Trying To Avoid Feelings Of Discouragement And Disappointment Can Hinder Your Social Development
One of the core things that can keep you from improving your social life is when you avoid situations where you could make friends or practice your interpersonal skills. Probably the biggest general reasons people steer clear of social settings are:
- They don't want to feel the uncomfortable physical and mental effects of anxiety, leading up to and during an event
- They don't want to risk feeling the emotional blow of being rejected
- They don't want to make a mistake, which they'll beat themselves up for after the fact
As rough as it is to feel nervous, get rejected, or commit a blunder, at least most of the time someone's aware the fear of those things is holding them back. They know it's a problem and can take steps to address it. (They can learn physical relaxation techniques, challenge their anxious thinking, adjust their attitude about what it means to be turned down, and so on.) They may not always succeed, or fix the issue right away, but they have an idea of what they're up against.
Another, more subtle, socializing-related feeling that's unpleasant is when you go to an event and it doesn't meet your expectations, and you feel disappointed, discouraged, and frustrated. Some situations that might bring up these feelings are:
- You're trying to make friends and go to a Meetup.com pub night. When you arrive you see the only people who showed up are way older than you.
- You want to meet some interesting new people, and go to a book club held by your local library. There are only two other attendees, and it turns out you don't have much in common with them.
- You're feeling starved for some meaningful conversation. You go out for drinks with your new co-workers, but despite your best efforts they only want to talk about superficial topics all evening.
- You're looking for a fun new hobby that will let you meet people. You show up to a local dance school's free beginner lesson, but once you get started you quickly realize you don't enjoy it.
The first few times these things happen you may take it in stride, but when you continue to have discouraging experiences it can wear on you. You want to put your social problems behind you, but disappointing events keep thwarting your plans. If you attend too many disappointing get togethers you may start avoiding them. Why go to another meet up, when it probably won't lead to anything, and leave you heading home feeling irritated and demoralized?
Wanting to avoid possibly feeling discouraged or disappointed can hamper you because building a social life and finding people you're compatible with is partially a numbers game. Sometimes, due to your location and circumstances, there won't be a lot of easy opportunities to meet anyone, and you may have to go to a dozen or more so-so get togethers before you find a person or group you click with. Having a few dull or disheartening outings is unfortunately part of the process. If you aim to never feel discouraged you might not put yourself out there enough.
As I said, people are generally tuned into when they're avoiding things because of anxiety or a fear of rejection. They can be less aware that they pass on social opportunities because they don't want to feel discouraged or frustrated. As a result, when they make counterproductive assumptions they're more likely to accept them without question. They think, "This will be another waste of time. There's no point in going", treat it as a fact, then stay home. Just knowing you may be avoiding some things out of a need to not feel discouraged can help you stop doing it.
Once you know your desire to not feel discouraged is getting in your way, you can combat that tendency the same as you'd fight anxiety or a fear of rejection:
- You can consciously debate the jaded, pessimistic thoughts you might have before an event (e.g., "How can I be so certain going to this party will be a waste of time? Just because the last two parties I went to were duds, doesn't mean this one will be. There's a totally different crowd this time.")
- You can remind yourself that going after your social goals is in your long-term best interests. Risking a bit of disappointment is worth it. That feeling is better than the pain of ongoing loneliness and disconnection.
- You can tell yourself that while feeling discouraged is unpleasant, it won't kill you or prevent you from going after what you want. It's possible to become discouraged, feel the emotion for a while, then have it pass
This isn't to say that if a particular friend making approach isn't working for you, that you should mindlessly keep doing the same thing over and over. Of course you can make adjustments or try new strategies. But if you're fairly certain a course of action will pay off in time, but still requires a bit of luck, persistence, and patience, then stick with it, and don't let a need to never feel discouraged put you off track.
Here's a more detailed article on handling frustration when it does come up:
Handling Feelings Of Frustration And Discouragement As You're Trying To Improve Your Social Skills