Anyone that knows me on a personal level will agree that I'm the first to put my foot in it when we're out socialising-
Empty restaurant: Do you have a table for 4?
Someone tells me their relative just died: awkward giggle..
Happy Birthday?: Yeah you too
Nice to meet you!: Yeah was nice to see you again...
Hater of small talk because for years my social anxiety was crippling, which all began with a lack of self confidence surrounding becoming a 'young parent'- absolutely hate that phrase. I'm lucky enough to not look my age, most of the time.. So over the years when people have asked my kids age and then asked me for mine (since when was it social etiquette to ask a woman's age?!) It soon became pretty clear when they replied, "Oh you were young then, when you had him", why the judgemental prick was asking in the first place.
Truthfully, this constant judge every time I met someone new absolutely crippled my personality and I felt like I constantly had something to prove with my parenting skills and life choices.
Until one day whilst out food shopping with both my children (at the time aged around 1 & 6) I was I.D'd for a scratch card. . . yup, I fully appreciate why cashiers have to be careful, but already 100% stressed from the nightmare that is grocery shopping with 2 children anyway, whilst battling with 2 kids begging "mom can we have a chocolate bar" at the till, I was utterly shocked to hear that I was being i.d'd for a scratch card, which you have to be 16 to purchase. Fuming, I immediately asked her to call her manager, and in an embarrassed infused rage I proceeded to inform him that his staff needed re-training if they thought it was appropriate to ask a mother with two children, one of which looks his aged, 6! for identification for a scratch card that you have to be just 16 years old to purchase, and that I felt that was pretty discriminating and embarrassing as she may as well just asked whether I was 10 when I conceived my first child.. Yeah admittedly, not my proudest moment, but if I was given the chance again, I'd have to say I think I'd still address it, not in the same manner but yeah, I'd have to say something.
From that moment on, I changed my perception on myself. I started questioning anyone who asked for my age with regards to my children, I was comfortably returning back to the more forward, outgoing, genuine version of myself.
So when I built enough confidence to start SurfGypsy Mag, I knew I had to put myself in a vulnerable place to grow, the thought of interviewing successful Music Artists was so daunting.
I spent hours googling fresh interview techniques and listening to podcasts about self belief and confidence, and before I knew it I was sat with the stars, absolutely in my element, Anxiety was definitely still there but I had learnt a way cope with it, I remember at the very start of my journey hanging out with legend mc artist "Illaman"backstage and completely stumbling with every sentence, until he asked me a personal question about why I started up in the industry and I found myself being honest about all of the above.
His reply, 'well shit.. you need this drink more than I do' and with that we downed our drinks, grabbed a bottle of whiskey and slumped into the beanbags awaiting his set, it's a memory that'll stay with me forever, because from that moment on I felt I'd taken a lesson from someone new that I could apply to my everyday and work life that would put a stop to my anxiety for good.
With every Artist I had to interview from then on, off camera first, we'd chat.. and my approach was this
"forget I'm media, I'll forget your the Artist, be real with me and tell me something deep about yourself, open up just slightly and connect with me on a personal level, it's the only way I can work" and it's never failed me.
I'll never publish or speak about those conversations in depth, but I can tell you that I've told Dizzee Rascal that I was so determined to make my SurfGypsy career go off that I had to bring my friends children with me, and that I felt terrible for leaving them backstage whilst I shot, He told me that it showed determination and drive and with that he scooped up the kids and sat them at the side of the stage gave them some earplugs and gave me some of the best shots I'd taken in my life, Afterwards he posed for pictures with the children and signed auto's and I realised that being genuine and un-naturally real was the only way for me to be able to do my job, fuck small talk, it's uncomfortable and un-nessesary.
I stumbled when it was time to interview Michael Omari aka Stormzy, I had to explain that I hadn't eaten and felt shaky and that it would probably be best for me to settle at just taking a few backstage snaps of him, but he had one of his team grab us both a burger and began telling me about his recent tour, subliminally giving me enough info for my article without me having to ask, by the end of the chat he was teaching me how to 'Crypt walk'..
It's these moments that helped bring me out of my Social Anxiety, so now that you can see how it works, you could apply it to your everyday life, put yourself out there, loose your preconceptions that anyone is above you, or that anyone is looking down on you, be vulnerable enough to be genuine in someones presence and watch the comfortable vibe unfold, it's ridiculous how empathic humans can be when faced with an unusual social situation, it's honest, genuine and real communication in a raw form.
And it's truly exhilarating.
Try it for yourself, you could start by connecting with that supporter on your IG that you don't actually know, you know the one, they like your pics, you love their feed, you may have exchanged the odd supportive DM, and you know for sure in real life you'd probably be real good friends?.. loose the fear, suggest meeting for coffee! My best friend Katie and I, met only once randomly before we decided to go for a random coffee date and just connect!
Be vulnerable and grow.