Being Social Has Its Perks

Those of you who’ve been following along for awhile know I haven’t been too keen on being social for the past several months. Due to some self-realization this past semester (my introversion and social anxiety and… lack to typical college student persona), I’ve been working to pay more attention to my needs and trying not to let others’ (namely, peers) opinions interfere. Not always the easiest when you have social anxiety… But then I’ve also been working on discerning my genuine introvert/anxiety needs from simple disinterest and laziness so that I can be a better friend, sister, daughter, worker, student, etc. Essentially, the me I want to be. And I think I’ve really been doing a bang up job this summer! You know, in an unbiased way, totally… And it’s moments like the other night that show me just how worth my extra effort is proving to be.

Every summer, my neighborhood hosts a free swim night at a local pool for all inhabitants of the residential area and their guests. Oh, so exciting, right? I mean the idea’s kinda nice, but I’ve never really been into swimming. To me, it’s a lot like hanging out, doing what you normally do–but you’re in water… Yeah. Despite not really being into swimming, I thought it could be fun-ish… if my family went. Or if I at least took my dear, younger brother along.

As I’ve mentioned, he’s cooped up at home quite a bit during the day in the summer, so he doesn’t get out much. Plus, I have my ploy to make the most of our time together while our schedules are more open. Er, mine, anyway… So I thought, hey, I can do all that and more by taking dear Macimus to swim night! When I told my idea, he agreed and even seemed pretty enthusiastic about it, so plans were set, all was good to go. Until the night of.

Do you ever make plans in advance, likely due to feeling really social, and then the day of The Plans arrives and… you just aren’t feeling it anymore? Yeah, well… I think you know where this is going.

Neither Max or I were feeling the free swim vibes. But even still. I stood by my initial plan. I still wanted to hang out with my brother. And an hour out of the house would be good for him… Even if he wasn’t initially pleased about it. Hey, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t make him go, even as he was backing out of the plan. But, ultimately he still complied to my original suggestion. And it turned out to be a really great decision.

I’m finding more often than not in these last few relatively-less-social months, that despite not feeling sociable, when I make the attempt to interact with others, I feel happier after the socialization. And my night of swimming with my brother was no exception.

What made it so great though was that while we were out, he opened up to me. Really opened up to me, about the things that have been weighing on his mind recently. Things that, when I normally try to approach, cause my brother to shut down, change the subject. Or just withdraw from the conversation altogether. I don’t know what changed the other night, but he just brought them up on his own. And elaborated on his thoughts when pressed. And it was just a really nice conversation–nice night!–with my brother. He even asked me for advice (not always common between a brother and sister with a significant age-gap…)!

So I thought I’d write about this night here to serve as a lesson to you, Friends, and a reminder to myself some of the best things in life can arise from circumstances that don’t seem so appealing in the moment (i.e. socializing). You’d think as many times as I’ve found great experiences within socializing, I’d be more willing to… be social But so far, extreme introversion has won out.

Here’s hoping you are more outgoing than I! 🙂

How Many Social Plans Do We Really Need?

You know what’s funny? And not funny in the literally-laugh-out-loud or weird way, but funny in a huh-sometimes-we-have-really-different-ideas-on-certain-things sort. But do you know what’s funny in a huh-sometimes-we-have-really-different-ideas-on-certain-things way? The number of friends/acquaintances I’ve spent time with in the past couple months who expect me to have more than one plan in a single night.

Let me set the scene: It’s early summer evening–early enough where the sun is looking hazy, like it might go down soon, but still emits rays of heat on full blast, like it’s mid-afternoon. A friend and I are hunkered down in a favorite local eatery, chatting around bites of food, because food, always. Or maybe we’re strolling around a neighborhood or the downtown enjoying the scenery or general ambiance while talking about everything and nothing. Then about an hour into our quality time together, my friend will inquire, “So, what else do you have going on tonight?”

That’s when I pause. My mind comes to a halt.

Bus_Fall

Only slightly dramatic…

WHAT?! Are you really asking me this? Does my introversion mean nothing? I mean, maybe they’re perfectly aware of my antisocial tendencies and simply have high hopes for my introvert self. But if that’s not the case. Then what about the time? Sure, we started hanging out in the early evening, but depending how early, it could be nearly or after 8 now. What in the world would I be doing after 8 on a school/work/week night? Oh yeah, after we get done here I’m just going to go over to my other friend’s house for a second dinner. Or go grocery shopping for this week’s supplies (actually, that’s not a bad idea–late night grocery shopping is significantly less people-y). In any regard, I’m really curious as to what my friend has in mind for a late work night plan. I can bet whatever unplanned thing I’d be doing after we part ways for the night would likely not match their ideal (think: reading a riveting novel, watching an old favorite movie with my brother, writing down my thoughts for the day, etc.).

