If you’re a new parent, have perhaps had a change in personal circumstances, moved location or introduced a new lifestyle and are now being offered opportunities to go out when you’ve not socialised in a while it can be hard to motivate yourself to leave the house and make the effort to join in.
You may have apprehensions and concerns. What about money; how much will it cost, what about the incidentals like taxis or babysitters, nails, clothes and hairdressers? How about the other members of the group. Are they ‘all’ vibrant, sophisticated ladies or successful businessmen? Will I fit in, what about my conversational skills?
What if you do feel frumpy and out of date, not smart enough? Sometimes a small touch can make all the difference, like a new haircut, a brightly coloured top, a distinctive piece of jewellery. But remember, it’s not your size or what you’re wearing that makes you attractive and interesting to others. I doubt those are an issue for you when meeting someone new. Give your group credit for being equally discerning and knowing what’s important. Being good company and interested in others is what makes you a valued, integral part of any group. People like you, not your style of shoes or colour of lipstick.
Take baby steps at first. Be selective about the invitations you accept, so that you’re already interested and inclined to go along. Make sure that there are several appealing factors; you’re comfortable with several members of the group, the place you’re going to is somewhere you’d enjoy. You may prefer to go for a meal or a film rather than to a noisy, busy bar, or are happiest with an activity like ten-pin bowling or a class, choose whatever you feel most relaxed with.
Do you feel that you’ve been out of the mix for so long that you’ve lost the art of adult conversation and have little to talk about that’s not child, work or home-related? Determine to fix that by watching a little popular TV, keeping up to date with the news, listening to others and being attentive to what they converse about.
And remember, joining in and being a good audience member as well as an interested listener, or being fine when others prefer to talk about themselves will ensure that you become a welcome addition to the group. Listening is a good fall-back position to adopt.
Give yourself time to get ready, even if you allow an entire day. Set aside time to wash your hair, to decide what you’re going to wear. The hassle of getting ready, often a source of fun to other people, can be an additional stressor if you’ve not socialised in a while.
Would arriving there with someone else be easiest for you? Perhaps arrange a lift or offer to drive so that you’re going with a ‘friend’ and can chat, enjoy each other’s company and not feel daunted by travelling alone.
Arrange an emergency escape route, like having a friend phone after a couple of hours. Then if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to get away you can claim that you’re needed elsewhere, make your excuses and leave. Knowing that someone’s checking in on you can be a relief and remove the stress of feeling trapped and obligated to stay until the end.
Remind yourself that’s it’s important to stay connected with the outside world – you’re not ‘just’ a partner, parent, employer or employee. Continue to invest in your individual identity and treat it as an important part of your relationship both with yourself and with others.
Consider how you’ll feel if you decide not to go. Of course, it’s your choice at the end of the day, but rather than decline why not commit to going for an hour or two? You can always leave early if you start to feel overwhelmed, but remind yourself that it’s more likely that you’ll find that everyone’s there to relax and have a pleasant time too. They’re all similar to you, also with issues, troubles and concerns, equally in need of a night off. Discover how much better you’ll feel once you’ve gone along and joined in.
By starting to socialise again you’re reclaiming your identity and living a bigger, more expansive life. And so often others share your fears and concerns. Remember, you’re not alone!
Susan Leigh, counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support. She’s author of 3 books, ‘Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact’, ‘101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday’ and ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.