I read the following a few years ago: When you take a group photo and you look at the picture, who do you look for first? Yes, you look for yourself. You want to know how you came out. You want to know if your eyes are open. It’s not that you are completely disinterested in seeing the whole group, but you want to make sure you look okay.
That analogy stuck with me. Whenever I worry about how I came across at a networking event, or a social get together, I remember nobody really cares. They are at home going over the same concern. “How did I do? Did I get my thoughts out clearly. Did I make a fool of myself?”
I’m not suggesting that nobody noticed you or you shouldn’t always try to make a good impression. What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t sweat the small details of an entire evening. We get so wrapped up in other people’s opinion of us that we lose sight of the reality; most of the time people never gave us a second thought. I can assure you that they are not at home thinking about all you said and did. Unless of course you got really drunk and broke a lamp. That’s a different story. Everyone will be talking about that.
Social anxiety is difficult to control when you feel you are constantly being judged. The first question I would ask is “How much do you judge other people?” Many times our feelings of inadequacy are projected onto others. When we don’t feel good about ourselves we automatically believe others see our short comings as well.
It’s human nature to form impressions of people that we are meeting. We cannot control what people are thinking of us and they can’t control what we are thinking of them. What we can do is be open to finding the best in people and hope that they are doing the same.
Once, I was being interviewed after I gave a speech and I was asked what my favorite quote was. I said Oscar Wilde’s “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.”
I explained that it summed up my feelings of never taking myself too seriously. I will make mistakes and not always say the right thing. My hope is to never intentionally hurt someone’s feelings. People may not remember everything I said or did, but they will remember how I made them feel. They will remember if I listened to them and cared about what they shared with me.
Whenever you are beating yourself up over how you may have come across at an event, stop and think about this instead: Did you insult someone? Did you just talk about yourself and not ask how the other person is doing? Did you have too much to drink and were obnoxious? If you did any of this, you can redeem yourself by apologizing. Otherwise, think about the people you talked and laughed with. Take a mental picture and realize you had fun. Save that as your memory. I hope you kept your eyes open.