I suffer from social anxiety – in the fall, winter, and spring, but I find the summer the most difficult time of year. Each summer, the anticipation of the increased social activity and the fear of missing out on said social activity is a huge source of stress for me – not to mention the dreaded bathing suit…oh yes, the dreaded bathing suit.
I’m 23, so beach outings, summer nights spent on patios, camping trips, road trips, barbeques, and just going out more often with friends and family members can rattle the anxiety I experience. In the summer, I find myself in more situations where I must talk to humans, make eye contact, and appear as though I am happy – because as my social media feed proves – everyone else is happy in the summer! And unlike in the winter months, I feel guilty if I stay at home with my Netflix and hide from the world.
But this summer I decided that it’s going to be different. Instead of dreading every aspect of the season, I decided that I was going to take control of my summer. I decided to identify the three things that I dread the most about summer and expose myself to them, in an attempt to kibosh the anxiety that surrounds them.
What causes the most anxiety for me during the summer?
1. The Dreaded Bathing Suit
2. Socializing at Summer Outings
3. FOMO – Fear of Missing Out
Now that I identified what are my sources of anxiety during the summer, I was ready to conquer them.
The Dreaded Bathing Suit
The bikini – the worst cause of anxiety for me during the summer. I know what you’re thinking, it shouldn’t matter, I shouldn’t care what other people think, but unfortunately, this small piece of clothing is a cause of frustration for me each year. Deep down I know it shouldn’t bother me and I keep telling myself to stop thinking this way, but there is that part of me that dreads putting a bikini on each year. What frustrates me the most is that I’ve worn a two-piece bikini as a teenager and into my early twenties, but I’ve never felt confident, and now at 23, I feel so uncomfortable showing that much of my body to the public. Not just because I am clearly self-conscious about it, but because I feel like everyone is looking at me and judging every inch of my body and character. I also tend to compare my body with other bodies on the beach. With comparison, I always lose, so I end up berating myself at the beach, which is not my aim when I leave the house. I know it’s wrong, but no matter what I look like or how much I work out and how healthy I eat, I still have that bully in my head telling me that I’m not good enough.
How Will I Break the Cycle?
My new goal for this year is to focus on that bully. So, this summer, I’m not going to allow the bully to win. I am going to do my best to try and NOT compare my body to the other bodies on the beach. I heard a good saying from an older family friend – “You will never be as young as you are today.” I’ve tried my best to keep that in mind when I’m at the beach, and I’m trying very hard not to be so hard on myself. Have I put a bikini on? I’m happy to say, Yes.
Socializing at Summer Outings
My social anxiety doesn’t pick a time of year, for me, it’s with me all year round. But I do find that summer is the most social season, so I feel that my anxiety does ramp up a bit in the warmer, more social months. As I mentioned, winter is easier for me, because I can stay inside and hide, guilt free, because of the cold weather, where summer makes me feel like I must take advantage of the social outings that present themselves. It’s strange because I feel that as soon as the sunshine starts, I feel my anxiety increase. Whereas as soon as the fall starts, I feel a sense of comfort knowing that the social activities will slow down and I can spend some guilt-free time at home with Netflix.
This summer, I am actually going to go to an outdoor concert. I’m looking forward to it, but as soon as I bought the tickets, my excitement for the concert coincided with a case of the “what if’s.” Negative thoughts such as:
- “What if I’m not fun enough for the group of people I’m going with?”
- “What if I have a horrible time and want to leave but I can’t?”
- “What if I have horrible anxiety while I’m there?”
- “I am constantly going to be around people, and I am expected to look like I’m having fun all the time?”, “What if the group I’m with sees how insecure I am or how anxious I feel?”
- “I shouldn’t be feeling this way, why aren’t I more excited, what’s wrong with me?”
- “What if other people think I suck and they hate me?”
- “I am weak for thinking this way”
A Double Dose of Anxiety
It’s a double dose for me – an outdoor concert with thousands of people, paired with socializing in general – enter the numerous negative thoughts telling me that I am going to fail.
As I anticipate the concert, I’ve worked hard with my counsellor on how to help stop these negative thoughts from popping into my head every time someone mentions the concert. As the event approaches, I do feel myself feeling more anxious about it; however, I’ve been using some visualization techniques to prepare me for the big day – with the goal of trying to let myself enjoy the concert. Am I excited about it? Yes. Am I nervous about it? Yes, but I am feeling optimistic that I will allow myself to have a good time.
FOMO – Fear of Missing Out
With the nice weather comes the increased activity on my social media feeds of my social media friends having the best time of their lives with their friends and families. It’s strange, as it doesn’t seem to bother me as much in the winter, but in the summer, it does. I think this has to do with my social anxiety and the increased pressure I feel to get out and do more in the summer. Even on the days where I make the decision to enjoy a lazy day at home, it never fails, as soon as I check my social media feeds and see friends at the beach, in Whistler, enjoying a beverage on a patio in downtown Vancouver, the pang of “missing out” hits me like a ton of bricks. It doesn’t always involve me wanting to be with the people who I see in the photos, but rather the feeling that I too should be skydiving, water skiing, and bungee jumping – because that’s what others are doing.
Take a Social Media Time Out
I find that this one is the easiest of the three to manage because it’s more of an exercise in self-control where I have to learn to avoid social media. I’m not going to lie, it is difficult for me, but so far, I’m doing ok, but I do find myself peeking from time to time.
I’m happy to report that with summer half-way over; I’m doing better than expected. I’m focussing on acknowledging my negative thoughts and working through them so that I can have the best summer yet. Please know that if you have had, or are having similar thoughts, you are not alone! If you need help controlling your swim suit or social anxiety, feel free to check out the resources below; they really helped me. I hope you enjoy the last month of summer; I know that I will try!
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, Anxiety Canada has resources to help – https://anxietycanada.com/adults/introduction.
Social Anxiety Resources – https://anxietycanada.com/adults/social-anxiety-disorder
Calm Breathing Exercises – https://anxietycanada.com/resources/audio/calm-breathing
Confidence Builder Visualizations for Social Anxiety – https://anxietycanada.com/resources/audio/visualizations