Emotional Calisthenics.

By: Jen Shoop

I was bowled over by the reactions to my post last week on the delta between me when I’m alone and me when I’m with company. I received several heartfelt emails and direct messages that made me realize how common it is to feel this way, especially if you believe yourself to be a particularly empathetic or emotionally-aware person. Since writing, I’ve been wondering whether bringing your public self and your private one into perfect parity with one another is a realistic or even desirable objective. Perhaps the dissonance, while briefly uncomfortable, introduces a good kind of friction in the sense that it invites deeper self-knowledge? As in: “I know this isn’t my full self, because my full self is [fill in the blank — funnier, snarkier, gentler, etc].” On the other hand, perhaps finding balance is a worthy goal, as it suggests deeper comfort and communion with your true self. (“To thine own self be true,” etc!) Or maybe it’s about finding the people you can be your whole self in front of? A lot of angles.

Anyhow, in that essay, I wrote: “Maybe you are like me and in need of a kind of social calisthenic to find grace in my self-expression when I am with others.” The concept of an inner calisthenic — be it an exercise, mnemonic, private rule, ritual — has been on my mind since. Do you have practices like this? I’m thinking specifically of the way I will sit in my car for a minute after reaching my destination in order to gather myself if I am feeling slightly anxious about the impending social interaction. I usually launch into a quiet pep talk (“remember that you are an interesting person! you are fun!”), or centering myself around a social goal (“just put out good, friendly vibes”). I’m curious if you have similar emotional or social calisthenics that you find helpful in navigating your day, maintaining a positive mood, or maneuvering through social interactions.

Please share in the comments!


+A helpful way to reframe expectations in parenting, diet, productivity, exercise, and more.

+How do you get your children to eat? Lots of interesting comments on this one!

+Do you consider yourself an expert in yourself?

+What are you secretly good at?

Shopping Break.

+All my Prime Day picks here.

+If you are a Nordstrom “Icon” cardmember, you get access to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale starting today. See my picks here.

+Cute white eyelet shorts.

+Very tempted by this striped Jenni Kayne dress.

+Into this beach cardigan. Remember I was going wild over this one from G Label? Similar vibes but a fraction of the price.

+Forever a white blouse girl. Love the detail on this one.

+This mini dress is terry cloth material — another option for throwing on over a wet suit on your way home.

+These dining chairs are so chic, and on sale.

+Who knew sanitizer could be chic? My mom gifted me one of these a few years ago and it smells fantastic.

+This striped cableknit skirt is wildly chic.

+All my favorite sunscreens for the family here. I also just ordered this stick style sunscreen from Supergoop as I find it’s much easier to use a stick on my children’s faces! Historically, I’ve used this mineral stick sunscreen from Babo on them, and it does a great job of staying put, but it doesn’t glide on super easily.

+Going to try this hand soap in lieu of Mrs. Meyers at our kitchen sink. Have heard such good things about the scent! I use spendier scents in our bathrooms, but we go through SO much in the kitchen!

+Like everyone else, in love with this striped two-piece from Hunza G. You know I love my Pamela but I did also just buy one of their classic square necks!

+I want everything from Frank and Eileen all of the sudden. This dress, this popover!

+Great striped everyday dress from Old Navy. I would pair with leather sandals or ballet flats. Also love this $45 solid. Great base for styling a million ways.

+Gucci vibes for under $100.

+WILDLY chic slides.

+Outnet has a great trove of Zimmermann dresses on sale. OBSESSED with this and this.

+Adorable toddler Adidas sneaks.

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7 thoughts on “Emotional Calisthenics.

  1. A few years ago, I realized that I often held back on saying hello to acquaintances first, waiting for the other person to initiate the greeting. My hesitation stemmed from my own anxiety – maybe they didn’t recognize me? maybe it was a bad moment? I decided to be the first one to say hello and to make sure to use their name when I did it (this seems like a late realization given I’m in my late thirties now). Just jumping in with a “hi, friend!” has actually made a big difference in those looser friendships, and I kick myself for not getting in the habit much earlier. Better late than never! I like the idea of challenging myself to another simple change that might be an improvement.

    1. I love this, Sarah! Am going to model myself after you and follow suit. This has specifically been happening a lot at the pool lately, and I recall it also happening during drop-off at school. Going to follow your lead here — great suggestion.

      Thank you!


  2. I echo Erin’s sentiments…a therapist once told me that social anxiety is, at its core, actually an expression of self-centeredness, because you’re focusing so much on yourself. (and to be clear, that doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you human.) A good way to reframe social anxiety is to focus on how you can show up for others in a social interaction, like Erin said. I once was super nervous about going to a close friend’s wedding alone because I didn’t know many other people there. I was so anxious, but I just tried to remind myself that my primary job in that moment was not to have an amazing time- my primary job was to show up, be social and engaging, and support my friend on his big day, and hopefully a good time would flow from that. And it did.

  3. When I feel nervous about a social situation, I try and remind myself to focus on making sure others have a great time, and to draw someone out who seems to feel out of place. I have told my children this many times when they haven’t wanted to attend an event they need to be at: “Just make sure _________ (a friend with a special need/ someone struggling) has a good time. That can be your purpose” they are very socially adept, well liked (and kind!) as adults. This strategy has served me well my whole life. Just being intentional about zeroing in on a person who needs you has alleviated social anxiety for me.

    1. Erin, this is such beautiful advice for kids and adults alike — will be pocketing this for the future. Thank you.

    2. I absolutely love this — going to carry this with me moving forward. Thank you SO much for sharing.

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