The Forgotten Quality

Hi Friends!

Today we’re going to talk about social anxiety! Yay!!! Because I don’t talk about that enough on here… or something.

I don’t know how familiar you are with the concept of social anxiety, er social anxiety disorder (SAD)–I usually just say social anxiety even though that’s longer than its abbreviation, but whatever–but if you need a quick briefing: social anxiety is, essentially, like it sounds–feelings of anxiousness in social settings. But there’s more to it than that. A lot more. But in recent months, as I’ve become more open about my social anxiety, I’ve gotten the impression that people don’t see all parts of the picture, don’t realize why social situations make the socially anxious so socially anxious in the first place.

It’s not always new situations. It’s not always new people. It’s not always scrounging for something even remotely intriguing to say. And it certainly isn’t hating social situations or people or conversing. Though all these things are known for raising levels of discomfort for the anxious. No. Rather, the true trigger of our bouts of social anxiety (for me, anyway), is the judgment. The judgment that takes place in those new situations, from those new people, after saying those “intriguing” things. The judgement, er, the fear of judgment is what ultimately triggers my discomfort in social situations. The fear of judgment is the aspect of social anxiety that is so real and inescapable, yet is often the aspect that is most forgotten.

Sure, most anyone can feel a bit anxious in new situations with new people–that’s “normal”. Being unsure of what to say sometimes, that can be “normal”. And even worrying about what others think is “normal”. Great, yeah, I get it. Solidarity in not being alone with this anxiety, right? Okay… But is it “normal” to feel this way with family I live with (with whom I live 🙂 )? Close friends, who undeniably support me no matter what? People I’ve known most of if not all of my life? These aren’t new people or extremely new situations. Still with me? Or, how about this:

Just the other day I was putting together a late dinner for myself in our kitchen as my Mom was getting ready to leave for work. As I’m preparing my food for eating, I see her body stop and stand still, facing my direction. The more normal aspect of me assumes she wants to tell me something while anxious self assumes she’s totally making fun of the way I’m prepping my food. Either way, I turn to her and ask, “What?” She’s looking down at my food with an amused smile on her face and just says, “Nothing.” Her nonverbal communication tells me all I need to know; my anxiety fears are completely confirmed. I’m eating too muchI’m not letting my food cool down long enoughI’m doing everything wrong. So, again, let me ask how about now? Would you feel the same way in this situation? Have the same thought process?

I’m not trying to turn this into an “I-have-social-anxiety-and-can-be-the-only-one-I’m-so-unique” tirade. That’s not it at all (Side note: there’s my social anxiety right here–I’m worried about how my dear readers are judging me. If I’m coming on too strong, defensive. You see?). But I mean, how many people are likely to feel this same way in this situation (to some degree)? Worrying about what their mother is thinking of them and their cooking ability as they prepare a meal for one? Actually, that’s probably a bad example. I suspect this has potential to be sort of universal. I mean, don’t we all want to impress our moms with phenomenal cooking abilities? Let’s try something a little less so. How many of you worrying about what other people think of you? Worry that everyone in the room is watching you, judging your every move?Worry the waiter thinks you’re incompetent when you stumble over your order? Worry about your friend’s comment on our tardiness days after the accusation was made? As far as I know, these aren’t regular thoughts for most people. But, oh, for the socially anxious, these are very real and very regular (though I suspect the degree of worrying depends upon the person).

Social anxiety is so, so much more than the basic fear of people and new things and social interaction. So much more. And I hope you Friends begin to realize that if you haven’t already…

So, the next time you see or hear some socially anxious-related blip along the lines of:

 

SAD_Funny1

That’s not totally true… It’s more of a dislike as to how you feel when people talk to you. There’s a difference!

Know that that’s not the whole story. There are reasons behind the apparent nervousness and refusal to attend social events and talk to people. Now, if you want to get down to the science behind this–why we think this way–I don’t have an answer for that. But I can tell you it’s not a conscious choice. I don’t choose to think this way–it just kind of happens. And it’s not something that can be easily reversed. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing. Maybe that’ll be my basis for next week’s post, if I haven’t bored you already…

Social anxiety for the win!!! …Right?

