I'm Good, Thanks
I don’t like to dance. I don’t like to take funny face pictures. I don’t like playing interactive games.
I do however, like dancing, funny face pictures, and interactive games.
By that I mean: I like watching them, not participating.
At the camp I went to as a kid (featured in the cover photo), we had a “dance party” before going into the bible story of the day. Basically, it was half an hour of dancing around to worship music. I never participated. I sat on the benches and watched. Every so often, a counselor would come over and ask me to participate.
“You won't know you don’t like it unless you try.”
“Just dance for a few minutes.”
“It’ll be fun, I promise.”
I’d always respond the same way: “I’m good, thanks.”
Several times, counselors tried to physically pull me up, or would continue to come back and attempt to convince me. But I wasn’t lying. I was good. I was more than good, I was happy. I knew I wouldn’t like dancing, but I loved watching it. I loved watching the other kids jump around and the counselors dance with them. I loved the smiles and the laughter and the joy that radiated out of that group.
I just didn’t want to be part of it.
I knew that if I stood up and joined everyone, I’d be flooded with anxiety. I would no longer notice the laughter and the smiles. The joy would be sucked back in and replaced with a dark cloud of general discomfort.
My favorite counselors were the ones that asked if I wanted to join but didn’t force me. There was one who asked me every day. Every day, I said no. She’d ask if I wanted her to sit with me and keep me company, but I didn’t. She’d ask if I was sure, then she’d smile and tell me that was okay, but it was also okay if I changed my mind.
And I was telling the truth. I really wasn’t sad on that bench. I didn’t need her to keep me company because I wasn’t lonely. I was having just as much fun as the kids dancing. I was still experiencing that feeling of radiated joy without my cloud of anxiety covering it up.
Seeing happy people makes me happy. Doing things that makes me uncomfortable among happy people makes me uncomfortable.
I’m not saying you should never ask people sitting off to the side if they want to join. Please, still do that. But if that person says they’re okay, believe them. Don’t force them to stand up. Don’t take their hands and promise them they’ll have fun once they get involved.
I’ll admit that sometimes that’s true, but not for people with social anxiety. Being forced to participate only makes it worse, because it brings attention my way. It makes me feel like everyone is watching me, even more than they would have been if I’d joined on my own.
You can go ahead and offer. You can ask if I’m okay. I appreciate you checking in on me, really, it means a lot. But you don’t need to feel guilty if I remain off to the side, and you are by no means obligated to join me or “keep me company.”
Because if I really want to join, I will. If I really want someone to sit with me, I’ll say so.
Otherwise, I’m good, thanks.