Celebrate the Victories

“You’re an introvert… who has social anxiety… and yet you make it a point to say ‘hi’ to everyone.”

My best friend’s observation initially struck me by surprise. We had just finished eating a late lunch together and were heading out of the building when, of course, a group of people were waiting to enter. Me being me, I held the door for them… and did, in fact, say ‘hi’ to each and every member of the group. I think now is the time to point out this group only consisted of three people. Three. (Three people, ah ah ah… anyway). I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I even assured her, “Saying ‘hi’ is easy. It’s holding up a conversation that’s the hard part.”

But as we continued to walk to my car, I thought about it more. I am an introvert with social anxiety. Is my effort to be social excessive–uncharacteristic, even–for someone with these qualities?

Truthfully, people who are introverted and/or have social anxiety (these qualities aren’t correlated, FYI) vary in degrees of socialness. It depends on the purpose. And for many, it’s not for lack of trying.

Yes, I am introverted and yes, I have social anxiety. But I also, when the circumstances are right, can appear so outgoing it’s unnerving. And I haven’t always been the way. Only a few years ago, I was the consistently shy/quiet kid. I mean, I still am, but clearly to a lesser degree. I would never have dared to go places by myself, volunteer to lead a discussion, or *shudder* say ‘hi’ to strangers. But college–the experiences I’ve found in college–has, though exacerbated my introversion and social anxiety greatly, also aided me in embracing and combating these parts of who I am, depending on the situation.

As much as I may try to use my anxiety and introversion as shields to hide from people, extract myself from situations, or simply explain my sometimes odd behavior, I have to admit I’ve come a long way with both areas of my identity. And I definitely have to admit it when the childhood best friend points it out to me. Sometimes, that’s what needs to happen to notice your successes. Sometimes, God needs to guide you to recognize His gifts in you, your accomplishments through Him… by way of the people in your life hitting you over the head with blatant observations.

I guess that’s one way to do it.

Rainbow_Rain

I know… Sorry

I know my focus on here has been full of self-doubt and anxiety and generally all-around depressing topics lately (you know, for the past few months). But I appreciate those of you who have stuck with me–my blog–to hold witness to my journey of self-discovery in its many forms. So thank you… for putting up with the rain to catch a glimpse of the rainbow (er, trudging through my typically depressing writings to maybe, kind of enjoy my somewhat happier posts).

Have a thankful, loving week, Friends!

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That Awkward Moment

Normally, when you see or hear the word awkward, you associate it with something funny. Or, at the very least, relatable. But in this instance, I’m indirectly referring to neither with my awkward moment, as I’m not sure how funny or relatable it is (though kudos to you if you find it as such). Alright, so, what is it?

Let me set the scene: it’s a new day and a fairly good one at that–all seems relatively right with the world, and whatever that means to you. Maybe you were on time to work. Maybe you were commended on a job-well-done by a supervisor or friend. Maybe your dog smiled at you. I don’t know–the point is you feel as if nothing could disrupt your good vibes! Until.

Until your receive news from a friend or family member or some other sort of loved one. News of the not-so-good variety. Again, this can vary depending on what not-so-good means to you. But in any regard, the news just brings you down. This new information does, in fact, disrupt your good vibes. Here’s what makes this scenario awkward (I don’t mean the term literally): the news has absolutely nothing to do with you. None. At all. This bad thing is happening solely to them, is only negatively affecting them. You are literally just someone they told. Yet, now being made privy to this not-so-great information, you become not so much a confidant as much as someone who is empathizing. Maybe just a little too much.

This is the awkward moment, the awkward moment in which you turn someone else’s bad day into your bad day. You make something that has nothing to do with you somehow all about you. How does that even happen?

Perhaps to say making all of another’s hardships about you is extreme. Rather, I’m thinking about this as someone who maybe cares about others a little too much. Too much in that the problems of those they care for become their problems too. Does that seem too excessive? Too caring? Is that a possibility? I think so…

I guess it’s not so much I make the problem about me, but act as though it’s my problem too. Because my loved ones are who I care about, and so when they’re in distress, I’m in distress. It’s like sympathetic distress! I don’t know why that was written with excitement…

