A Geek Girl’s Guide to Overcoming Social Anxiety at Work

I’ve been at my new job for two full weeks now, and in that time I’ve met so many new people that my social anxiety skyrockets as soon as I open my eyes in the morning.

I thought working retail forced me to interact with strangers, but I’ve discovered that it’s nothing compared to what I’m doing now in human services.

With retail, I had a prescribed set of interactions—greeting people, offering to help them, ringing them out, etc. It was easy to get into a robotic mindset where it wasn’t really me interacting with others, just my role. Now that I’m not able to hide behind a register, I’m reminded of how terrifying it can be to try to carry on a conversation with someone I don’t know (or with dozens of people I don’t know).

If my workplace were a party, I would sneak off after a few hours and go home to hide under covers with a book. Unfortunately, in this instance I don’t have the luxury of deciding my social meter has maxed out and that I need to get away.

Somehow I needed to find a way to make meeting people interesting and exciting rather than terrifying and draining.

And being the imaginative person that I am, I couldn’t go with a typical solution (those never work anyway). I had to try to make it magical, which I discovered was rather easy.

At some point this past Monday, I realized that my social anxiety wouldn’t exist if I were meeting elves and gnomes rather than humans. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time reading Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Maybe this is just an indication of how obsessed I am with fantasy worlds…but I suddenly knew how I needed to approach my own world.

My first week at my new job, I was just meeting people.

The second week at my job, I was meeting mythical creatures! (It’s okay to be jealous)

With each new person I met, I would try to see which race or species they would be if they came from Tolkien’s, Rowling’s, or Pratchett’s worlds. And it actually worked! This past week, I’ve met some really delightful personalities.

So far, I’ve come across a hobgoblin who certainly wouldn’t be someone I’d go hunting to find but who has proven to be adorable in her unconventional way,  a troll who is rather gentle and lovable despite the thick skin and somewhat obtuse point of view, and a couple of elves whose artistic souls peak out of their shy, distrustful eyes.

There’s even an orc. I’m equal parts terrified and fascinated by him at the moment, but I comfort myself with the idea that a single orc is probably far more scared of my fairy power than I am of his gnashing teeth.

My game has allowed me to look beyond the human mask that tend to be so terrifying and uncomfortable to see the beauty of their souls. Connecting people with mythical creatures keeps me mindful of the fact that they have a history, a story, a personality, even talents; and being mindful of their histories, stories, personalities, and talents reminds me to look for them rather than getting lost in my own anxieties about whether they will like my history, story, personality, or talents.

It hasn’t taken all of the stress out of my interactions. I cried during week two of my new job only slightly less than I cried during week one. But bringing magic and myth into my workplace with me has helped me find an enthusiasm for meeting new people that I never thought I would experience. Dare I say I’m even looking forward to meeting more creatures from my magical world? I may have to drop the label of “introvert” if I keep having this much fun with humans!




Birthing my Future: Lessons on Transition with Artemis

Since I wrote this post on Artemis, I have felt myself preparing for transition. Truth be told, I’d been feeling the stirrings for far longer than that…almost exactly nine months. For much of that time, the stirrings were more intellectual, dreaming of what might happen, thinking about taking steps, considering what the changes in my life might look like.

Towards the holidays, I started to really feel the need to change my life up. I began earnestly looking at where my path might lead. I prepared for grad school, took the GRE, started looking at new jobs in mental health, even pushed for vacations to get a new perspective on my routines.

But it wasn’t the right time for me to begin my transition.

I’ve had a particularly hard time with the winter this year, and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I myself felt so frozen, not in a time of rest and dormancy, rather as if my life force were being held captive by the season. I don’t like being held back after I’ve made a decision to move forward. When my initial attempts to get into grad school by last fall fell through, I settled into a restless period of waiting. I felt as if I were crouched to leap at any opportunity, yet not quite desperate enough to just make change for change’s sake. Waiting for the right change to present itself was torturous.

I restlessly surrounded myself with plants, trying to bring a sense of growth into my life, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t will the winter outside my windows to go away.

Yoga with Artemis helped. She gave me courage to keep preparing myself for change when fear tried to convince me to let well enough alone. She gave me the motivation to plunge into the discomfort of uncertainty with regard to the next year. She gave me hope that with that uncertainty might come possibility.

And finally, I’ve come to it. The transition has started. The cards have fallen into place (seriously, you should have seen my tarot reading for this month!).

Now Artemis is standing with me in my birth pangs. In a few weeks, I’ll be starting a new job/career and mailing off my application to grad school. I’m exhilarated and excited, of course. But there’s also pain.

With my new beginning also comes a type of ending. Not a permanent, never-going-to-see-you-again ending, but an ending to the way my relationships and life have worked up until now. I love the people that I’ve worked with for the past several years. They’ve been like family to me. I’ve stayed where I am as much because of them as because of my own needs for incubation. To leave is heartbreaking.

For that Artemis is there with her fierce independence, not scorning my connection, but reminding me that connection, like life, is meant to be fluid. She reminds me that it’s loving to say goodbye when it’s time to go. Life isn’t about staying the same; life is about changing. When I resist change because of connection, I dishonor both life and connection.

I know I’m on the right path for myself. I’m so excited about the possibilities. The uncertainty of the next few months feels gloriously wild…just like the spring that is beginning to peak out from hibernation. But with each new opportunity, I’m reminded that there are also endings. I honor those endings today and look forward to the transitioning of relationships along with the transitioning of employment.