For those of you who are wondering, the answer is yes, I feel just as socially inadequate, if not more, as a graduate student as I did when I was an undergraduate student.
The reason I say if not more is that as an undergraduate I don’t think I was fully aware of my social inadequacies. From ages 18 to 22, I thought of my muddled words / quietness / inability to connect as more of a phase.
“Once I graduate and become a cop, I’ll be super outgoing,” I told my girlfriend at the time.
“I doubt it,” she replied.
Since I never actually became a cop, I am unsure if obtaining a badge and a gun would have allowed me to reach my imagined smiley faced, “What’s up, mother fuckers!!!” level of super outgoing. However, after living in the real world for eight years and becoming a more conscious individual, I don’t think my imagined smiley faced, “What’s up, mother fuckers!!!” level of super outgoing exists.
Before we continue, I want you all to know that I have, in fact, tried. From ages 23 to 28, I studied improvisation at various comedy theaters throughout Chicago. I did this initially to improve my sketch writing, but also, to improve my social skills.
The idea of performing in front of a class full of strangers was, in my mind, the ultimate social experiment where either one of two things would happen:
1.) I become super outgoing.
2.) I seal my fate in social inadequacy forever.
And now, the moment you have all been waiting for, the answer to the ultimate social experiment is…
I am, and will always be, socially inadequate. Being around unfamiliar people fills me with anxiety. Group conversations are hard. To handshake or not to handshake: that is the real question.
Some people might argue against this socially inadequate acceptance and say I have given up and change is possible, but I believe I have given it a fair shot and my once imagined smiley faced, “What’s up, mother fuckers!!!” level of super outgoing is forever out of reach.
What is in reach, however, is my level of awareness. As an undergraduate student, I thought my social inadequacy was just a phase, but as a graduate student, I know that I am a social fucking mess.
My main issue involves interacting with strangers. Most people enjoy interacting with strangers. I find it draining. Whenever I talk to someone I don’t 100% know, it’s like, my brain leaves my body, and I become this artificial version of myself that I have deemed socially acceptable.
I don’t consider myself a person who cares about what others think of them, but maybe I am. Then again, my impossibility to act myself around strangers might stem from something much deeper.
I’ve been fairly quiet my entire life. Nothing too traumatic has ever happened to me. I did fly out of a moving van once, but that’s another story.
I think my quietness stems from insecurity. I’ve felt insecure, both physically and mentally, pretty much my entire life. When I was younger, I was obsessed with the size of my nose. I thought it was too big. With that said, I can’t even begin to estimate how many hours of my life have been spent thinking about nose jobs and staring at my side view in various bedroom and bathroom mirrors.
The funny thing about all this is that when I’m around trusted friends, I’m not insecure or quiet or any of that. I’m mostly loud and annoying. Unless I’m having a bad hair day or something, and in that case, I’m just pissed.
I should mention that (despite the fact that most of my trusted friends are back in Illinois while I’m in Idaho) I have met some new people. I live in a house with four other roommates and know a handful of fellow graduate students in the writing department.
Introvert’s Guide to Meeting New People
– Smile and introduce yourself
– Listen to person(s) talk
– Nod your head
– Respond to one or two things said
– Wrap it up a.k.a. ESCAPE!
Some of these fellow graduate students I know better than others. I question if any of them know the real me. I’m working on being myself as much as possible, but it’s hard. Making friends at 30 is a lot different than at 18. Everyone has a personal history and defined beliefs and opinions and all sorts of shit. It’s a lot more easy to offend people too. Unless you meet really cool, non-offended people, but that’s pretty much impossible. Everyone’s offended nowadays.
The bottom line is that it takes me forever to get comfortable in front of strangers. There’s a level of trust I must establish before I can let go and be myself. Most of the time this level of trust is never attained, so I end up being quiet/cordial guy, which is fine, but sometimes I don’t want to be quiet/cordial guy, I want to be the real deal.
I’m just tired of having to constantly adapt. Putting on a different face and personality for every situation is exhausting. I doubt these socially inadequate feelings will ever go away; however, being aware of them allows me to reflect and more importantly, stop.
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