Maybe this will help: Friends, are you familiar with The Secret Life of Bees? More specifically, May Boatwright’s character in The Secret Life of Bees? For those who don’t know, Miss May Boatwright is primarily a supporting character in the novel, who likely wouldn’t be much thought of if it weren’t for this defining characteristic–she treats all bad things that happen in the world (at least those she knows about) as though they are happening to her too. The story doesn’t provide concrete rationale behind this, but readers are left to assume this excessive care and worry over the world’s troubles are effects of childhood trauma. She learns of someone else’s histrionics or tragedy and she becomes so upset, even visibly shaken. And if not for her ability to cope, she would clearly fall apart. Well–anyway…

May_Boatwright

Concerned May…

I’m not quite up to May’s level, but I identify with her proneness to caring excessively. Loving and caring for others is so, so vital to living well, to following Him. That, I know. But is there a boundary to caring? Is it possible to care too much? Have I reached that boundary with my treating others’ hardships as my own? I tend to think so, hence why I call this an “awkward” moment (though it has not ever nor likely ever will possess the awkward quality). I (and I suppose anyone who experiences this) need to work on how I approach caring and worrying for others. Of course the basis of this is okay, but I need to remember I’m not responsible for others’ well-being and happiness. I need to remember to be there for my loved ones, as needed, not to, essentially, be them, in their troubled times.

Don’t carry the weight of the world like May Boatwright felt so inclined to do. Don’t have that “awkward” moment, Friends. But do carry love for your loved ones how you see fit (just not excessively). And do be your best awkward in other ways, the best ways. Actually awkward ways (and not in the connotative ways I used the term in this post). Just keep being you, Friends.

It’s another day ending in y, so here comes another identity crisis

Apparently you can have more than one identity crisis in less than a year. I always thought, since normally these types of crises are so all-consuming and draining they would be less frequent. But alas…

My last “crisis” was, what, six months ago? Mathing… no, more like five months. It doesn’t really matter, but the point is I thought I had received a fair share of identity-related emotional turmoil for the next few years. Whelp, not so much.

As per my last “crisis,” this one is also calling/future job-related. Because I’ve been given a very fortunate life where my basic Maslow needs are met, so I can only worry about internal fulfillment and happiness. And for me that means my future, post-graduate job (i.e. figuring out what I’m meant to do).

I love to write (WHAT??? NO WAY!), and I have known that about myself for awhile. I love it so much, I wanted to turn it into a career. But some reflecting this week has gotten me contemplating whether or not this is what I’m meant to do.

I enjoy writing, people enjoy me writing–sometimes they even hire me for my writing skills. And while it gets complimented, it typically gets changed. Sometimes only a little. But usually, a lot. I know that’s the price of the industry, and certain writing is needed to meet audience/professional demand and that won’t always align with what I write word-per-word. But I have to admit sometimes seeing what is supposed to my writing in print, but it’s so reconstructed it’s essentially not mine anymore is less than gratifying. Do people really like my writing? Or only in amateur setting, and not a corporate/professional environment?

And then, this semester (a whole month in, now!) I’m taking a course on news writing (my first, which is surprising considering how much I have pondered journalism). And I’m struggling a bit. And, for me, a bit is a lot. Yes, I write for both my jobs. But funny enough in each case I write either curt news shorts or extensive feature stories. News shorts are essentially a sentence or two updating the reader with just enough information to satisfy the curiosity. They’re pretty brief. But feature stories are, well, a story. They are news, but they are news written in a way that reads smoothly and contains detail and order. Regular news writing is straightforward, includes the facts and some details but is much more curt and to the point. Apparently I can’t do that.

I mean, you Friends who know/read/love(?) my blog, am I curt? Don’t answer that… I much prefer interweaving facts into a well-worded, intriguing story that appeals to the reader to listing out need-to-know details in basic sentence structure. Of course this type of news writing is important and necessary, especially in cases when readers don’t have time/patience for navigating through an article’s whirling commentaries. But it doesn’t appeal to me nearly as much as feature writing. I like using my writer’s voice, my style. And with direct news, I can’t do that. I have to be objective, unbiased. And if I do, in fact, want to enter the journalism field I have to find a way to be impartial and to be okay with writing a story without my creative voice. I mean it’s not rocket science (it’s brain surgery), but this challenge is proving unbearable. You know, on an internal, career-related identity crisis sort of level…

I’m not a big Simpsons fan, but I quite enjoy this remark.

Here, I am going to pause to say the next section of this post pertains to my beginning experiences with God/faith. As my blog has previously been exempt of these topics, I respect your preference to read on or scroll past. If you’d like to move to the conclusion of the post now scroll down for the lone-standing HERE.