 

Oh, That’s Not Normal? I Guess I’ll Go… Question My Actions Now…

What is “normal” anyway? That’s a pretty subjective term, anyway. Reminds me of that joke about society urging people to be themselves, and then when they become brave enough to do so, are judged for it… because it’s not “normal”. You’re probably wondering what I’m talking (writing) about, what evoked this train of thought. Well…

I was at work, and had taken a break to talk to a co-worker (GASP! Shocking I know…) and as is per usual in human conversation, I was asked about my plans for that day after work.

Ever since I came home from Italy, I’ve been making the effort to be a better daughter/sister/friend/worker/etc. (if you recall my Selfishness post) by my standards. Part of this involves hanging out with my dear younger brother. Now, we’ve gotten closer over the years as he’s gotten older and so we would hang out (watch movies, take walks, play cards, etc.) pretty regularly. But after I began college, I wasn’t around as much to do that. And when I was home, I was often too busy to spend much time with him–especially recently as I finished finals and have begun to move closer and closer to graduation and all that entails. So basically for me being a full-time student and devoted sister-friend doesn’t always work out. But with moving home and having time off of school, I planned for things to change.

Even with my jobs, I do have a bit of free time some days. And on those more open days, I leave my free time free for my dearest, now 15-year-old (yikes) brother, for whatever he wants to do (if he wants to do anything in particular, sometimes he doesn’t, but it’s nice to have that option 🙂 ). Anyways, the particular day I was asked about my after-work plans was an open-Max-hang-out day. I related a condensed version of the above while another co-worker entered the conversation and listened. When it became clear I was finished talking I was met with a comment along the lines of “Not many 15-year-olds want to hang out with their college-age sisters.”

Now, the comment wasn’t unkind; in fact, if what communication expertise I’ve gathered from my studies were any indication, I’d say the remark was made with admiration. Like what I’m doing is just so worthwhile… yet, different.

Different_Ash

Fantastic Mr. Fox… Anyone?

I don’t remember how I responded. But I remember my internal reaction–a jumble of thoughts flew through my head at once: Why not? Why wouldn’t a younger kid want to hang out with their older sibling? Is that not something siblings do? Not at this age? Should my younger brother not want to hang out with me? Is this not considered normal? This was one of those instances where I was so used to a certain aspect of my life, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of another reality.

What if? What if my brother weren’t who I know him to be? What if we didn’t have the bond we do? Didn’t spend time together like we do? Anything aside from what I have now didn’t occur to me, and that was so grounding, gratifying. What if I didn’t have what I have now? Had something else? I don’t know how things would be different, but I know there would be pros and cons to the situation just as there are in my current sibling bond. I think you know where I’m going with this, and I think you know it’s going to be terribly cliché but c’mon, I can’t not; even with all the rough patches–including a rather field-y patch at that–I wouldn’t change a thing. Because, let’s be honest, my brother nor I nor all the other individuals close in his life would not be the same if he were different.

“The crisis might be what sticks in my mind, but the in-between moments are the ones I would not have missed for the world.” –Jodi Picoult, House Rules

So yes, admiring co-worker, maybe 15-year-olds don’t typically hang out with college-age siblings. Maybe it’s not normal. But mine does. And it’s my normal. And we have a pretty smashing time. You know, most of the time…

Love your siblings. And your parents–particularly your father today, as society demands. But if you remember my Mother’s Day comment, don’t show appreciation for loved ones just on their acclaimed holiday, but everyday–explicitly and implicitly… in your own way. Happy Father’s Day (if applicable). 🙂

Also, is anyone impressed by abilities to cram the weirdest, opposing references into my posts? I think it’s my new talent…

I’m Going on an Adventure… AGAIN!

Considering my most recent post (Let’s Talk About (Write About?) Selfishness), this probably won’t make sense, what with my argument about not doing things to challenge myself socially, but I still stand by what I said. We’ll just say this is one of my first steps toward implementing that challenge… though I committed to this adventure a few months ago and just immortalized the challenge yesterday… Anyway. Adventure! Again.

