When the time comes for social interaction, anxiety can hit some of us like a ton of bricks.
For me, it always felt like an oppressive weight, growing heavier with each step I took toward the crowd, event, etc. The worst case of social anxiety bricks always came when I was going somewhere uninvited, as a guest of someone else, or as merely another face in the crowd. In other words, if I had no reason to be there, if I wasn’t asked to come, or if no one indicated that they wanted my presence, I felt like I shouldn’t burden anyone by showing up. Under the weight of all this imaginary debris, I battled urges to stay home and be slothful or do something low key that wouldn’t bother anyone. I would tell myself that it wasn’t worth the effort, cost, or potential pain of being present with other humans. More often than not, I would acquiesce to these limiting urges.
As a performer, I love being on stage and working with an audience. This tends to involve outrageous, classy, or otherwise eye-catching outfits. Whenever I would dress up and put in the effort, people are pleased and treated me well. Looking distinct is an instant icebreaker, and it makes it easier to be a source of pleasure for others. I can recall several occasions where, upon donning a form-fitting, shiny rubber outfit and wearing it out, people treated me like royalty. Over time, it dawned on me that I could give myself a reason to be anywhere if I simply dressed to impress.
All my worries about being a burden, an annoyance, a waste of space, or whatever lie my brain was telling me were dispelled when I discovered that I could be part of the reason that anyone showed up to an event. I could use my personal and unique sense of style to make the whole social occasion more interesting and titillating for everyone. If others see me being confident and outgoing they are more inclined to follow and express themselves. Often, I would hear things like “I wish I could dress like that,” or “I wish I was brave enough to wear that,” and other statements of admiration. The common theme that I hear is the story that people tell themselves of “I can’t do that. I can’t be myself.” I want to see this mindset vanquished.
It’s as if wearing the right suit confers superpowers. One of the most important things in life is feeling secure in your own skin. In my case, I feel secure in both my skin and my glossy second skin. Looking the way you truly wish to look can be scary because it provokes reactions in others, for better or worse. Conquering that fear is what makes others believe you have incredible abilities and mental fortitude. The more you practice dressing the way you want in the face of criticism and doubt, the more magnetic you will be.
It’s what inspires envy in those that feel bitter about their own shortcomings. Whether this means being more fit, rocking a three-piece suit, or sporting an elegant dress, it doesn’t matter. What matters is figuring out what kind of superhuman look you imagine for yourself. I encourage and challenge you to dream. You don’t have to be a rubber-clad goth dude like me; just be your best, most interesting self, whatever that means to you, and reflect it in how you dress. If you own it and wear it like a superhero/villain outfit, your confidence and passion will carry over to others. You gain the power to change and even enhance your reality.
Should you choose to stand out from the crowd, you may encounter resistance from that very same group. It is inherent in human nature to drag others down, particularly if they seem successful, brazen, or happy with themselves. By revealing your superhuman self, you also reveal the true nature of those around you: those who would genuinely support you, and those who secretly wish for your downfall. The latter category is the majority of human beings. They are the massive, faceless hivemind that would drag you to your doom, to the familiar depths of despair from which you rose. Focus instead on the few who want good things for you, and who make concrete efforts toward your well being, just as you can do for them in return. As a superhuman in a snappy outfit, you have much darkness to fight, but you will be stronger and shine all the brighter for your efforts.
Finally, it bears mentioning that standing out isn’t mandatory to feel socially comfortable. There is a solace in fitting in, blending with the crowd, and being part of something greater than yourself. If that is how to feel and act your best, then embrace it. After all, not all superhumans bask in the public eye. Whatever you do, don’t let your powers and potential go to waste.