Jun 03

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The reunion vs. social anxiety

As a kid, I was extremely shy. I was so introverted it was painful. There were trusted family friends who I let loose with; but I preferred to see the bigger world from behind my mother’s skirt.

By high school, I learned some social skills. I felt completely at home in our theater building and I had a circle of friends who were safe. But outside of that small group of friends, I still felt invisible most of the time.

Fast forward 20 years and a lot of things have changed.  I spent a bunch of years traveling around the country to work in professional theaters, forcing me to make new friends everywhere I went.  I did the work to overcome a lot of old demons, which allowed me to open myself even more to the world.  As a reporter, I have to make phone calls and ask questions every day that would have terrified me back then.

I still prefer small groups and one-on-one conversations to large social situations. But I have coping mechanisms now that help me navigate  large groups when I have to.

This weekend was my 20th high school reunion. Over the last few days, I noticed that old anxiety creeping in. What if I walked in and immediately reverted to who I had been back with these people 20 years ago? What if I became invisible again?

The anxiety got so bad that I talked myself out of attending an event I wanted to go to. But I finally put on my big girl panties and got myself out the door to attend the events last night.

You know what happened? As soon as I saw my high school classmates, every bit of social anxiety flooded back in.  I felt every bit as invisible as I had as a teenager.

Never mind that I lead a pretty darn interesting life – when people asked me about myself I couldn’t think of anything to say. Never mind that I know I’m perfectly capable of being witty and charming now – I felt like I could barely form a coherent sentence, let alone make a joke. The evening had some bright points, but for the most part it was excruciating to be inside my head.

So why a miracle? Last night I got to revisit – in crystal clear 3D and surround sound – the girl I used to be. Today I can look at her and say, I’ve come so far. Despite all appearances last night, I am not that girl anymore.  Yes, I have social anxiety sometimes, but it’s no longer crippling.

Next weekend I’m presenting at a national convention. I’ll get up and speak in front of a crowd of 500 people, then I’ll lead a more intimate workshop.  People will talk to me throughout the conference; people will look to me as a leader and a teacher; I’ll have an opportunity to interact with old friends and make new ones.  In a word, I’ll be very visible. Because that’s who I am now.

I guess the juxtaposition of these two weekends is no accident – I get to see where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.

To the SJA class of ’92… I hope that five years from now I’ll be able to bring my whole self to the party.  Until then, I’m grateful for the place that all of you have had in my life. Our strong band can ne’er be broken, formed at St. J. A.!  🙂


Due to newspaper deadlines and the upcoming conference, my posts over the next ten days may be somewhat sporadic.  If you want to be notified when new posts are up, click here to get Miracles In Your Inbox.

The hilarious cartoon was found here.

About the author

Leah Carey

Leah Carey is the Chief Miracle Officer of The Miracle Journal, where she writes about the large and small miracles that happen in her life every day. She is a life coach, speaker, journalist, freelance writer, and lover of life. In all of those pursuits, she works with people to identify what’s already right in your life so you can build an even more joyful and fulfilling daily experience from that foundation. You can find her on Facebook, , Twitter, and YouTube.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.leahcarey.com/themiraclejournal/2012/06/03/the-reunion-vs-social-anxiety/


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  1. Pascaline Trieux

    Reunion is one of the exciting events in our lives, meeting old friends and sharing our stories in our lives. I can see the picture now, fun, laughter, and bringing the old time. 🙂

  2. Grace Sevilly

    I had this problem too growing up… being a small, shy girl that was bullied in school. I still suffer from social anxiety from time to time, but enrolling myself on an acting class really boosted my self confidence a lot

  3. Donna

    True that sister! Amazing what being transported back in time and space can do to us. Reading this I went to a whole new space in my life which made me laugh as I could totally resonate with your experience. I don’t want to spend much time there – but, it clearly showed me I have some work to do.
    Donna recently posted at their blog…It Starts with Food

  4. Rebekah Carter

    I loved reading this. I suffer from some social anxiety also. And I too feel like I have come SO FAR since high school, & yet the thought of being around people I went to school with brings a flood of anxiety & I immediately revert to the shy person I once was. Strange, considering I know for a fact I have lead a very interesting life since high school & have accomplished a lot more than most of my classmates. But at least I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. And your story gives me hope that I will slowly learn to overcome my anxiety, even with the people who inspire it the most. Thanks for sharing!

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