Go with an empty mind: loneliness and social anxiety

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading over the last few days. Looking for wisdom and advice on how to get a grip of my mind and live a better, happier life. Most importantly, how to rely on myself for this. I’ve been doing meditation, watching Ted talks, exploring Stoicism, and writing a nightly diary in order to reveal my bad habits. I have plenty of time for all this because, at the moment, I live a fairly solitary life. And so, I feel quite lonely at times. I believe social anxiety has played a huge role in this.

Through keeping a diary of late, I have noticed some things about my thought patterns which are seriously harming me and resulting in loneliness. In social situations, I am a bit of a mess – internally. Before I even arrive into a social situation, my mind has been working overtime, imagining how the scene is going to play out. I sometimes assume people will behave in a certain manner towards me. These assumptions get replayed over and over in my head until they become actual expectations. This may result in me showing up quite guarded and acting a little awkward. Or, perhaps I assume an overly positive reception and feel disappointed when it doesn’t materialize. Sometimes I’ll talk myself out of showing up at all, for fear of an awkward time. It’s the latter which has become the most likely outcome of late, and so I find myself having plenty of ‘me time’ these days. Social anxiety? Whatever it is, it’s having a negative impact on my life and so I’d like to change it.

Stoicism is something which has entered my life very recently and so I was eager to know the stance on dealing with loneliness. So I searched ‘stoicism on loneliness’. To my surprise, all the top results were Reddit threads. I was hoping to find famous quotes from Marcus Aurelius etc, but I gave it a shot and started reading through one of the Reddit threads and found a nugget of wisdom from one user making a comment about attending events alone:

“if you go in empty minded you are more willing to accept the feelings accompanied with any situation as they come (live in the now). While in contrast if you go in suffering (from loneliness) then you are more willing to simply suffer and not accept anything since all you are thinking about is your own loneliness.”

I was so impressed with the ’empty mind’ part that it stuck with me, repeating itself now and then until it turned into ‘go with an empty mind’.

Since this morning, it has been ringing loud and clear more than ever as I’m signed up to attend a Meetup event this evening – by myself, meeting a crowd of new people. I talked myself out of it earlier, assuming that it would be a bad night and people would ask me too many questions, focusing too much attention on me, trying to expose my anxiety ( you get the picture). But, I got to thinking ‘go with an empty mind’. And that’s what I’m going to do. Assume nothing, expect nothing, and just be nice to people. Shake hands, smile, ask interesting questions of them, leave early if I want, stay if I want. Who knows?

 

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