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Social Anxiety

Why Asking A Stranger
For Sunscreen Is Scary AF

Here are 3 reasons why you’re scared to ask a stranger for sunscreen

I stood there, shocked at what she was about to do.


My best friend of 26 years was at it again. Doing what she does best: whatever it is she wants to do. No matter what it looks like, what others might think, or the outcome of her action.

I’ve admired this part of her the most throughout our friendship. She can touch down in any part of the world and already have a couch to crash on. 

She returns food if it has an extra ingredient she didn’t order. She asks a million and one questions while everywhere else is rolling their eyes in line.

In essence, we’re total opposites in this regard. 

She doesn’t hesitate to ask and get her needs met, while I, on the other hand, think I’m an inconvenience to everyone and their dog (side note, I made a video about feeling like an inconvenience).

I don’t need to spell it for you, but most of the time, I wish I had her social-anxiety-free bones. It must be such a thrill to move through life like that.

If I tell you to ask a stranger for sunscreen, what’s your reaction?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll cringe immediately and tell me to go ____ myself. 

You might use the words “crazy,” “insane,” and “out of your mind” to describe the idea of it. 

I don’t blame you for having such a visceral reaction to this request. Most people would burn or hide in the shade the entire day rather than ask a stranger for sunscreen.

I mean, who does that?

My best friend Joanna, that’s who. I posted a video of her doing that on TikTok, which went viral.

 I honestly didn’t understand the commotion at first, but after a few months of pondering it, I can now see why it got people’s attention.

In the video, I’m documenting her as she prepares to ask a stranger for sunscreen. I knew I had to turn on the camera because the idea seemed preposterous. 

Who in their right mind asks for sunscreen?! (if you want the whole backstory to this, scroll to the bottom, where I explain what got her to this point).

If you don’t have TikTok, you can see the video in the YouTube episode below.

Truthfully, how often do you find yourself in a situation where you must ask for sunscreen?

If you’re anything like me, it’s probably never because you’d instead burn or hide in the shade than dare ask a random stranger for sunscreen, out of all things. 

Honestly, that’s been the most prevalent comment on the video. Other comments include how rude, irresponsible, and selfish she is for asking (because, you know, no one is allowed to forget something at home or express a need they have).

Here are the comments on choosing to be burned instead of asking for sunscreen:

The interesting part about this video, other than the fact that 1.4 million people are walking around that have seen it (mind blown!), is that it offers us the biggest life lesson: if we ask, we get it.

She asked – she got. Pure and simple.

If I could pinpoint why it’s gotten so much attention and discussion, it’s because people either fall into 2 buckets – the first one being that they wish they could be like her (because let’s face it, there’s no hint of social anxiety in her body). 

The second bucket is that it’s such a normal thing to do that it’s weird that some people think it’s impressive. 

Here are some comments in the video that reflect these 2 buckets:

These two sides battled it out in the comments because depending on which side you’re on, you think the other side is crazy. 

If you’re like most people, you’ve been in a situation where you could have used some sunscreen, but you didn’t ask for it because of one of these three reasons (honestly, you can replace sunscreen with any other item that’s more fitting for you).

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Here are 3 reasons why asking a stranger for sunscreen is scary:

1. Social rejection

This is the most apparent reason—no one wants to feel like a burden or be rejected by a stranger, and that’s the risk you take when you ask someone for something. 

You’re putting yourself out there and risking being told “no” or ignored altogether. We’re afraid of being rejected by the person we ask for sunscreen or making them uncomfortable. 

Here are some comments that reflect this feeling:

2. Approach anxiety

We’ve all been there—you’re at an event/location/place, many people around, and you need something (wipe/sunscreen/pen), but you don’t know who to approach.

Is it okay if I ask this person? What if they say no? Think I’m weird? What if they don’t have it? 

We’re afraid that the person will reject us because of how we approach them or any stereotype/bias they might have of us. 

Here are some comments that reflect this feeling:

3. Social norms

We’re afraid that people will judge us for asking for sunscreen in the first place and make us feel bad about ourselves for doing it. This varies among cultures of course, and how such a request would be seen as. 

While you might be able to do it in one place, you won’t have the same nerve in another because of the perception it comes with.

Here are some comments that reflect this feeling:

Reading these comments gives you an idea of what goes on in people’s minds and the list of thoughts they go through to decide whether or not they’re game to ask a stranger for something.

The truth is that whatever bucket you fall into (either wishing you were more like her or that this is easy to do), there’s a lot to break down and dissect on each side. 

For example, why is it so easy for some and not for others? Why does one believe it’s rude to ask while someone else cheers her on? Why do some share but others don’t? Why do some want to punish her, and others wish they were more like her?

The list continues, making this particular video so fascinating to discuss. And what better way to discuss more of this than to bring in the woman behind it all so she can walk us through what she was thinking about and why it’s so darn easy for her to do something like this daily?

Tune in to part 2, where I interview Joanna, the sunscreen girl

After my TikTok video of documenting my best friend asking a stranger for sunscreen went viral, it made me wonder why. After scrolling through a thousand comments, I realized why it caught people’s attention.

Here are the 3 reasons why we’re scared to ask a stranger for sunscreen:

  • Social rejection
  • Approach-anxiety
  • Social norms

I'm Roxana

I went from being scared to ask a question out loud to hosting summits online. I love coffee, french crepes, and working from home. My mission? Help others build their social confidence to make friends, have conversations, and be comfortable around people!

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There’s no substitute for effort, but you can speed up the process if you understand and take these five ways seriously.
5 quick ways manage social anxiety