And after all that I have to wonder, is writing really want I’m even meant to do? I like it and I’m good at it, but is it my purpose in life? I haven’t grown up in a faith-based household, but at the encouragement of a friend, I read the Bible (a first-timer version, so not the entire Word, but a good portion)–several times–and have sought God’s knowledge. It’s actually been a really mind-altering experience, but I still ask a lot of questions. He has a plan for us. He grants us gifts to use in the life we’re given. I think my written communication skills are a gift, but I’m beginning to question whether this is my ultimate purpose. Does He have different plans for me? And if He does, I don’t know how to uncover them… I’m still relatively new at this so I apologize if I don’t make sense or don’t appear to know what I’m talking about. I still have a lot of questions yet and am trying to figure things out.

 

 

 

 

 

HERE

Maybe I’m not supposed to turn writing into a career. Maybe I’m worrying about nothing. Maybe I’m turning a few simple thoughts/events into a massive, all-consuming identity crisis. Maybe this is like those pre-wedding jitters married people talk about, only instead it’s pre-graduation jitters. Eight months early… I thought writing was what I’m supposed to do, was how I was going to help. Maybe it still is, but now I’m not so sure. Clearly I’ve got some more self-reflecting and thinking and just letting-things-be-ing to do. I know what’s supposed to happen will happen, but I don’t know how my anxiety/worry is going to cope with waiting for this aspect of my life to happen. Sigh. This is just a lot for me to think about right now…

 

… What do normal 21-year-olds think/worry about? Don’t answer that.

Say No to This

To all the spineless pushovers out there, I feel your pain. For I, too, have trouble turning down even the smallest of requests from people–even if they’re a mere acquaintance.

Throughout my life I’ve been especially compliant toward others, meeting what little demand they require of me. And once people come to know this about me, they either a) refer to me as a pushover and refuse to ask me to do anything for them, ever (just to defy me, I think) or b) take advantage of my eager-to-please nature and ask me to do xyz for them. And… I pretty much comply. Every. Time. *insert Hamilton music here*

Don’t get me wrong; I have some backbone—a super, miniscule fly backbone (you know, if flies had backbones). I won’t agree to something if I feel my morals are being violated. But since people typically don’t ask me to do drugs or jump from precariously (to me) high grounds or join their cult (clearly I’ve got some strange morals), I’m not usually at risk of challenging my views.

Since the pushover fact of my personality has been brought to my attention, I have become more self-conscious. I make more of an effort to say no now! Sometimes… And even then I’m only saying no because I don’t want to be thought of as a pushover more than because I genuinely don’t want to do what was asked. It’s not a very good system.

I’m trying to get to the point where I say yes/no because I genuinely want/don’t want to help someone else, not because I’m worried about how they perceive me (though easier said than done, am I right?). As I mentioned in my last post, I like to help others. And I want those others to know they can rely on me, no matter the situation, because I’d hope for the same of them if the roles were reversed. When put like that, I don’t think I seem very pushover-y at all.

More and more, I’m noticing I have trouble saying no to myself than other people. It’s almost comical. Quinn, do you really need that ice cream? It’s not good for you. Plus, if you’re trying to watch your sweets. But ice cream is delicious! And I’ll totally monitor myself… Quinn, you don’t want to join another extracurricular, do you? You barely have enough time for the stuff you’re already involved in. Have fun not sleeping this year… But this group sounds so cool—I could really help make a difference here! So what if I only get four hours of sleep a night?

Okay, so not so great examples. But I think I made my point. Apparently I’ve graduated from all-around pushover to occasionally spineless with just myself. In the long-run I’ll only be hurting me. That’s better than harming others. Except spiders. Spiders are a no-no. Sorry guys… So I guess that’s a small victory, right?

Remember to be just the right amount of compliant this week! Until next time…

Can You Help People Without Reward?

A common topic of discussion among my courses and social circle lately has pertained to helping others and reaping the indirect benefits of those acts. Why do we help others? What’s the motivation behind doing something kind for someone in need? Do we have a hidden agenda–helping ourselves through helping others in that we boost our self-esteem? And then the question becomes is helping someone to ultimately help ourselves moral?

As someone who constantly looks for ways to help others, this sentiment really resonated with me. Why do I strive to help people so much? Does it stem from an inner-need to feel better about myself? To feel needed? Why do I go out of my way to do things out of kindness for people? Is it because I want others to think good of me?

