One issue that I’ve always had, to a greater or lesser extent, is phone fear.
Yesterday I had to make a business call. I wimped out the day before and tried to email the customer service agent, but I never received a reply. So I had to call.
And wouldn’t you know it, it was fine. The agent was very nice and very helpful, and had an amazing low voice like Octavia Butler, which endeared her to me.
And I’ve also been answering my phone more consistently, even when it’s a number I don’t recognize. I’m so used to screening phone calls, or answering necessary ones with huge feelings of fear or shame. But now – I just answered an 800 number call, and it was for the person who owned the phone number before I got it. I answered with confidence and strength in my voice. It felt really good. It was just a tiny exercise of my agency, but it was good to have that positive reinforcement. I can use my agency, and it will be ok, and I won’t be yelled at or shamed or ridiculed, and if I am, Fuck Them. I’ve got other places to be, and people that love me.
My sweet man has been incredibly helpful in my journey towards coping successfully with my social anxiety. Most of the help, though, has been unintentional on his part. Yes, the intentional support he gives me is critical – the kind words, the positive affirmations, the hugs and gratitude he expresses when I get out past my comfort zone and achieve something – all of those things are absolutely crucial, and I am very grateful for his work in supporting me in those ways.
But what’s even more important is just being able to hang out with him and observe him interacting with others. Making mistakes, being too excited, making an off-color joke. But also seeing him getting it right – being kind, respectful, funny, smart, knowledgeable. Realizing that a momentary conversational mistake/miscalculation/weirdness doesn’t have to derail the whole interaction. Realizing that communicating sincerely and graciously is possible even when you do or say awkward things. I’m learning so much from his model. I’m becoming more and more comfortable in this world of other people as I realize that almost everyone I’m likely to interact with out there is like me in some critical ways: they just want to get through the day with as little stress as possible, and want smooth, warm, and kind interactions as much as I do.
This is a seemingly little victory, this being able to talk on the phone without experiencing crippling fear, but it’s an important one: a good, healthy step in the right direction.