Realizing the introversion and, perhaps, middle-aged person (for not making social plans after 8 pm) evident in my would-be response, I’m usually at a bit of a loss on what to say, despite being asked this more and more often. Aside from my inner-turmoil, I pause, taken off guard, and, hem and haw, amounting my plans of introvert relief to “not much”. And then my friend usually takes me out from under the microscope and steers the conversation to something else.

Perhaps it’s presumptuous of me to think whomever I’m hanging out with to know better than to ask this question. But I’d like to think if I consider us friends and we’re hanging out, that they’d know a few things about my social needs. I mean, I’m pretty vocal about them if you haven’t figured out already.

For one thing, I am an introvert, and a pretty extreme one at that despite my default jovial setting when placed in social situations with people I know/like. So when I do make plans, I am committed to those plans, and likely will have nothing else going on that night so as to recuperate afterwards. How many social plans do you really need in one night? Honestly. People can be great, but I can only take so much. I usually have to psyche myself up for one hang out session–do you really think I could really handle multiple engagements in one night? That I could maintain my Awesome Quinn persona for so long with so many different social situations? You do? Well, thanks for having so much faith in me. But no. No no. After we’re done here, I’m going to go home and recover from people by myself.

For another, my close friends–specifically my childhood best friend (Going on 15 years now! :D)–tend to hang out for longer periods of time. A few hours to an entire day (though not all the time) is pretty typical for us. If we have plans to hang out sometime in the afternoon, more than likely we won’t part ways until bedtime. Part of it’s just because we’re so fond of each other (I mean, being friends I’d hope so…), but I another part of it is we don’t get to see each other as often with school and work and other Grown Up Responsibilities. So when we spend time together, we make the most of it. But as I said/wrote, this is common of all my close friends. And my close friends (or at least those I consider close) are really my only friends. As in the only people with whom I spend copious amounts of time outside of my family. So, to me, hanging out for three or four or eight hours is totally normal (“normal”). It doesn’t occur to me anyone else’s reality could be different, until…

WHAT ELSE DO YOU HAVE GOING ON TONIGHT???

Sigh.

Until next time, Friends!

The People I Admire

I read somewhere once that we’re prone to be attracted to people who possess traits we’d like to see in ourselves. Not exactly the old-age “opposites attract” mantra, but I think the Missing Traits Idea brings some truth to this. That is if you’re a lazy individual who’s drawn to someone ambitious, an athlete who builds a connection with a musical protege, etc. It likely depends on the trait. And if it happens to contradict one of yours, then… I guess “opposites attract”. But I don’t think this idea was talking about attraction like romance, but the literal attraction–drawn towards. We are drawn towards people who appear to be like those we strive to be like.

Maybe this seems like a no-brainer, but I remember thinking when I first read about this theory it was pretty groundbreaking. And then I got to thinking about the people I admire and what I like about them, why I’m drawn towards them. And while I’m not going to go so far as to say I absolutely don’t possess these traits, I just don’t see them in me–not to the extent I want. And that’s okay! Maybe that’s why we have those we admire in our lives. To admire. To be like. To serve as tangible reminders that we are striving towards improvement. Even if it takes our entire life to get there.

The sad thing is we don’t often tell the people we admire that we admire them and why. And maybe some of them we can’t, because they’re no longer in our lives or maybe they were never part of our lives and just admired from afar. I don’t know. But I do know that those that can be told should be. But that’s subject for debate, I’m sure.

I don’t always tell those I admire that I do, or why (words are hard for this English major, if spoken–I do better with writing… I think), so when I do, I really hope they recognize the genuity (I know) in the revelation.

Maybe this post sparked some thought in you. Maybe it got you thinking about the people in your life you admire. Maybe even to tell them. I don’t know. Even if not, I hope you learned something. Regardless, I want to leave you with one final thought for the day/night/whenever you’re reading this:

You are admired by others, too, for traits you may not even know about or see in yourself. And maybe they, too, just haven’t thought to tell you yet. Remember that.

Have a an admirable week, Friends! 🙂

So, Why DO We Care What Others Think?

Anymore, to worry about how others perceive our persona is pretty much the norm for humans. Or so they say. Hence the spur of don’t worry about what others think posters/etc. as of late. But, because this is my blog and thus have to make the post applicable to me because of I’m selfish that way (writers: write what you know) *INHALE* individuals with social anxiety disorder, or SAD, experience this on a much grander scale. So I’m going to be focusing on them primarily. But don’t worry, non-chronic SAD-folk. I think you just may get an inkling of an answer too…

Anywhere from oh, I hope *insert new friend/acquaintance’s name here* likes me and doesn’t think I’m too annoying to I sure am talking a lot/not talking enough in class–everyone probably thinks I’m a know-it-all/antisocial to everyone’s totally staring at me; I wonder what embarrassing thing I did now, we SAD-folk worry about it all, assuming there are people involved. And sometimes not even then. As far as I’m concerned, I feel like I have an audience hidden in the shadows watching me. ALL THE TIME. Well… not all the time–let’s not get weird. But, I mean, in situations when, theoretically, no one has any reason to be paying attention to me, I’m convinced everyone’s watching my every move, judging the way I walk, sit down, eat my food, etc. And it’s just… exhausting. And totally unreasonable, which I’m well aware of (preposition 🙂 ). Pretty much all SAD-folk know their anxiety and worries and paranoia(?) are seemingly minute and nearly irrational. But that doesn’t mean we can automatically change our mindset and BAM! we’re cured! Worry begone!

