Being social as adults is always difficult, and this is even truer for those with disabilities. Our tips will help you take the first steps toward socializing.
As adults, especially adults with disabilities, “independence” is often presented as the goal of development. When you can take care of yourself without relying on anyone else, you will know that you’ve “made it.”
There is truth to this, of course. It’s good to know that you are capable of accomplishing things. But the push for independence can push people into isolation if they aren’t capable or meant to live that way. Those with disabilities often experience higher rates of loneliness and isolation. To combat this, we’ve compiled our best tips for socializing for adults with disabilities.
Start With Self-Acceptance
Frankly, the old cliché “no one will love you if you don’t love yourself” is both fallacious and destructive. When someone has a poor sense of self, the last thing they need to hear is that no one will love them because of it.
However, something is to say about our ability to relate to others when we don’t accept ourselves. When someone has insecurities about their value, it is hard to accept affection when others offer it. It’s helpful to go through these mental exercises before you go into a social scenario:
- Take the time to acknowledge your limitations.
- Accept your limitations and recognize that they don’t make you lesser.
- Tell yourself that you are valuable, regardless of circumstance or personal action.
- Remind yourself that other people’s opinions don’t dictate your value.
- Say to yourself that you are worthy of love.
Build Socializing Into Your Schedule
As kids, it was almost impossible not to socialize. Every day, we sat in class with people we knew our whole lives. Finding ways to socialize as an adult with disabilities is more challenging. It helps to build opportunities to surround yourself with other people in your schedule. For example:
- Set aside times to go to your favorite restaurant or café, even if you don’t have anyone to go with you.
- Join a class or community organization for something you love.
- Find a support group that meets near you.
- Go to community events like fairs, farmers’ markets, or open mic nights.
Part of this may involve getting reliable transportation. If you have a physical disability, this may look like investing in a wheelchair-accessible van. Otherwise, it may look like getting a bus pass or a bike.
There’s a reason they call them “social skills.” It’s because socializing requires practice. Start when you’re by yourself and create go-to phrases or questions you can use to strike up a conversation with others. Then, when you find yourself with other people, even if they’re a stranger in line at the store, try them out.
The more you talk to others, the more your confidence grows. And with every conversation, you open doors to meet new people and make more friends. And if you make mistakes, know it’s OK. Just fall back on your self-affirming statements to give you the courage to try again.