Something has been eating at my mind all week and I felt the need to write it down before I pass it along as just another “paranoid thought.” I feel as though we are all always striving to meet new people, and thus make new relationships as we age, because we are all somewhat vulnerable and in need of human contact.
Personally, I feel most comfortable when I’m alone and am not obliged to hug or shake hands with others. I was often reprimanded for my “rude” behavior, when in retrospect my hesitance for physical contact was reflective of how I view myself and where I find my comfort zone. But this still didn’t change the fact that when I was home alone at night, with my brother at my father’s house and my mother with her boyfriend, I felt isolated… and not in the way I usually preferred.
I think its horribly easy to pass off a stranger as someone who is disconnected from the world if they don’t meet your eyes, aren’t willing to have physical contact, and who don’t know how to respond to certain messages. Of course, you could also deem them as being socially awkward and leave it at that. However, my fellow introverts and I have the same notions and perceptions about the world that the rest of the extroverts do. We just aren’t able to communicate these things as well as others because limited opportunities present themselves where we can feel comfortable enough to express what really is going on inside our minds.
But instead of categorizing myself and a million other people as being socially inept, I’m going to tell you about my own story and how I’ve come to deal with being known as the “quiet girl” who somehow managed to garner a massive crowd on onlookers.
So yes, I have social anxiety.
There are a few reasons as to why I hate summer. For starters, it’s too freaking hot, I constantly get sunburns even after applying proper protection, and everything is too bright for me to take my type of photography. Although, the biggest notion I hate about summer is seeing everyone I know come home from college to our small town for the next two or three months. I realize how that sounds. It seems as though I’m angry with the world, that I hate people, and that I made no friends in high school.
I realize these perceptions, because I’ve had people tell them to my face. The reality is this: I enjoyed high school and I think plenty of the students who attended with me are really sweet and creative. But on the other hand, I always feel as though when they look at me, they’re noticing any blemishes I have, what clothes I’m wearing, if I’m not smiling big enough, and that I still can’t hold a proper conversation without misunderstanding many references about parties or alcohol.
While I know that I’m likely being paranoid, I can’t help but think these things upon seeing people I went to school with. It doesn’t help that I’m usually alone— as I prefer to often be— and they’re usually in groups of four or eight. To be fair, I know that I could just go up to them and start a polite conversation about where they’re going and what they’re studying. But the awful thing is, I still see myself in the high school stigma wherein the friend you make in middle school are the ones you will be bound to until graduation. I know this because I dealt with it. I tried to leave a toxic friend group… and ended up having nobody for months.
It was the last few months of senior year— the few months where schoolwork doesn’t seem to count, there are always parties on the weekends, and the people you were friends with were the ones you’d talk to on Facebook for the next decade until they start to get married.
In the beginning of the year I had a group of about six friends, and we were all incredibly close with one another. Everyone was so different yet we had a common ground that built our kinship over the years. And halfway through the first semester, there was a party that all of us attended. As you might be able to imagine, this was the turning point. This was where arguments that had been silently brewing for months exploded in a violent fury, and the group was divided by who was on which side of the cannon fire. I tried to remain neutral, but of course that only acted against me.
It wasn’t until the police were involved when I realized the reason I couldn’t make friends outside of my immediate circle wasn’t just due to my social anxiety, but because I was already labeled as being a part of this “pack.” And when I stepped back and saw how my friends were behaving— constantly thriving on drama, talking badly about others who they barely knew, and picking fights over the smallest of things…. I had to withdraw. I had to escape that, because that wasn’t who I was and I felt disgusted and saddened just knowing it took me that long to figure it out.
So I stopped. I stopped talking to them, sitting with them at lunch, texting, partying, seeing them on weekends. I cut off all connections. And by doing so, I completely isolated myself from everyone in the school.
My mother told me, as I was in tears and having a panic attack that I didn’t know who to go to senior prom with, that I should try talking to other students— ones that were in my favorite art or literature classes. I don’t blame her for suggesting this, but I know that our generations are programmed differently and doing as she asked would be more impossible the she had intended. Making friends so late into the school year was nearly sacrilege— people would wonder why I’m talking to them after four years, and why I wasn’t present with my “group.” They would assume the worst. And I didn’t have the physical or mental strength to go through that again.
I was at my end. Stressed, anxious, depressed… not even the next installment of my favorite series could lift me out of my slump.
But I realized something during those weeks. I’m no different than anyone else, even thought my situation may be. Everyone faces hardships, and this was just something that I caused on my own and something that I had to fix on my own. So instead of seeking friendships, I started to fix the most important one: the one I had with myself.
I read more, blogged more, starting taking better photography and positing it online. I discovered new music (like Florence Welch and Fleet Foxes) and became enraptured with this whole “aesthetic” that I had never experienced before. I decided I wanted that— to be completely within my own imagination and not give a fuck about what anyone else thought if I, for instance, decided to wear chainmail as an accessory. (Not the fancy jewelry type. I’m talking full out LARPing and cosplay chainmail.) And although I didn’t smile more, because that doesn’t mean anything in regards to my emotional being, I felt a million times happier. I was liberated, and free to wander in my creativity that had been sitting silently for me to recognize it.
After reading about these heroines who slew dragons and navigated court politics against overpowered kings, I thought to myself— why the hell can’t that be me? Sure I might not find a dragon anytime in the near future, but I can certainly navigate my way around toxic relationships and not feel sorry for myself while I celebrate my strength.
Nevertheless, I still have social anxiety. Some scars are permanent, after all. However, it has evolved into something that I have control over and am able to push aside when I put my mind to it. I’ve never felt so sure of myself, even when I still have doubts and still feel lost. The knowledge that I will always have tomorrow to fix what I’ve wrought today has helped me grow into the person I am.
When people message me on Instagram or one of my other social medias and say they were hesitant to address me because they were anxious about how I would respond, I sometimes don’t know what to think. So, I tell them the truth. Don’t be wary of me, because we’re no different from each other. Just because I run a blog doesn’t mean that I’m an extrovert with wonderful social skills.
I am who I am.
Introverted, creative, and willing to face anything life throws at me.