SAD_Cure

I shouldn’t find this as funny as I do.

Recognizing the perceivable simplicity of our worries though, I was tempted to do a little digging on why individuals with SAD care so much about what others think of them and why they’re left under the impression they have an audience watching at all times. I guess that was a little too specific, as I wound up relatively empty-handed in regards to particular SAD mindsets. Instead, what came up in my results was more… general: why SAD exists, or, in other words, causes of SAD. Here’s the long and the short of what I found:

There is no particular cause for social anxiety–no one thing that does it. Shocking, I know. The overall impression I got was SAD stems a bit from both genetics and environmental factors (otherwise known as nature vs. nurture).

The biological argument is, essentially, SAD isn’t so much passed down to children (although this is a possibility–though more research needs to be done to prove this) as it is learned from the child’s parents/familial environment. So, if your parent or sibling has an anxiety disorder and exhibits symptoms of that disorder explicitly or implicitly–especially in the early stages of your life–you become increasingly likely to develop a similar anxiety disorder.

Though an SAD-specific gene has yet to be found (as far as I know), there is a part of our biological makeup that has been connected to anxiety causation. Any guesses? You may be familiar with the neurotransmitter, serotonin? Yeah. Aside from managing our “bodily processes,” this guy also regulates our mood. Only, when you have too much serotonin in your system, your nervousness, er anxiety, increases. Thus, the official conclusion is individuals with anxiety (social or otherwise) have too much serotonin in the body. But, you know. Controversy.

On the environmental side of things (not limited to parents/families/close living environment), you may undergo a series of “trigger events,” or social scenarios during your childhood that (for lack of a better term) “scar” you enough that you develop what we know to be SAD or some kind of social phobia. Notice events, plural, as I don’t think any one event can serve as a catalyst for a mental disorder. These events, though could theoretically relate to anything social, are speculated to be related to trauma (like in those coming-of-age stories I seem to love so much), your environment while growing up (i.e. parents)–especially if the household was strict or protective, mass bullying, traumatic events (kind of like those in coming-of-age stories),

As I said, I didn’t find what I was looking for in terms of SAD-folk and their worries of acceptance, but I’m pretty satisfied with what I did find. Even so, knowing that the worry of pleasing and being accepted by others is common among humans, I looked into the reasoning behind this. And in doing so, I think I actually found the answer to the questions I was asking initially.

Humans are social creatures. And as much as some of us claim to hate people, abhor mankind, enjoy minimal social interactions, we need people and social interaction (minimal as they may be, sometimes) to survive. As a college student with a full-course load, two internships, extracurriculars, volunteering, etc., I, personally, become tired of humans real fast. Real. Fast. But something I’ve noticed about myself is when I feel the least inclined to interact with other people is when I find I need it the most; I feel so much better after socialization. Happier… And then usually exhausted because introversion. But anyways.

We need other humans to survive. And to ensure our survival, in theory, we need to be accepted by other humans in order to have friends, life partners, and families. And despite usually achieving acceptance in at least one if not all of those categories, we usually strive for acceptance in all even remotely social activities. People like being liked. That’s how it is (Though some will claim they don’t care. But hey, did you just read like a sentence ago about the need for social interaction to survive? Yeah, you care. A little bit.) But more so they need to be liked, accepted rather, to survive. And from that need to survive stemmed the need to be accepted and in other words liked. And so arose the universal worry about caring what others think. People with anxiety just have an extreme case of this worry… At least that’s how I see it (Hey, I sort of tied my blog title into a post for like the first time ever! Score! 😀 ).

As for letting this supposedly oh-so-curable fear go, I’ll leave that advice to the don’t worry what others think motivational posters/mugs/etc.

 

Other_Opinions

Alas, ’tis true. But so is survival… Ergo, needing people to like me… you know… some of the time.

Don’t you feel so knowledgeable?! Okay, actually you might already know a lot of this from your psychology class (Apparently two years ago is too far back. All of this was like a distant memory for me), or maybe just common sense. But hey, learning! 😀

I promise to switch to something less SAD-y for next week’s post. Though knowing me I could probably work it in!

I Promised You Answers…

…but I have not had the time to put them into a coherent post by my personal deadline for this week. I know, if it’s personal, why not just nix it? I’m too much of a J for that… Sorry.

Also, if you’re confused my promise for answers, this will clarify, hopefully…

So anyways weekly blog post is… weak. Ha! Play on words!

I’ll just leave you with:

HP_NoPost

The relevance is great, isn’t it?

Until next time, Friends, enjoy your day/week/life! 🙂