I was sitting on a patio with someone the other day (yes, summer is finally here in Toronto!) and our conversation turned to the concept of alcohol taking the edge off in social situations. It’s something we don’t want to admit because its become so normalized in today’s society. How many times have you walked into a party and gone to grab a drink before talking to anyone? This is not a judgement. It’s actually the norm these days. This is also not meant to be a knock on alcohol. It’s an analysis of what makes us feel like we need to take the “edge” off.
As a culture, we’ve become so used to having social anxiety, on some level, that it’s normal to need to take the edge off. But what would happen if we conquered the anxiety without an external drug?
Anxiety is triggered when we feel disproportionate levels of distress, worry or fear over an emotional trigger. More often than not, when we walk into a party, that emotional trigger is the fear of being judged. We want to be able to walk out of that party feeling like we presented our best selves. In putting this pressure on ourselves, we create internal anxiety which leads us to want to take the edge off immediately. Enter alcohol.
Typically, anxiet sets in when one or more of the below thoughts pop into our minds:
1. I should be doing…
2. How do I compare to them?
3. If I say this, they’ll think that…
First of all, thinking that you should be doing something puts a lot of pressure on yourself. Maybe, you don’t even really want to be doing the thing that you think you should be doing. Remove the “should” and replace it with the word “want”. You’ll immediately feel lighter.
How do I compare to them? You don’t. You’re not them so why would you compare? Just like they don’t compare to you. The more you let yourself stay in this thought process, the less progress you’re going to make towards becoming your best self. Anytime you hear your thoughts making a comparison between you and another person, stop. Refocus your thoughts on something you love about yourself instead.
Lastly, be vulnerable. Maybe you’re right when you worry that they’ll judge you. But if you’re being true to yourself with your words and not offending anyone, then who cares? The funny thing about social anxiety is that it often stems from a pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect. But who can relate to perfect? No one. Because no one is perfect.
So the next time you find yourself filled with a certain level of social anxiety, listen to your thoughts and replace the ‘shoulds’ with ‘wants’ and the comparisons with things you love about yourself. Then enjoy being open with people. If after that, you feel like a glass of wine, treat yourself. But only because you want it, not because you need it.