How I’m trumping social anxiety this Freshers’ Week

Tip: use innate impatience, encouraged resolve, forced haste and feigned confidence to navigate Front Square this week.


Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have finally arrived. The country mice are turning town mice, trying to cope with the overwhelming throngs of people that make up Dublin’s Fair City. We are all trying to get to grips with recognising our stops on public transport, whilst scrambling around trying to sell our souls and organs to embellish our somewhat lacking society membership fund.

As in most alien situations, I’m sure everyone has noticed the familiar surge of social anxiety rise up to the surface as we embark on our friend­making journey. While it is obvious that these throngs of people are simply masses of individuals, and that within these masses lie our future friends and acquaintances, usually it looks a little more like a pack of ever­hungry hyenas that are waiting to laugh at our every word, and whisper about us as soon as we turn away. Apart from the fear of becoming dumb as soon as we approach someone or the fear of harsh judgement, how do you even start talking to a stranger these days anyway? In a world so dominated by technology, is there any need for this backwards, daunting approach of “introducing yourself”?

The answer: yes. While Tinder may have its perks (namely not having to put trousers on to find your soulmate), let’s face it, it is the easy option, and how much can we really expect to gain from something we risked nothing to attain? So how do those people we assume to be extroverts with a history in public speaking do it? Perhaps it is perspective. If we look at it in the sense that it is “just a hello” and they are “just another person”, and realise that it is nothing to fret over, maybe that will help. Perhaps it is optimism. The greener we see the grass, the more likely we will reach out for it. Or maybe it is enthusiasm? Convince yourself that you cannot wait, and maybe you won’t.

Perspective, optimism and enthusiasm always get all the credit, though if it were that simple we would all be doing it. I think the ideal combination is something more like: innate impatience, encouraged resolve, forced haste and feigned confidence.

1. Innate Impatience: Let’s face it, we are all impatient. Some of us are just better at combating it for others’ sake. However, when it comes to the choice between waiting for someone to approach you, and actually approaching them yourself, patience is not a virtue; it is a curse. If you throw away that mentality and pride and let your impatience run wild, you will do things for yourself. You won’t just take advantage of opportunities, you will make them.

2. Encouraged Resolve: An infinite amount of “I got this. I’m doing it. I just am. It’s happening. We got this.” on a loop in your head is helpful. Once you have convinced yourself that you actually will do it, then you need . . .

3. Forced Haste: Before you have time to over­think, just start doing it. Throw yourself in so deep that you simply cannot sidle back out unnoticed and you have to just start talking, even if it is about which Harry Potter death made you cry the hardest. Make it up as you go along, just don’t over­think it. How badly can it possibly go?

4. Feigned Confidence: Remember the “I got this” monologue from earlier? Well, it’s back. With a load of “I’m well able to talk to this person”, and standing up straight, not mention smiling brightly. You only need to be this confident self for a few minutes and then you can come back to being helplessly insecure, I promise.

Lately I have become a lot more “ballsy” in my attitude to life and risk­taking and it has benefited me to the nth degree. I have made a decision to let my impulses drive me, with impatience as my fuel­source, haste as my ally and confidence as my facade. The best thing? The more you do it, the more you want to; the thrill grows on you. Risk­taking becomes your comfort zone. It’s like a muscle: the more you use it, the bigger it gets. Aim for serious hypertrophy. So just go up to them. Perhaps you will have them from “hello”. You never know; it could be the difference between a stranger and a soulmate.

The same can be said for joining clubs and societies. We all spend far too long over­thinking how everything will unfold. Chances are, most social scenarios will not play out like you planned it in the shower. If you want to join the Gaelic society, go for it. If you can’t kick a ball, even the more reason to start. Don’t let not being good at something hold you back, because then you will never have the opportunity to excel.

One more suggestion. Surround yourself as much as possible with positive people who want to try new things, meet new people,  and embrace new experiences. While most of it is a personal feat, having someone who will go with you to that ballet class you have always wanted to join (even if you are 18 and apparently “too old”) to support you is always a plus.

So to all fellow squirmers whose fear of social scenarios is so palpable, remember: in the end it is not the things you said that you will regret the most, but what you feared too much to say. Clichéd, perhaps, but there you go. How much newer of a leaf can one possibly turn over?