The trouble with being sociable…
I have spent most of the week tying to decide in which direction to take this second post, different thoughts have come and gone but something that I have found is an ever present link is: social anxiety. It’s an odd quirk of life for me, I am quite a chatty person but most social situations fill me with fear, and mostly I would usually prefer to be at home with ‘Scandal’ and a cup of tea. It’s something we all feel in different ways I suppose? I don’t know about you but I often flit between various characteristics (if you will) of social anxiety, and they can vary depending on what kind of day or week I have had, how much sleep I got the night before, if I managed to do my meditation in the morning or sometimes simply how much of a grumpy cow I am being on any given day (although sometimes that is actually a characteristic in itself).
I have roughly categorised the three social versions of myself, with a bit my of observations on other people in there for a more relatable reading experience (maybe to hide my embarrassment at being capable of such behaviour).
1. Social Butterfly
Excited but nervous, eager to either experience or get the whole situation over with, conversational but a little bit extroverted. Laughing too loud, projecting jokes and stories to more people than probably care to listen, full of bravado and confidence when actually I feel very little; overcompensating for the deep down feeling of inadequacy. All the while the more I feel ashamed or embarrassed at my behaviour the worse my behaviour in this manner becomes. Bossiness seems to make an appearance, an air of humorous judgement and also complete lack of inhibitions. Most people need alcohol for that last one but not me, it’s a high – an adrenaline rush that in the end results in me sitting alone in the quiet shaking my head at memories of the last hour or hours, and sometimes even loathing myself and deciding that everyone I just spent time with is probably sitting at home thinking what an utter plonker I am. That sounds madly self centred doesn’t it? Narcissistic even, but later ok in this post I will explain why that’s not quite accurate.
2. I’m a Lady
So nervous I would rather not be here, introverted, quiet and in all the effort to appear like the strong silent type coming across either stuck up or disinterested, sometimes even incapable depending on the situation. I am not on a high, I am one hundred percent already on a low, I have been since I woke up that morning – although I can’t always tell you why. Someone says something and I am vaguely aware that it’s funny, but I don’t much feel like laughing so it comes out like a derision filled sneer, every second that passes I am alienating myself from the company around me until eventually they give up and move on to someone else. And despite the fact that I feel completely and utterly awful and I would never wish this feeling on another person, I’ve just made one or two people feel like I don’t like them, I judge them or if I am lucky they don’t actually care but I think they do. This whole experience has taken its toll, exhaustion hits and the only thing getting me through is the thought of lying in bed – and trying not to play the whole event over and over in my head. Sometimes a week or even a month later I am still replaying my foolishness in my head, but by this point I have at least accepted that the other people involved have almost certainly completely forgotten the whole thing.
3. Dream Queen
Now you might have guessed that this one is what I am trying to channel as opposed to the actual version of myself that I think comes across, it’s my best version of myself and I really hope at least a fraction of it comes across. I am polite and well mannered, charismatic but not overtly so – in a humble kind of way that makes me trustworthy (we all want to be trustworthy I think) and attentive. I laugh but not too loudly or inappropriately, I am empathetic and listen genuinely to people’s conversation and problems. (That sounds obvious doesn’t it, that you listen to what another person is saying. But in both one and two you will notice that my mind is so overcome with self deprecating thoughts I sometimes struggle to hear anything over the melee). I give intelligent and informed answers to topical and philosophical topics of conversations. I exude warmth and friendliness but without crossing the line of flirtation. And last but not least, I leave feeling happy and content and I only look back with fond thoughts.
Now which one are you? Maybe you are number three, and if so I have a little green monster of envy! Maybe you mix it up a bit like I do, one and two and every attempt being made at three. Maybe you’re four, and if you are then please tell me what your four is, because as you know my mantra is that you are not alone, so please don’t feel that because I have omitted a forth option that you are alone. But whichever you are, remember that at any one time another person could feeling exactly the same, that person you have always thought of as strong, decisive and assertive is actually facing a very real internal battle and it never even occurred to them that you face the battle also.
1. a person who is overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish.
2. Psychoanalysis. a person who suffers from narcissism, deriving erotic gratification from admiration of his or her own physical or mental attributes.
Ok so are you overly self involved? Yes probably a little, but you wish to god that you weren’t because your self involved is actually a yammering in your head which goes something like: ‘you are not good enough’. Therefore you are not vain, because you don’t love yourself, you’re not even content with yourself (contentment I think is what best to aspire to). Are you selfish? That’s a tough one, you can still be wildly caring of others and still be selfish. There is also a fine line between protecting yourself and being selfish, and I think it comes down to gain, do you put personal gain over the feelings of another? Do you sacrifice friendships for personal or professional gain? Do you pull back from a friendship to protect your already struggling self? I cannot tell you the answer because we are all different, unique.
Social anxiety is on the rise, there is social media (but that’s probably a post by itself), there are more and more television programmes and films that show the strong and independent woman, when you struggle to tie your shoe laces some mornings without blubbing. The point is as always, you are absolutely not alone, that is not to say people feel the same way you do – let’s not devalue our own experiences by popping that self help chestnut on any given situation. But you’re not alone because at some point or another, the person you look at in the mirror, or the person who sits across from you at work has probably felt incapable of leaving the house for that gathering that has been eagerly awaited for months. I know you don’t feel strong, being strong implies a great thrust of energy and steadfastness when it’s actually more about steps. Getting out of bed, having a cup of tea, having a shower, drying your hair etc., I know it feels like you are wading through mud sometimes, but don’t let the overwhelming fear undermine your every day achievements. Strength and weakness are something for another day, but coping step by step is key for building yourself up to the best version of yourself.