I love people, I always have. I love making them laugh, I love conversing and exchanging ideas…but I’m also kind of afraid of them. If you’re close to me, this might come as a surprise. I’m usually outgoing, given the proper setting, and with people I know. However, despite my love of people, my fear of them can sometimes act as a catalyst for avoiding certain social gatherings. This fear is what enabled me to avoid those classic middle school pool parties, or even now, small social gatherings with people I don’t know very well in college. As a believer in observing through an introspective lens, I’ve broken down this propensity of socially fueled anxiety to a consistent theme: for me, it all goes back to insecurity.

Let it be known that I am aware this avoidance of the unfamiliar stems from a pit of insecurities. I can admit it: I have my fair share of insecurities. Most of us do, although many of us don’t like to admit to it. I always go back to the pool party example. It’s not that I genuinely didn’t want to go, I was just afraid to go. Just the thought of my coed classmates seeing me in a bathing suit was enough to keep me home. “I don’t even know her that well, Mom. She won’t even notice that I’m not there.” I had a laundry list of excuses, ready at hand. It made me moody, because I couldn’t explain what I was feeling without spilling out the fact that I was insecure. I can’t estimate the amount of good experiences I may have missed out on during those years.

The same thing holds true in my college years. As I try to acquire new friends and experiences, I can’t help that sinking feeling in the pit on my stomach. I can’t decide whether it is my fear of judgment or the painful awkwardness that comes with small talk. Either way, it makes me nervous, makes me doubt myself, and ultimately, sends me running. The next step is to find a way to slow down, evaluate the situation and remind myself that a social interaction like this isn’t going to kill me. It’s easier said than done. However, I also think that many of us just want people to like us. It’s this propensity to try and adapt to everyone else around you, to enchant them, to get them to relate to you. It’s this irrational desire that similarly makes it that much harder to branch out. You can’t please everyone, and you can’t, and shouldn’t, adapt your personality to match someone else. As my favorite country artist Kacey Musgraves once said, “You can’t be everybody’s cup of tea.”

Everyone has an Achilles heel; everyone has a battle to fight. We’re perfectly dysfunctional, often a heavy helping of redeeming qualities, with a small dash of imperfections. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve forced myself (or in most cases, been forced) to combat the desire that attempts to lure me into staying home. However, what I’ve found, is that it’s all about finding a way to remind yourself that no one has an expectation of you. It’s hard to remind yourself that your insecurities are often irrational and exist solely within your mind. Some days are harder than others, and I’ve been told time and time again to look at the big picture. I love my comfort zone, I love it so much. Yet I know it is my comfort zone that’s denying me the chance to venture out and meet new people. For me, it’s about taking it a day at a time. To rationalize my feelings, I have to peel back the layers, and get to the root of the anxiety. For me, nine times out of ten it’s the same old insecurities. It’s time to do some power stances and embrace more self-love. As are most things in life: this one’s a work in progress.