I discovered Jaunty through a housemate. She was surprised I was interested. My mom was too. They both saw me as so social. But I had social anxiety just like everyone does to some degree. I guess I just did a decent job of hiding it.
I had moved to London after college. It was the early 2000s and global perception of the U.S. was pretty low. I felt ashamed of my Americanness and desperately wanted to fit in. Americans were loud and outgoing, so I made myself quieter and more reserved. I made friends through grad school, work and my book group, but rarely approached strangers. There were times I wanted to be more boldly social, but I held myself back because people were guarded and I was afraid of breaking some unspoken taboo.
After living in San Francisco for a year and a half, I had some friends I liked a lot, but hadn’t cultivated the community I really wanted yet. I was a writer, working part-time as a nanny, which meant I was often either hanging out with a toddler, or alone, writing. I’d become good at connecting with people I had things in common with, but wasn’t sure how to keep a conversation going with everyone else. Sometimes I felt friendly, outgoing and poised. But other times I felt awkward, speaking quickly and stumbling over my words.
Winter of 2014, I signed up for Jaunty’s free workshop which was a total eye-opener. I carried on with the six-week course which transformed the way I interacted with others. I learned to speak slower, play with pauses and suddenly became aware of how much I fidgeted when I was uncomfortable. I practiced uncrossing my arms and became more at ease with stillness. It was hard, but I felt really good starting to hold myself in this new way.
Jaunty assigned homework and paired us with another student as an “accountability partner”. Every day I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, stopping strangers in the street, experimenting with different types of humor and getting people’s phone numbers. I felt like I was discovering a totally new way of being in the world. I even learned how to connect with people I had very little in common with. Learning new people skills was exciting and I felt I was making real progress. A huge breakthrough came when I successfully befriended a woman on an elevator, something I never could have done pre-Jaunty.