, give you purpose. Growth and progress comes from being open, willing and welcoming of new experiences…and yes, sometimes that means taking a bit of a risk, stepping outside of your comfort zone (at your own pace), and smiling at a stranger…