It’s that season again: simcha season, the one with all the graduations, weddings, Flag Day parties... you get the idea. Here’s my issue: I really dread going to most of the events I’m invited to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a cranky old grouch. I just feel really nervous when I have to go to these things. I worry about who I’m going to talk to, where I’m going to sit, and if I’m going to be dressed appropriately. It sounds silly, I know, especially given the fact that I’m an adult — in fact, I’m married with kids! But sometimes I get overwhelmed with the social pressures of my community.
The funny thing is that I usually end up enjoying myself at these events. And don’t get me wrong, I am happy that I get invited to lots of things and have many celebrations of my own. I just wish I could relax and enjoy things more. Any advice?
Girlfriend, I am right there with you on this one. It can seem like one big, nonstop party at this time of year. Sometimes it seems that everyone is having the time of their lives, and you’re sitting there wondering if you’re doing it right.
I mean, why aren’t you overjoyed about going out on a weeknight for your husband’s golf buddy’s son’s eight-grade graduation? Really, Nava, how could you not be excited about that? Ha! Just kidding. Let’s discuss how to tackle this very real issue.
First, recognize that you may have a touch of social anxiety. This is not something to worry about unless it makes it impossible for you to leave your house or you have symptoms (heart palpitations, sweaty palms, etc.) that make it too difficult to attend these soirees. However, it is important that you recognize it enough to deal with it in a healthy way and, hence, improve your life.
One way to approach an upcoming event is to remind yourself how you have dealt with these things before. You say that you have mostly enjoyed going to celebrations in the past. How did you come to enjoy it? Is it because someone you like came and talked to you? Is it because you were happy that the ba’alei simcha (hosts) were thrilled that you came to share in their joy? Is it because you enjoyed the sushi? These are all totally valid reasons to like a shindig.
In order to prepare yourself, try to find out who’s going to be there that you feel especially comfortable around (it could even be just one or two friends). This may sound lame, but I sometimes like to come up with something to say to the host in advance so I don’t blank when I get there. At your friend’s daughter’s wedding, for example, you can reminisce about a particularly cute thing she used to do. For example: “Remember when Shaindy used to carry that stuffed monkey named Bananas everywhere? She was so adorable!” But don’t say, “Remember when Shaindy had bad acne and was so chubby? She looks so much better now.” You get the gist.
And here’s a secret: You don’t have to go to everything and you don’t have to stay until the bitter end. There are some things, of course, that you must make every effort to attend; these include your best friend’s kid’s wedding, your own kids’ graduations/weddings/bar mitzvahs, and, well, use your discretion.
The bottom line is that people are happy when you share their happiness. And guess what? We are happy when we share other people’s happiness.
So, Nava, remember how important it is to bring joy to someone else. Their wedding isn’t about you or how (un)excited you are to bust out your cute dress and fetching heels. It’s about making them happy. And in turn, that ultimately makes you a happier, more joyful — and maybe, eventually, simcha-loving — person.
All the best,