Ways to Cope with Social Anxiety as a Mom
When you are planning your family and imagining your future with your child, one thing you may not consider is the stress and anxiety that social events and outings may produce for you as your child gets older. If you are prone to anxiety, events like play dates, school functions, or birthday parties can feel overwhelming, stressful, and emotionally painful.
When you think about it, the only thing some moms may share in common is that they have children. This can mean that you can completely differ from other moms with regard to interests, values, beliefs, and opinions. Because of this, it can be challenging to meet other moms or parents with whom you feel comfortable and connected. In this post, I would like to offer validation for your experiences as well as some tools that may help you cope with or alleviate your anxiety when socializing with other moms.
Learn About and Remember the Spotlight Effect
The Spotlight Effect is a psychological concept in which we tend to believe that people are thinking about us and focusing on us much more than they happen to be. Do you find that some of your anxiety with other moms is rooted in the fear that they are observing and judging your every move? Do you notice you are preoccupied with whether they are inwardly critiquing your apparel, features, or conversation topics?
Does this create hesitation and worry when you consider participating in social activities with other moms? If this is the case, remembering the Spotlight Effect can
possibly ease some of your tension. It can help to remind yourself that other moms are likely more focused on themselves and their children. And that even if some moms happen to be focusing on you for a brief time, their thoughts will likely have turned toward some other topic by the time they’ve gotten back in the car and are on their way home.
Reduce the significance of an event
Have you ever had an upcoming experience that has felt overwhelming or unmanageable? Leading up to it have you noticed your heart racing, your thoughts spinning, your anxiety escalating, and catastrophic fears percolating in your mind? Has the event then taken place and been much different or gone better than you anticipated? Perhaps you noticed you coped more effectively than you thought you would, or that you actually ended up having a pleasant conversation with another mom, or were complimented about a certain quality of yours. Then, have you noticed that one week later the event feels like a blip on the radar, or
that two months later the event has fizzled into an unmemorable, hazy experience?
It can help to ask yourself, “Will I remember this in six months? Will anyone else remember this birthday party or p
ark playdate in five years? Will this two hour get-together have a long-standing bearing on the course of my life or my
child’s?” When we engage with upcoming situations from this perspective, it can help reduce the significance of the event and help us see it as a tiny snippet in our lives, and possibly remove the emotional charge we have possibly assigned to it.
Cope with the fear of judgment
Fear of judgment is a major factor that can contribute to social anxiety when interacting with other moms. Going back to the spotlight effect, you may fear that other moms are judging any number of qualities and traits about you. It can help to reflect on the nature of your fears and gently reframe or challenge these fears. Some of your fears may sound like this:
“What if they are judging my appearance, my clothes, my body?”
“What if they don’t like me, or think I’m boring or weird?”
“What if they think I’m a bad mother, or are judging some aspect of how I parent my child?”
“What if I’m not cool enough, young enough for them?”
“What if they don’t want to be seen talking to me?”
First off, I so deeply want to validate you and the pain you must feel as you navigate these fears and worries. Motherhood and interacting with other moms can truly unearth our insecurities and perceived flaws. It can help to find ways to cope with the fear of judgment that may arise when interacting with other moms. Reframes can look something like this:
“I don’t have any evidence that I am being
judged. I am going to work on letting go of my worry thoughts.”
“Other people’s judgments or beliefs about me are not necessarily accurate or factual.”
“I am doing my best as a person and a mother. Other people’s judgments about me are inconsequential if I know I am doing the best for myself and my child.”
“Other people’s judgments are about their value systems, not mine.”
“I have no control over whether other people are judging me. I can cope with the possibility, and survive the possibility that other people will judge me.”
“I have people in my life who value and appreciate me. Let me turn my attention toward those people in my life who contribute to my well-being.”
When you notice thoughts or fears about how you may be judged, try to notice these thoughts as they arise and see how you can reframe them to reduce the power of those judgments. By confronting your fear of judgment, you may begin to feel less anxious or worried when socializing with other moms or when in anxiety-producing social situations.
Explore root causes of anxiety
Does socializing with other moms bring back memories of trying to fit in with your peers as a child? Did you experience bullying, being made fun of, or being made to feel inadequate by family members or classmates? Sometimes, core issues from the past can get activated in social situations that feel familiar to something painful you went through long ago. It can help during these times to validate the causes of your anxiety and compassionately soothe the anxious, worried, or scared inner child within you.
If you notice that your anxiety in social situations is debilitating, limiting your quality of life, or impairing your happiness, therapy can be a space in which to process your fears as well as gain new perspectives and approaches for how to manage your anxiety. I hope this post has offered some helpful ways to cope with the anxiety you may experience in social situations with other mothers. I extend my care and empathy toward you, and wish you increased peace and calm on your parenthood journey.
Seeking anxiety therapy in Boca Raton, FL? Feel free to reach out to me to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to see how I can help you with your mental health goals.