FOMP: Fear of Meeting People

That moment when you walk into a social situation and you know no one. Eek.

On my first full day in ATL, I went on Meetup and signed up for a bunch of groups. I joined hiking groups, dinner groups, social get togethers, etc., and then I slowly watched event after event go by without attending. I had an excuse almost every time.

The event was too far. There weren’t any young people attending. Not enough people had RSVP’d. Too many people had RSVP’d. I wasn’t interested in that topic. I was already planning to go to yoga that night. The list goes on.

Underlying all of my excuses was fear.

Meetup.com is cool because it has a group for almost anything you can imagine, and if the group that you’ve imagined isn’t there, you can create it. The site is designed for people, like myself, who don’t know many people in the city that they’re living in. Or, it’s designed for people who are looking for new friends with similar interests.

So what was I afraid of?

I had found a website that was designed just for me. Why on earth would I not jump right in and make some new friends with similar interests as myself?

I used to think of myself as being extroverted. I’m outgoing, talkative, friendly, and likeable. I get along easily with most people. But, what most people don’t know about me, is that prior to meeting new people I’m a nervous wreck. I despise networking. And I hate going to social events alone. Especially when I don’t know anyone.

The thing that I wasn’t considering is that I’m not alone in this.

Most people don’t enjoy walking into a room full of laughing, chatting people alone. That moment when you walk into a room and feel like everyone is looking at you is the worst. You feel like everyone is judging what you’re wearing, what you did with your hair, and the shape of your body. We’ve all been there.

So while I was at home watching event after event pass me by, I wasn’t considering that the other people who were attending these events were also attending alone. They were also looking for friends who had similar interests.

These aren’t people who have no interest in meeting me, or people who already have enough friends and aren’t looking for another one. They’re people who are going to that event to meet people.

It was this realization that got me out the door to my first Meetup.

I went through the list of upcoming events on my Meetup newsfeed, chose one that looked interesting (a meet and greet for one of the hiking groups I had joined), and set my status as “attending”.

The night of the Meetup, I battled traffic on the Interstate for 40 minutes to get there. I arrived about 15 minutes late, and sat in the car for another 2 minutes taking deep breaths and telling myself that I could do this.

If you can jump out of an airplane, you can go to a Meetup.

I happened to walk in the same time as a woman who was in her 40’s. As we wrote our names on name tags, the organizer introduced himself and asked us how we knew each other. I told him we had just met, and she followed that with “I’m happy we walked in at the same time though, I hate coming to stuff like this alone.”

It was in this moment that my fears dissolved. I wasn’t alone.

I’m simply human, and that means being afraid of meeting other humans (as ridiculous as it sounds). I’m just a person, feeling normal person things.

My new friend and I found seats together and introduced ourselves to the people around us, and the night went on like this:

I talked to a lot of different people.

I chatted with a gentleman older than my dad, who believes “that gay people should just be as God made them”. His words, not mine. Not my take on that, but I heard him out for the sake of the experience.

I talked to a few guys who perhaps were looking more so to pick up than make friends, and lost interest in me the moment I mentioned that I have a boyfriend. You win some, you lose some. I’m okay with that.

I had a conversation that went on far too long with a guy named Hanz, who told me about how he dabbled in celibacy thanks to his ex-girlfriend. I couldn’t help but wonder to myself why he felt the need to share this with me.

I chatted with a girl who I think I could be friends with, which perhaps made the entire battle with traffic and stress worth it.

I excused myself a few hours later, and left the restaurant with a smile on my face.

I had had some pleasant conversations, and some extremely strange conversations, all of which made the experience what it was. But, best of all, I had faced my fears, and as with most fears, I had realized that my fear of going to a Meetup was completely irrational.

Since then, I have attended 2 more Meetup’s, and with each new experience, it gets a little bit less scary than the last time.


Originally published at www.amandakingsmith.com on November 13, 2015.