Social anxiety—ring a bell for you? I know it does for me, and I think it’s same to assume that it’s been around since the beginning of time in one form or another. Sappho, for instance, probably had to deal with some incredible queer social anxiety living in ye olden days of proto-queerness, lugging her lute or miniature harp to serenade some chick at a toga party. Times certainly have changed, but social anxiety hasn’t; in fact, it may have even gotten worse.
My social anxiety goes bananas at queer events specifically. Us queers happen to be very good at being catty and petty when it comes to trespassers of obscure social graces. We aren’t perfect! For some unholy reason, whenever a group of lesbians finds themselves in a room together, it can become a hotbed of hearsay and lukewarm condescension.
“Oh, so-and-so was so-and-so’s girlfriend. You hit on her and didn’t know?”
“OMG, are your Tevas from Urban Outfitters or Patagonia?”
How does one stave off social anxiety with all the dyke drama that surrounds every encounter or entanglement? We here at GO have some tips to help you navigate the Chapstick jungle of contemporary lesbian life while keeping your anxiety in check.
1. Set The Mood With Music
With social anxiety, it can be hard enough to leave the house for groceries or see a friend, much less try to get yourself out to the latest queer club night or dinner party full of exes. Even Bette Porter has panic attacks when confronted with unexpected situations and gets uncomfortable at the thought of having to socialize with strangers or toxic former lovers.
Sometimes the hardest part can even be the ride to the event, knowing that my stomach will do 500 somersaults when I enter a room full of judge-y, semi-buzzed lesbians on the prowl. I keep my phone stocked with all my favorite calming tunes that lull me into a false sense of safety for that very reason—so I can create a cocoon of reverb and dream-pop around my person. If you need a couple of new suggestions, check out bands like Parrot Dream, Sneaks, and Romeo Void. They all have queer band members and will fill your heart with a warm coat of comfort that keeps you excited and awake for the night ahead.
2. Carry An Emergency Kit
I’ve found that when I’m really anxious about an upcoming social situation—especially when it involves other queer folks—organizing a day bag with bottled water, tissues, snacks, vitamins, and whatever else I need to feel comfortable can be a big step toward manifesting a good experience.
3. EAT AND DRINK…DUH
This might seem totally obvious, but it can be difficult to remember in the moment, especially if you’re out with friends and something happens that makes you feel anxious, uncomfortable, or close to panicking. In particular, water can be a wingman and a solid bestie in times of crisis. My meditation trick is to get a glass or a bottle of water, go into the bathroom, and drink it as slowly as I can. I try to focus on just the liquid and how it’s going into my body, using that to push out any negative or fear-oriented thoughts I might be having. Once you’ve drunk all the water, you can either refill the glass if you need to calm down more or try to go back out into the social situation. The water also helps to bring your blood pressure down, and focusing on an object can help distract you from whatever is bothering you.
4. When In Doubt, Dip
You always have the right to politely (or not so politely) remove yourself from a situation that makes you uncomfortable. There can be a lot of pressure, especially when you’re out at queer clubs with friends, to stay the night and make something fabulous happen. But sometimes you’re not in such a fabulous mood, or you might not want to drink as much as everyone else, or you don’t want to be around someone you don’t like. Whatever the reason (even if it’s just that you feel like leaving), you can always go, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation. You don’t need to feel guilty about taking care of yourself. Your friends will understand.
5. Comparing Yourself Is a No-No
You may hear this one all the time, but it’s beyond true. To be honest, a picture doesn’t actually say a thousand words. On average, they say, like, 15 words; the rest is the story you tell yourself about the people in the photo. Maybe their skinny jeans and sleeveless tee look just the right kind of devil-may-care, unavailable gay, making you feel inadequate in comparison. Maybe they always seem to be smiling and having fun with the coolest people or the hottest girls. The fact is, it doesn’t really matter—you’re the protagonist of your own story. Your story is much cooler lived rather than scrolled through and liked in pictures. Still, it’s very natural to get intimidated. It’s natural to obsessively look up your ex, or some cool queer party you haven’t gotten up the courage to go to, or to drool over all the clothes you might buy if you felt confident enough to present a certain way in public. It’s harder to remember that you’re valid, cool, and totally cute just as you are right now.
I recommend making rules around screen time. I turn my phone off every night around 8 p.m. and don’t pick it up again until at least noon the next day. I also hide a lot of social apps—like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat—so that I don’t gravitate toward them when I’m using my phone. I find that when I stay away from all the hype and false bravado of social media, I have a much more positive and happy self-image and can focus on more of the things I want to do. It’s worth a try!
Whatever you do with all the feels and anxiety you experience in the scary modern queer world, it’s important to remember that the intensity you may be feeling will pass and that your feelings, whatever they are, are hella valid. Hopefully, some of these tips for self-care will help you in your journey toward finding the gayest happy place ever.