Dealing with Social Anxiety and Negative Lables

Stephanie Parwulski has a lifelong love of children’s literature. She is the author of Beatrice and the Sunflower Gift and is excited to be on this journey of writing her own books. Through her words, she hopes to provide encouragement, hope, and understanding.
She lives in Buffalo, NY, where she works as a preschool teacher and enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Stephanie is also dedicated to raising awareness about mental health by sharing her personal experiences with social anxiety and grief through her writing.
  1.   Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

I have always been an avid reader, which fostered a love of writing within me, too. I profoundly enjoy working with children, for their perspective on the world inspires me. I am a preschool teacher, and I also help out at an elementary school during their after-school program. In addition to storytelling, I love to sing, garden, take walks in nature, and be a champion of kindness.

My immediate family is central to my life. My dad and brother are my amazing support team, and the three of us love to go on adventures together. Sadly, my mom passed away unexpectedly in September of 2014. Her unconditional love still lives on for each of us, and she is the primary reason I write. All of my stories are dedicated to her, in honor of her memory.

  1.   Which cities have your lived in/ visited in your lifetime? Which is your favorite?

I was born, grew up in, and currently live in my beloved city of Buffalo, New York. I have always felt a deep affinity for my hometown, because I feel it is a hidden gem that may get overlooked by larger cities. I love that Buffalo celebrates the arts in all forms – architecture, art, literature, music, and theater. I also love the sense of community that I feel here, especially the passion we have for our sports teams. Lastly, Buffalo’s proximity to Niagara Falls and Canada allows my family and me to see a natural wonder of the world and another country with frequency, which is an amazing opportunity.

  1.   What brought you to what you do?

My yearning to provide others with uplifting messaging and help them process difficult emotions in a sensitive, understanding manner is what inspired me to finally share my story. I give all the credit to my brother, who gave me an encouraging push and helped me to believe in myself and my reasons for writing.

4. What current cultural trend disturbs you the most? How do you think we can work towards betterment of it?

I want to help diminish the power of stigmas/stereotypes. I realize how demeaning a negative label can be, and I want to join the conversation to help replace the current negative labels with positive ones. For example, I would encourage others to use “people first” language and find the positive when describing others.

  1.   What is one personal challenge you have overcome growing up? 

A personal challenge I face is generalized and social anxiety. For a little over a decade, I have been learning to manage my social anxiety, and I am grateful for the strides I am making along this journey. 1.) My parents were always accepting of me. They never thought of me less because I have social anxiety. 2.) I am enough. No matter if I plateau on a particular day, my value is intrinsic and cannot be taken away. 3.) My writing has also helped me feel more comfortable expressing myself, allowing me to connect with others and help them feel less shame in opening up about their invisible battles.

Losing my mom at such a young age and unexpectedly has forever changed my life. In everything I do, I aspire to honor her memory and help others who are grieving find hope.

  1.   Share with us two parenting hacks that have made your/child’s life easy.

I am not a parent yet, but I hope to be one day. In working alongside children at a preschool and elementary school, there are observations I have made that I believe are important to apply to parenting/childcare. 1.) Validating how children feel is essential to helping them identify their self-worth. If you bend down so you are at eye level with them and listen intently to what they have to say, the children will understand how much you care. 2.) Be engaging. If the children observe your enthusiasm as you share in their activities with them, they will be more inclined to participate and try new things.

  1. What projects are you working on next?

I am currently working on a middle-grade fantasy novel about the art of storytelling and the need for men and women to work together to bring about positive change. Even though I feel picture books can be appreciated at any age, I wanted to try to write a piece that was more suitable for my older readers.

  1. What is one thing piece of advice you would give to children?

I would encourage children to always believe in kindness and be promoters of kindness along their journeys in life.

  1. Tell us three things that are on your bucket list?
  • I want to find my soul mate.
  • I want to visit Japan.
  • I want to keep writing stories.
  1. What 3 books/movies  would you say changed your life?
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Through this book, I was able to find kindred spirits in Beth and Jo March.
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – My brother and I had the honor of meeting Min Jin Lee when she visited Buffalo in March of 2019. Her writing is breathtakingly beautiful and emotionally profound. She definitely is an inspiration.
  • The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn – This is a beloved book from my childhood, and one that still resonates with me today. I have always believed that the love from our loved ones guides us and stays with us no matter the distance that may separate us, and this book conveys this message so beautifully.

11. Do you have any advice for our readers?

I hope that everyone can find what they love and pursue that in life. I feel so honored to be on my dream path, and I hope that everyone can be on theirs, too.

You can find Stephanie at —

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