A little over a month ago, I went on a seemingly miniature adventure by comparison, in which I stayed overnight at an abandoned resort with fellow students from my school brought together by a passion to advocate for inclusion of diversity on campus. I was very anxious in the days, hours leading up to that adventure. And proceeded to be pleasantly surprised after the true adventure had begun. But despite this scary-turned-unforgettable experience being what it was, I’m still experiencing mass amounts of worry prior to my next big adventure even though it too is bound to be unforgettable. So what is this adventure at which I keep hinting? Well, I’m going to…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITALY

*insert envious gasps and celebratory music here*

I’m going to Italy for three(ish) weeks on a class trip that aims to simultaneously envelop us dear college students into the standard tourist-y routines typical of foreign visitors yet integrate us into the everyday routines and habits of the locals. Very contradictory, I know. But considering this is my second time overseas and the first time was with a very large group filled with only tourist activities, I’m actually really excited for the latter goal of this adventure: the integrating into native lifestyles bit. Well excited, relatively speaking…

This promises to be a unique opportunity not everyone gets offered… well at least those who don’t attend my school (it’s very common to spend time abroad at my university. I’m actually considered unusual for my lack of abroad experience.). It’s exotic, it’s timely, inexpensive (relatively speaking, from what I’m told). Which is sort of why I convinced myself to go. And while I was excited back when I committed so many months ago, now that the beginning of this adventure draws nearer and that more people know about it and the pressure to feel excited is heightened, I’m feeling somewhat less excited and more anxious.

Anxious about what’s going to happen while I’m Italy. What’s going to happen to the people I care about back home while I’m away. Whether I’m going to genuinely like and maybe even befriend the other people on this trip. Basically, all the big scary unknowns everyone’s so fond of fearing. I realize a lot of this worry stems from things I can’t control. And if I can’t control them, why worry? Well, doesn’t that just sound so easy? Yeah, on paper (computer screen?) maybe. In reality it’s not that simple. That’s just not how I’m wired; worrying is what I do.

I’ve been working myself up about this trip (clearly) and will continue to do so, even after the plane takes off, after we’ve arrived in Italy and settled into our convent-turned-bed-and-breakfast (so cool, right?!), after a few days of being enveloped and integrated into the Italian culture. But then, once the novelty wears off, the worry/anxiety will dissipate into their usual everyday doses, and I will begin to enjoy myself. Maybe even as much as everyone assumes. And I know I will–to some degree, if my track record is any indication. Everything usually works out just fine. I just have to be Quinn and dedicate ridiculous amounts of energy worrying until that sense of enjoyment arrives. Sigh, I’m so weird…

So yes: adventure. Woot woot! But fear not dear readers, for you will not be without my disorganized ramblings of a blog while I’m gone. This is an academic trip, as in while I’m in Italy I’m to be completing coursework, requiring use of my laptop/Internet. So… blogging! Funny enough, I’m actually required to keep a blog for my class to recount my experiences, so I may simply dual-post on my class’ site and here (though I think those posts will be significantly more academic than my informal ramblings. Hope that’s okay…). I can’t promise consistency nor my usual disorganization, but there will be a post at some point in the next few weeks while I’m away. At least one. Hopefully more. We’ll see… 🙂

Ciao, for now! I guess. That rhymed! Yikes…

Oh! And depending on where you’re from/when you’re reading this: Happy Mother’s Day! Should circumstances allow, do something for your mom. Talk to her. Spend time with her. Let her know you love her in some way. If it were up to me, I’d say we shouldn’t need a holiday as an excuse to do these things; we should be loving and celebrating the people we love regardless of the day. But if you need the excuse of an officialized holiday to call up your estranged mother to chat, then so be it. Hey, you’re making an effort. Go you! 🙂 Okay that’s all.

Let’s Talk About (Write About?) Selfishness

Specifically my selfishness. How’s that for irony? As much as I’d like this to be some phenomenal self-help piece applicable to all readers, I know that’s just not possible. So like most posts, I’m selfishly using my own experiences to maybe, kind of, on the off-chance, indirectly help one or two people in addition to myself. Yep.

Lately I feel I’ve been selfish (hence the theme of the post). Beyond regular human capacity. And I don’t mean selfish in terms of greediness or only looking to benefit myself, but rather placing my needs above the needs of others so as to ensure my personal well-being/stability. While of course, caring for yourself and ascertaining your own needs are met is vital to, well, living, I think there’s a limit to just how extensively those needs should be met. And I think I’ve exceeded my limit…

In former posts I’ve mentioned my introverted tendencies/social anxiety/simultaneous people-admiration yet fear of socialization; I’m pretty open about these aspects of my personality. But that wasn’t always the case.

