It’s 7:45 p.m., the reservation begins at 8:00 p.m., I’m deep in Brooklyn and I’ve been “heading into the shower” for the past two hours. Maybe it’s been the week from hell, maybe you’re averaging 5 hours of sleep per night or — most likely scenario — you can’t leave the sofa, because the floorboards transformed into lava. Despite our best intentions, sometimes, we just can’t.
Occasionally flaking on an important event is necessary for our emotional well-being. Here’s how to do it “tastefully,” so you honor the people you care about without burning the soles of your feet on the molten lava floor.
Before we map out your aftermath strategy, let’s explore your “why” to avoid the flaking cycle and spare you the impending Google search, “can I get bedsores from sitting on the sofa too long?”
Why are there so many humans, and why are they all talking?
Maybe the mere thought of an upcoming social interaction manifests into sweaty palms or a knot in you stomach. Maybe you rehearse the perfect things to say and do before the big night in an effort to control the outcome and appear perfect. Or perhaps, in an effort to loosen up and kill time, you hit the open bar a tad too hard and find yourself jazz squaring all night. Social anxiety is real and no it doesn’t mean you’re “awkward.” According to Huffington Post, nearly 15 million Americans suffer from social anxiety.
In most instances, social anxiety can be linked to a fear of being judged and worrying about how you may be perceived in social settings. In the age where we can manufacture our own “Truman Shows” on social media, it’s hard not to feel like we’re under the happiness/perfection lens.
Depression wears many faces, but a common face is a lack of interest in things you used to enjoy — like spending time with family and friends. If performing the essential tasks of working, eating and looking “presentable” can feel like monumental responsibilities, attending your friend’s birthday party can suddenly feel impossible.
I’m totally out of juice.
From the minute we leave our homes in the morning to the moment we put the key in the door in the evening, we’re on. Burnout can result from feeling overworked, socially over-committed or just overstimulated by all of the things we have to complete. In other words, you’re burnt out, ’cause you’re just trying to make it in America and have enough money left over to take a few luxury Uber rides and toss your head back and laugh when server at Chipotle says, “Guac is extra.”
I’m gonna tell you something, but you can’t tell anyone else.
If you’re like me, you may be a closet introvert masquerading as an extrovert. I work in marketing and there’s a lot of talking that happens. I also live in the city, which is teeming with humans, so I have to talk to them. I’m also working out this weird paradigm that society favors the chatty. Being an introvert doesn’t mean that you’re antisocial, it means that social interactions are super intense for you and oftentimes draining. I actually love talking to people, but I need to hibernate for a while afterward to regroup and recharge.
You can’t make an omelette unless you crack some eggs, amiright?
Alternatively, maybe you’re kind of a people pleaser. I mean, who really likes labels anyway, but maybe you put other people’s happiness before your own and end up spreading yourself too thin. You end up saying, “yes” to everything, end up getting too much on your plate and then flake on everyone. Ironically, you end pissing off more people than if you were to say “no” in the beginning.
Now that we have the car facts, it’s time to map out “Operation Save Face and Sanity” after canceling on your plans, which again, you really had every best intention of fulfilling.
Step one: Before hitting send, try being honest. “Hey, I’m really sorry, but I can’t make it tonight. I really wanted to be there to support you on your special day, but I’m [insert emotion].” Then offer a few dates to actually reconnect.
Step two: Following the event, ask how it was and schedule a time to meet— get your bread up, because the meal or drinks should be on you.
Step three: Arrive on time/early. None of that, “but the trains were late” or “I got stuck at work” — plan ahead.
Step four: Give a gift. I know, “but my presence is a present!” It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be something tangible. Consider:
- For your bearded friends: a bougie experience at the Art of Shaving
- For your stressed friends: a yoga class
- For your adventurous friends: something “physical” like an hour pass for rock climbing
Or, not because you’re cheap or anything, write a card. Share what your friend means to you and why you’re grateful to have them in your life. If you’re feeling like a boss…get you a stamp and mail that ish. It’ll be a nice change from credit card statements or their college asking for donations…I mean, they’re still waiting for their ship to come in...like where’s their life donation? Jokes aside, sometimes we need to rest — in whatever form that takes, whenever we need to take it.
In that moment when you’re deciding to rally so you can attend that networking event or celebrate a friend’s milestone, remember the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” You’re not a “flake,” you’re human.