"Are you hiding?"
My counselor let the question hang in the air for a moment. I turned it around, forehead wrinkled and looking toward the ceiling for insight.
In my quest to broaden community and build relationships, I've run up against my introversion and my insecurities. Despite a wide circle of friends accumulated over the course of the lifetime, including people I've known since grammar school, I am prone to worrying people won't like me or if they do like me, they don't understand me. All fears are alleviated when I'm in someone's presence but if I know next to no one at an event or months go by before the next coffee date, the fears creep back in.
I may look forward to plans for weeks but the day of, I would feel something akin to panic and want to back out. This was supremely frustrating because community is incredibly important to me and I struggled to understand why it's sometimes hard for my actions to reflect my heart.
She continued, "sometimes we need to pay attention to what our guts are telling us. Canceling plans becomes self-care. But sometimes what you feel inside makes you want to hide and you need to push through anyway."
The internal lightbulb flicked on.
Was I hiding? Had I been hiding?
My counselor asked this question last summer and it has guided me ever since.
Being able to ask myself "am I hiding?" clarifies everything.
When I honestly reflect on this question, I can figure out what's behind the hesitancy. If it's been a crazy week, maybe I do need to pass on plans and get my introvert on. But maybe I'm letting my fears speak more loudly than they should. Maybe I'm more worried about whether people will want to engage with me. Maybe I'm stressed over a personal situation and really don't want to talk about it- but I should. Maybe I'm nervous about spending time with a new friend: will they understand where I'm coming from or will they think I'm a big weirdo? (Probably both, which is actually pretty perfect.)
Most of the time when the angst arises, I push past it and end up enjoying myself. I'm almost always glad I went and that new connections were forged. This is how relationships are built: one interaction at a time. There is risk involved in relationships but because it's a priority for me, it's a risk I'm willing to take.
And when I feel like hiding? It might be a sign I need to take a risk that much more because 99% of my angst is all in my head. Not a reflection of reality. I will be angsty for the rest of my life but I'm not captive to it.
I don't have to hide anymore.