Acknowledging my social anxiety in particular is an act relatively new to me. I just started coming to terms with it and talking about it a few months ago. And ever since, I haven’t been able to stop. This is great! I’ve become more self-aware, self-accepting. I’ve made great progress from where I was prior to talking. But now I feel I almost use this facet of my personality as an excuse. To do things. Not do things. To justify my periodical antisocialness. While yes, social anxiety can be and at times is in fact a valid reason for certain situations, I think I may be… taking advantage of this part of me. I think, ever since I’ve begun to talk about my social anxiety and come to grips with it, I’ve gotten so comfortable with this part of my life, I treat it like I treat all constants in my life–like a… security blanket. Like I’m just a little too comfortable with this part of my identity.

Because I’m so comfortable and so easily able to justify my behaviors or decisions by my anxiety, I easily refuse to take advantage of opportunities (big and small) that hold the potential to sprout my growth socially. Because saying no and staying with what you know is so much easier than the alternative. Than trying something new. Or even not so new.

Ever since coming home for the summer, I’m finding it harder and harder to be the person everyone is expecting–the person I want to be. I want to be a daughter, sister, friend, student, employee, writer, explorer, investigator (and probably more but this list seems long enough). But I’m also introverted and socially anxious. And those bouts of reality combined with my aspirations don’t always work. It’s not impossible, no, but it is… a challenge. Or so I seem to think.

It is a challenge to be all this, all I want to be, but I think with my comfort in excuses, I’m exacerbating this challenge into something bigger. So as to simply not do all I want to do and to give up. Well, my version of giving up, which isn’t very similar to most peoples’ interpretation of the idea, but… And (in a very roundabout way) I think that’s selfish. I’m using facets of my personality and meeting the needs of those aspects to not do things. And that’s not okay.

Take_Care_Selfish

Oh good… Silver lining

I need to find a balance, a way to somehow be all that I want to be yet still care for the parts of me that need extra TLC (i.e. time alone/away from people). I just can’t get too CAREried away in the process of caring for my needs. Ha… that wasn’t funny. Sorry.

This potential balance achievement is going to be a journey–not so easily completed. Maybe not ever completed. Maybe full balance isn’t possible, but rather a trial of give-and-take that varies each day. I guess there’s one way to find out.

Alright dear reader(s) who were totally helped by my rambling bout to self-discovery: remember, take care of yourself. Meet your needs. But… don’t forget about those needs you share with others. Those need tended to too. Ha! To too. Yikes, I need a good laugh… And less ellipses.

I realize this is not my usual posting time. Don’t worry, we’ll return to regularly scheduled programming; I already had a post in mind for that but I was feeling really passionately about this topic, ergo the gift of extraneous blogging. You’re welcome! 🙂

Why is Peopling So Difficult?

Also, why are so many of my posts titled with a question…usually beginning with “why”? I guess even as an English major, having concrete answers for the seemingly inexplicable provides solace… at least some of the time.

As human beings we crave social interaction (which I affectionately refer to as “peopling” when in verb form)–to some extent. The drive to be social brings us together, it evokes a commonality among humans. But that extent, the degree to which we crave and seek out social endeavors divides us. We have different preferences, different means, different limits to how we choose to fulfill our socialization need. And in recent weeks, I’ve begun to notice how easily my need is met by such minuscule human interaction.

I am an introvert. This is nothing new, and I fully accept and embrace this about myself. Introversion is awesome! And rather refreshing in such a social society. But my level of introversion seems to be rising more and more lately. I’ve been told I’m personable, easy to talk with, and generally appear as an outgoing individual. Here would be important to note that in these instances when I’m commended for my above-and-beyond social performance, I’ve only had to be social for a short while. Also important to note in these instances are the additional factors come in to play: a) I’m in a good mood and/or feeling socially at ease, b) the other person/people is/are intriguing/pleasant and we thus are able to connect, c) I enjoy the surrounding environment/situation eliciting the social interaction, and/or d) all of the above. But all of those factors, even combined, can only amount to Pleasant, Social Quinn for so long. Or apparently not so long.

Jane_Eyre_CAPTION

Jane Eyre understands. Select the image to learn more about the inner-workings of an introvert.

I’ve come to find through my college and work experiences my absolute maximum capacity for social pleasantry is about a day… if I have to be around people the entire time… and can still find a few minutes to escape for introversion solace. So technically not even a full day, really… Yikes.

