Finding a new hobby is like dating, you have to find one that matches your needs. You might have to try a few before you find one you like. And when you find one you really like nothing gets in the way of it, not time, distance, price. You must get your fix. If it’s the right activity it can account for all your physical, mental and social wellbeing needs. So ultimately the rewards are high and the losses are relatively low, much lower than dating, so why is it still so difficult?
It’s might seem bizarre to some, but for many of us the idea of showing up to a new social activity, no matter how confident they may seem, how informal the activity or how little rests on the outcome can leave us feeling super nervous as if we’re lining up for a job interview instead of seeking fun!
We know that people feel nervous before coming down to a Rabble session. It may take some players over one year to collect the courage to show up. It is true that we are jumping into the unknown, we don’t know who’s going to be there, what we are going to do? But the truth is that most social groups are absolutely dependant on new members and love to see new faces, without them the club cannot survive. So then it seems so bizarre that new players feel so much apprehension before coming along to try it. We wanted to understand how people felt and whether there was anything we could do to help.
What were the biggest fears?
We asked our members what their biggest fears were before coming to play. There were two standout themes running through all of the responses we received.
The biggest theme was summed up by the statement “I might be left on the sidelines because everyone knows each other already and is unwelcoming.”
The second was an “I’m not good enough” tone which spanned a range of concerns from I might not fit enough, I might make a fool of myself, I’m might not be coordinated enough.
These are not just throw away thoughts, these have the power contain your behaviour and your potential and everyone we spoke to felt these to some extent when joining a new group. So where do we get these feelings from, why are they so strong and why are they so common?
Why do we experience these?
Many of the responses we received believe that these are innate natural feelings, designed to protect us. It’s true that humans must develop social relationships to continue the survival of our species and it’s therefore of utmost importance that we develop social competence and fit into a group. Fear is a survival instinct to warn us of danger. An innate trigger would explain the widespread response, but is the danger here just the group acceptance or rejection?
There is much evidence to suggest that fear is learnt, a child can pick up a fear of spiders simply watching someone else react negatively to seeing one. So to experience such fear in this context, we must have associated the entry of a new group with a negative experience or feeling. Such associations are likely to have been formed in early life, perhaps whilst at school where there were a limited number of social groups, the pressure to make it into one is high because if you fall short there’s nowhere else to go. When joining an exercise class there are a whole array of other negative experiences that can come flooding back and can be difficult to overcome. Negative school experiences of being last or letting the team down, being forced to do an activity where you don’t feel confident and feeling very exposed.
Obviously in adult life things have changed somewhat. You have more power, you don’t need to stay at any activity longer than you choose to be there, if the group is not for you, you can move on without ever being forced to spend anytime with those people again.
Entering a pre-existing social group can be very difficult, often not because members are trying to be exclusive, but because they are too caught up in their own conversations to realise or they are too shy to include a new face. And therefore unfortunately it can take some time before feeling like you can contribute and are a welcome part of the group.
This feeling of being sat on the sidelines, brings up our own insecurities. It was highlighted by our members that whilst we might pretend we don’t care what other people think, we probably care far more than we might realise/admit to ourselves. We are our own worst critics, believing the spotlight is on us, watched and judged for our every mistake. But by the same logic, if we all have the spotlight on ourselves, that’s everyone judging themselves, without time to worry about you.
Another suggestion was that these days we spend far too long on social media and not enough time building real relationships and whilst this might be true, social anxiety certainly existed before and even exists on social media. What you post on social media is heavily influenced by what you believe other people will think.
How can we overcome these?
When we asked our members how they overcame the fear, it ultimately came down to guts. The bravery to just shoulder the uncomfortable feeling and accepting that this was the only way to trying new things. Others had rationalised the worst case scenario, you’d never see any of these people again, you can only join a group by showing up, everyone was new at some point. Several persuaded aOne member pointed out that ‘In Belgium, we just drink lots of beers.’
