“I’m so proud of you for being social!”
I waved to my flatmates and their two friends as I slipped back into my room. That’s a phrase that I hear from them pretty often. They know that being social can be hard for me and they make it a point to affirm me. Even if I’ve only stepped out of my room for three minutes and barely spoken. My flatmates know how uncomfortable I am in social situations. They respect that. They also push me to grow. They’ll ask me to hang out with them, even if they don’t think I’ll accept. They’ll pull me out of my room occasionally to watch a movie, since I won’t have to talk to people. My flatmates understand something very important about me.
People scare me.
It’s a part of my personality that I’ve come to be quite familiar with. I’m not sure whether it stems from my being an introvert or vice versa.
I realize it’s a generalization to say that people scare me. It’s not entirely true. The human race, collectively, doesn’t really scare me. Just groups of strangers. And even then, it’s not a “I’m terrified for my life or well-being” kind of scared. It’s a “I don’t know these people and I have no idea what to say” kind of scared. More of an anxiety than anything (though I’m not claiming to actually have social anxiety).
If you saw me with a group of friends, you would never guess that social settings make me uncomfortable. But that’s because I know my friends. Strangers are unknowns. I don’t know how they’re going to act, what they’re going to say, or what they might be thinking. I don’t know what their reactions will be. I don’t know how to act around them and it makes me as uncomfortable as all get out.
I’ve said before that small talk is hard for me and with a group of strangers, that’s what is expected. Strangers aren’t expecting to make deep connections or have important conversations. So I get nervous. Am I doing it right? Are they actually interested in what I’m saying? Would they rather be somewhere else? Is it rude that I’d rather be somewhere else?
But I have found a way to cope with my nerves-common ground.
If I can find a topic of common interest, I feel twenty times better. That’s why college has been pretty easy. Even if I don’t know a student, I can usually find some sort of commonality either from classes, extra-curricular activities, or travel experiences (at my school, something like 80% of students have traveled abroad at some point). When I get a job, I can hopefully connect with my co-workers in similar ways. It’s not always easy to find common interests, but I’ve found it’s always worth the effort.
Sorry if this post was a little heavier than usual. It’s something that’s been on my mind and I thought it was important to share with you.
Do you have any advice for me?
Until next time, word nerds!