Don’t get me wrong: there is an abyss of resources out there (i.e. the internet) advocating for introverts (their well-being, habits, problems in extroverted societies, coping mechanisms, self-love, etc.), and that is AWESOME! But those resources only get you so far especially when you’re going about your introverted existence. It’s one thing to read and talk about, but another to actually do (as is the case with pretty much anything). Especially when other people are involved. It’s like that society-wide instruction that encourages everyone to embrace their true selves. Yet when they comply, they get scorned for trying to be too much like their true selves, too individual and not enough like the “true self” society already has outlined for its occupants.

Society

Introverts have gained a massive following in the past decade as more and more people are coming to grips with this facet of identity. But that doesn’t mean everyone is entirely on board with the concept. I don’t mean they aren’t willing to accept, they just don’t appear to fully… understand what being an introvert entails. If they did, they wouldn’t continue to push introverts out of their comfort zone, asking them to spend so much time peopling even after trying to set the record straight on the concept of an introvert. Or maybe they still would. Pushing us introverts out of our comfort zone and all that.

While I’m perfectly content with my introversion, I work to embrace it, why push me to my limit? I suspect to expand my horizons, maybe even extend my limit. But asking me to repress my introversion for a little while longer kind of challenges my efforts to embrace it, like even my extroversion, as sporadic as it is, still isn’t enough. And I find this rather frustrating. Kind of like I find people frustrating sometimes. Thus, lash out via the written word to the internet…

…I don’t think I really conveyed anything coherent in this post other than my struggle with extensive socializing and apparent disdain for people (even though I’m interested in studying them???), but consider it an elaboration on the title question, “Why is Peopling So Difficult?” Maybe you have an answer or insight you’d like to share. In which case, by all means share–I (and fellow introverts alike) would love to hear.

I hope your week has just the right amount of peopling in it. Until next time… 🙂

Enjoying the Little Things

Hi Friends.

I’ve been feeling pretty down lately. Or rather emotionally all over the place, I suppose is a more accurate description. But if I had to choose one emotion to rule them all, I’d say down, or sad. I can’t pinpoint why exactly. And that, to me, is the worst part.

Of course, feeling sad or angry or nervous or really any emotion not in the content or happy families is not typically a fun time in itself (for obvious reasons). But feeling sad or angry or nervous and not knowing why so you can then work to address whatever it is causing your unpleasant feels–assuming its something within your control–evokes an additional sense of misery. At least for me. Maybe it’s a control thing… Which would explain a lot… But anyway, sadness.

I don’t like feeling sad for long periods of time (does anyone?) and for the last few weeks, this feeling has held a constant presence, and I’m not able to figure out why. I have it in my head, if I knew, I could determine why what’s making me sad is making me sad and then try to alter the causation so it maybe doesn’t make me so sad anymore. But no dice. So instead: coping. Which brings me to today’s central focus…

…enjoying the little things! I know, it sounds cliché, something you see printed on a motivational poster or coffee mug. But the thing is, the saying only really seems cliché because it’s spoken so often. We know the saying, but do we really listen to it? Believe it? Practice it?

I’m not going to outright make the claim acting on this mantra works–I certainly haven’t experienced a 180 turn in emotions–but it definitely helps. A warm blanket on a freezing day. A sincere “good job!” on a project you worked hard to complete and complete well. A laughing fit with a close friend. When you take the time to enjoy those seemingly minute facets of life, to momentarily release stressors and negative feelings, you move that much closer to experiencing a 180 in your emotional state. You feel lighter, happier, because whilst enjoying those “little things,” you aren’t focused on feeling sad or whatever is causing you to feel sad. The process is really pretty simple. Yet so many of us miss it…

I don’t know if any of you are going through something like this right now or have in the past and I’m not going to pretend I know exactly how you feel or that this advice is a cure-all for whatever you’re feeling right now. But I really do recommend trying to implement this, to enjoy the little things, because it really does help. Albeit slowly and not permanently. But happiness and relief–even for a moment–are still happiness and relief. They’re still valid. Still better than none at all.

And if you’re not going to listen to my sad, rambling, blogging self, at least read and believe/practice/ignore this beloved and at this moment incredibly relevant Harry Potter quote:

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Always

So wise, Dumbledore. So. Wise.

Have a… week. Of the relatively okayish and even happy sort, if you can.