Some people can weave their ways into social situations so easily. They can turn and talk to someone and that's it. Unfortunately, I've never been that kind of person. I have to think about every little move I make, and sometimes that's still wrong. However, this didn't seem to be the case this time. I've just come home from a Memorial Day party and things actually turned out well. I've talked to all sorts of people, and I'm proud about that.
In theory, socialization is simple. Steps required: 1) Go up to person. Anyone. 2) Say "hi". 3) Say something. Maybe about the current situation. 4) Wait to respond and say something intelligent back. Of course, it isn't so simple for everyone. There are so many different factors to think about. Which person should I go up to? What if they don't have anything in common with me or worse yet, what if they don't even like me/ think I'm stupid? What if I say "hi" in a way that sounds a little too desperate, too soft or something? What if I start talking about something completely stupid? All of this is enough to leave me terrified, at the corner of a crowd at a party. Sometimes, it's such a struggle to find it in me to go up someone, especially if they are already surrounded by groups of people.
Usually, it's hard. Usually, I'm just terrible at it and I feel so terrible when I'm in front of so many other people. I feel like I'm just screwing up and I should just get out of it already. Yet I know I'm wrong and being paranoid. Then other moments come. Moments when I'm almost seamless, when I feel like I actually belong. I had one of these moments tonight and it was odd. Tonight, I looked like I was outgoing and loud. Social opportunities just fell into my lap and I barely had to work at them at all. It was incredible and stunning. So why am I thinking about this now?
I'm just wondering why every other time has to be this hard if this time was so easy. What makes this so difficult? Why can't I have the same outlook any other social occasion as I did then? I can't help but wonder, and it's driving me crazy.
Of course, the answer is obvious. Tonight, I talked to adults and then two sisters about American Girl dolls and Harry Potter. No one my age was involved in any of this. In fact, most of these seamless encounters happen to involve those who are not my age. The only exception to this was my time in a sleepaway arts camp I happened to be in.
I feel that there is so much at stake when I talk to someone. It affects how I'm viewed by everyone else and my chances at socializing with people in the future.
Socialization has been at the root of so many of my problems. It is the very core of my insecurities, the very root of my deepest fears (both of being alone and of not being good enough). Last year, it was the root of my unhappiness. My mother asked me why I was so unhappy when I was smart, kind, had a good life and was not totally unable to socialize. At the time, I didn't know how to answer her. Now, I realize. Many times (fifth and eighth grade mostly but a few other moments in between there too), I have been a social pariah. I felt like I was constantly rejected and that no one wanted to be around me. Eventually, I started to think there had to be a reason for all of this and I tried to think about what that reason as. This, in turn, made me think of each and every one of my flaws. Because I wanted friends so badly, I wanted to remove these flaws and I tried to do this by beating up on myself and becoming a perfectionist.
Whenever I talk to someone, I feel like my insecurities are in full view and that each of them are arrows for the other person to use. I feel, sometimes, that I have to work so hard to get them to like me. After all, I'm the one who cares and worries about it. Often, it never really hits me that they worry too or even that they might already like me. I have been branded with the curse of needing to bare myself to other people, to be close to someone, for not being alone. Sometimes, I wish I was okay with being by myself and not being around people.
My life would probably be a lot easier if I stopped being a spaz about the whole situation. I know that part of it is my anxiety disorder, yes, but a large part of it is the effect of previous trauma. The problem is that I really don't know how to do this. Every time I try, I see someone's sneer or snicker, some bully's word. I am thrust backwards by a force I cannot see.
Socialization is a deeply human thing. We're social creatures. Without social interaction, we wilt. Teenagers, impelled by the natural urge to break apart from our parents, look towards our peers. In this cutthroat world, we need social alliances to help us through. As much as I and so many shy people try to become hermits, it won't work.
If I can talk to people like I did tonight, I can do it in other situations too. While I only have two weeks of school left now, I still have camp over the summer and I have next year. I'll just have to work on getting past this.
It comes down to baby steps. Of slowly walking over to someone and saying "hi". By forcing myself to do this, I might be able to make it through. Who knows?
The four steps above will lead me through. All I need to breathe and talk. Maybe laugh a little, too.