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What a guy with social anxiety wants you to know about inviting him to a party.

Here’s what helps (and what doesn’t) when going out.

Dear friends,

First of all, let me explain what it feels like to be me, a guy with social anxiety.

Picture a scene that fills you with gut-clenching dread. A dark alley at night maybe. The edge of a windy cliff with no railing. A deep ocean, too dark to see what’s beneath you.


Photo via iStock.

Think about how those scenes make you feel. That’s the same feeling I get in social situations.

Having social anxiety disorder means I experience intense, oppressive feelings of dread — sometimes even panic — just about every time we meet up with our friends or go out to a restaurant. It occasionally even happens when you come over, too.

None of that is your fault, obviously. There’s nothing rational about these feelings. I can take steps to fight the dread — and I’m fighting hard to do that, all the time, even when I’m exhausted — but in the moment of panic, I have no more direct control over my social anxiety than you have over your allergies.

Telling me "Everybody here loves you!" doesn’t get rid of my dread or panic any more than telling you "My cat loves you!" clears up your feline allergy. I wish it were that easy. Believe me, I do.

Having social anxiety isn't the same as being an introvert. It's also not the same as having low self-esteem or being shy or no fun.

Unlike social anxiety, introversion isn’t a clinical disorder; it’s a personality type. An introvert is a person who's "predominantly concerned with their own mental life." That doesn’t describe me. I care about you, and the rest of our friends, very deeply.

But I’m not an extrovert either. Neither of those terms fits me.

Photo via iStock.

For me, a fun night out with cool people is every bit as energizing as a good movie at home. It’s just much easier for me to put on a movie than it is to fight my social anxiety for hours until I finally relax enough to have fun.

You know me, so you know I’ve got a healthy sense of self-esteem.

I’m not shy at all when we’re alone together, talking for hours on end about our favorite songs and stories and characters. We’ve laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe. We’ve made up inside jokes that can’t be explained.

I can be the fun friend sometimes, too. Photo via iStock.

"Well, of course," you may be thinking, "I love all those things about you! Why can’t you bring that side of you along when we go out?"

Imagine if every time you wanted to go meet up with friends, you had to hike to the top of a mountain. No matter how much you loved your friends, you’d have to spend time and energy gearing yourself up for each trip — and you’d arrive exhausted. If you huffed and puffed your way to the top of the mountain only to find that everyone else had decided to meet atop a different mountain at the last minute … well, you’d be pretty annoyed, wouldn’t you?

This is basically what I go through every time I decide to go out socially.

My "night out" actually starts days in advance, when I first hear about the plans you’re making.

Right away, a mental alarm goes off: "DON’T GO," flashing in all caps. Once I’ve managed to deactivate that alarm, then the spiral of anxious thoughts kicks in — not just anxiety about what to wear, but over every possible outcome, every person who might potentially show up, every question or joke or come-on to which I might need to reply. Obviously this makes no logical sense.

I know. I keep repeating that to myself. I shout at myself: "This makes no logical sense! I’m fed up with this!"

By the time we go out, I’m waging all-out war against an army of vague and specific fears.

I'm battling uphill, taking heavy losses with every step toward the front door.

This is the feeling I get when I'm preparing to go out. Photo via iStock.

But at last, fighting furiously, I manage to gain the upper hand! I know where we’ll be going, who’s going to be there, which side(s) of myself I’m going to put on display, and which interesting things I can mention when the conversation converges on me. Every time the anxiety mounts a new attack, I’ve got an answer ready. I sit by the door, waiting for your text…

And I wait and wait and wait some more, continuing to fend off fresh waves of dread every 30 seconds or so, until you text an hour later to say we’ve ditched the old plans. Now we’re meeting up with some people we haven’t talked to in years, and instead of a quiet bar, we’re headed to the fairground for an outdoor food fair.

At the very least, I’ve got to lie down and regroup before I can fight my way to the top of a completely different mountain.

The thing is, I love having adventures with you! I love seeing new places. I love catching up with people I haven’t talked to in years.

It’s not like I sit at home and think, "How dare they change plans on me?" Exactly the opposite. I scroll through the photos you’re tweeting, and I think, "How dare I be such a burden? I’ve got no right to ask you to structure your plans around my anxiety." At least, I've been told all my life that I don’t have that right.

I definitely don’t want to be treated with kid gloves now that you know all this about me. I don’t want to make it weird next time we go out. That’s the absolute last thing I need: even more tension in my social relationships.

You know what would help me most of all? Two things: consistency and low pressure.

As long as I can assure my inner army of dread that I know where we’ll be going and what we’ll be doing and that I’m only going out for one drink and then I can leave — whether that turns out to be true or not — then I can usually keep the worst of my anxiety at bay, maybe so well that no one would even guess I have it.

This could be me; it's what I dream of. Photo via iStock.

That’s what I dream of more than anything else. Just to be able to leave the mental horror movies behind for a night and go out and have fun.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

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Meet the first four winners:

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James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

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To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

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