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Socially anxious and lost

Community Member

Hi there

I have always had some form of anxiety, and social anxiety has shown up in the past in friendships, at school etc but recently it is getting me down so much.


I work in a small team of mostly female 22-32 and I’m a bit older at 40 and the only mum. They are all pretty close and socialise outside of work. I recently returned back to work after maternity leave on a part-time basis and I feel very out of the loop and lonely at work - not expecting these girls to be my friend but it is even hard to engage in short conversations without getting the very strong impression they don’t want to be there. We had a Christmas party last night and there were so many conversations happening around the table that I wasn’t a part of. I go out and put on a brave face and keep hoping things will change but they’re not.  My manager spoke to most people individually but not me and I know it’s because I’m so very awkward when I do chat to her the odd time. I’m hoping things will change and they’ll get to know me better but I find it so hard to just be myself and be relaxed in conversations. 


I feel awful as I end up talking through so much of this with my loyal husband, though I am planning to see gp this week for a psych referral. I have been through therapy after my first child was born for postnatal depression and anxiety and it helped but I felt frustrated that I was still having the same conversations twenty sessions in. 


Not sure what I’m looking for maybe just some solidarity or hope that it will get better. 


Thank you 

2 Replies 2

Mark Z.
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Ontheoutsidelookingin,


I can tell you're going through a challenging time, and it's completely understandable to feel the way you do. Returning to work after maternity leave and adjusting to a new dynamic in the workplace, especially when feeling socially anxious, can be quite daunting.


You are very brave to take steps to seek help, including sharing your feelings with your husband, and seeking professional support, which is absolutely right. Therapy can be a process, and it's normal to feel some frustration if progress seems slow. However, every session contributes to your understanding and management of anxiety.


Regarding your workplace situation, it's not uncommon to feel out of the loop after returning from an extended absence. It might take time to reintegrate into the social dynamics of your team. It's okay to start with small steps. Engaging in brief conversations, showing interest in your colleagues' lives, or sharing small bits about your day can gradually build connections. Sometimes, the age and lifestyle differences can create perceived barriers, but common ground can often be found in shared work experiences, interests, or even discussing challenges that everyone faces in their lives. Sometimes this can be your strength - don't underestimate the value of your experiences, being a mother and having a rich life outside work bring a unique perspective that can be valuable in a team. 


Please be patient and give yourself more time. Change might be gradual, but with support, both professional and personal, things will get better. 




Community Member

Hi Ontheoutsidelookingin,


I get what it's like. I've always been socially anxious and found it really difficult to build strong friendships at work because I felt weird trying to strike up conversations. Often at Christmas parties I was the one sitting and eating while everyone talked and if I tried to start a conversation it would quickly fizzle out and id feel silly.


In my last job I found it easier to build friendships which I started by asking how their weekend was and then having prepared what I would say if they asked me. Although my weekends weren't particularly interesting I'd talk about my kids or what I had done in the garden or on the odd occasion how I wished I had a maid as the washing took all weekend. Sometimes just the humour linked to that was enough for them to open up more and chat more freely.


I agree with Mark Z about taking interest in work colleagues lives. I'm 48 and mum to five and Nana to two so I loved hearing my colleagues tell me about their families or plans/wishes for the future. Just the art of listening I found helped build the friendships. 


My only advice would be to google conversation starters with coworkers in your industry and little steps.


Wishing you the best 😊