But wouldn’t it be great if there was another way, if you could quell your fear without just having to stick a brave face on it, knowing ultimately that you will survive but that it might just be painful. If you’re reading this and you’re new to Rabble, do email us if you’re feeling nervous about showing up and we can arrange for a friendly face to meet you :), you’re absolutely welcome to show up to any of our games, however if you’d like to come when there are a few other new players, try one of our Newbie sessions, we hold them during the first week of every month 🙂
What was it actually like?
We asked our members what their first experience was like when they showed up for the first time versus the fears they’d had before their first game.
Super friendly, fun & welcoming!
The instructor welcoming me and learning my name was a big thing for me; I felt humanised.
I was immediately accepted in and made to feel like a part of the group!
SO friendly!! I was greeted with massive smiles and a warm welcome. We did a round robin of names and I soon learnt that I wasn’t the only newbie there. After the games, we went to the pub, and I chatted away for hours with this group of strangers who quickly became my friends!
Straight away I discovered how friendly and inclusive everyone was and also how you don’t have to be super fit to join in – there are different people at every session with different levels of ability. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose the games, it’s still fun!
The group overcame all my anxieties for me – I was immediately welcomed as my own person and there was no judgment about my skill level. Everyone was super nice and I very quickly felt like I was among friends.
People were incredibly welcoming.
So what advice would you give someone thinking about trying it out?
Given this disparity between anticipated fear and the actual experience, we asked our players what advice would you give to other new players currently deliberating whether to come down?
Just get stuck in!
Don’t think too much, just turn up, you won’t regret it!
Know that Rabblers are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet and you have nothing to worry about. It really feels like we’re a family.
Rabble gives you muscle pain but it’s ok.
Just do it – now that I’ve been going to rabble for a few months, I wish I’d joined all that time ago when I first heard about it!
Bring water. Two bottles in the summer.
You might not be fit. But you will become fit.
Just jump in and go for it, everyone is super friendly!
Just do it. Get stuck in, get involved and put yourself out there, it’s never as bad as you thought.
There’s no such thing as “not good enough” with Rabble – you do your best and the skills will come with time. Come in with a good attitude and an open mind and you’ll be welcomed as if you’re a long-time friend.
So has this made any long term changes to your behaviour?
Amazed by the change in response before vs after, we asked the players whether they still felt as nervous when joining other activities or social situations. It was a mixed bag, but a definite improvement on the first time around.
Absolutely! I find small talk really, really hard so interacting with people is a massive challenge, even though it’s one of my primal needs. But Rabble has given me an ongoing, easy system to interact with others, and that’s changed my life a lot.
And now I have some friends here!
I think change and putting yourself in an unfamiliar situation will always present apprehensions. But I’ve definitely taken this approach of “f*ck it just do it” attitude with other things and it’s paid off. Since I joined rabble, I’ve travelled to three different continents on my own, and made friends from all around the world.
The fear is still there, but it’s become a lot easier for me to push myself and ignore that feeling.
I started teaching French to English people and I feel a bit better at team sports. I also import Belgian beers to remain in my comfort zone.
I’ve started to embrace my personality (as cheesy as that sounds) and emphasise the bits I like rather than being afraid about the bits I don’t.
Yes especially living in London you often have to be open to meeting new people
What’s clear is that joining a new social group is always daunting, for everyone. We designed a culture at Rabble to be super inclusive, we knew how scary it was to join a new group.
The best groups are the most diverse, they are safe places where everyone is held up rather than put down, there is no way to fail, they achieve more together. Let’s be open, welcoming and remember those fears you had when you first showed up to a social group, don’t let anyone you meet feel that again. And proudly, I can say that I think we’ve achieved this in Rabble.
Thanks so much to everyone who contributed so openly and honestly to this piece, we appreciate this took both time and strength! If anyone has any further thoughts on the above do let us know as we’d love to improve what we do further. and if you are a new player thinking about coming down to try us, we are as inclusive as we claim and drop us that email if you’re unsure 🙂