In my class and friend discussions, we never uncovered a concrete answer, a universal truth that appealed all. (That shouldn’t be surprising, really. How many discussions end in perfect resolution? Yeah… I thought not. You know, for an English major–whose specialty is supposed to be making relative arguments–I sure like objective solutions.) But personally, as much as I hate to admit, because the thought portrays helpers somewhat self-serving, I think, no, we can’t help people without reward for ourselves.

Helping people–even when it ultimately helps us as well–does reap benefits for us helpers as well as the helped, whether we like it or not. Likely we are going to feel good about doing a good thing for someone else. And likely the helped will think kindly of us–even strangers–if only temporary. And then, of course, the intended result of purposely helping someone achieve their objective. So, yes, helping people reaps rewards. But it doesn’t have to be your motivation for acting kindly toward others.

I think I’ve mentioned this on here before–I tend to help/act kindly toward the people in my life excessively at times. And I get asked about my justifications for being so helpful. You didn’t have to do that for me–why are you helping me so much? And honestly, my personal motivation stems from what I’ll call attempted empathy. I could write a post on the connotations of empathy (people have so many different ideas of the term), but the definition I’m thinking of pertains to understanding what another person is experiencing as completely as possible (though both experiences will differ in accordance with each person’s life). They really identify with that person. And that doesn’t happen a lot. I don’t fully empathize with people a lot. How can I when I haven’t shared their experience? So I say attempted in that I attempt to imagine myself in the other’s situation, how I would feel and what I’d need. If I were truly in that person’s situation, I would appreciate another individual helping me. I would hope someone–that person I ultimately help–would do the same for me if the roles were reversed and I was in the other’s situation.

Ultimately, I’m implementing that primary “Golden Rule”–treat others how you want to be treated, do unto others as you’d have done unto yourself. I take that rule to heart, and work to follow it as much as I can. That‘s my motivation for helping others. That‘s my reward for being kind–the possibility of getting met with kindness or receiving help in return. Maybe that’s still considered self-serving. But ultimately, kindness has been shown, a good deed has been done, someone has received help–is that really so bad?

I’ll let you come to your own non-objective conclusion.

Be kind, Friends!

I Was Right!

I’m not right about a lot of things. This is nothing new. My friend and I actually calculated and I’m statistically right only about 45% of the time. Probably due to my feelings and optimism getting in the way. But anyway, I was right about something! For once. But only because lifetime experience has remained consistent.

If you’re following along from last week I felt incredibly unprepared for beginning my senior year of college. Not in the sense of “I don’t know what I want to do!” or “I don’t want to give up my college years and grow up!” But simply with the mindset of not feeling ready to return to school, a place where I have undergone such emotional hardship and self-growth. I didn’t want to go back. I just wanted to finish that chapter of my life and move on to the next. Doesn’t reap for much living in the moment, does it?

Living the life I have and being the person I am, however, I knew despite all my worrying and nervousness and anxiety about what was to come, that everything would work out as it should. Unfortunately, knowing that doesn’t curb my all-consuming nervousness any. Even so, I knew. I was prepared for what was to come. And it did. And I was right–it’s not so bad. Even kind of enjoyable, in a weird sense. Well, once I move past this transitional stage of starting school again…

What I suspect is making my return to college so much more enjoyable compared to past years is my decision to commute from home. Who knew that one little alteration in my life could change it so much? That might be a bit drastic, but I do feel significantly happier being so much closer to my family. It’s nice to go home to a group that loves you and has remained (and hopefully will continue to remain) by your side your entire life after a day of classes and work and meetings and studying and who-knows-what-else. It’s grounding. Cliche in the sense that family is with you your whole life. Or you have that one person or group who has stuck with you your whole life, seen you through on nearly everything you’ve done. College is just one of those “things you’ve done,” one part of your life. It’s not forever. And that realization has truly turned my feelings around as I finish up college. For now. Graduate school’s a whole other ballgame… And, I also just really love my family. 🙂 So, there’s that.

I’m not right about a lot of things. But this is one thing, and I’m really happy about that. Let’s hope it stays that way for awhile…

What Do You Want to Do With That?

In honor of heading back to school next week (senior year, which I am more than ready to be done with–but I’ll save that for a different post) I thought I’d address the age-old question directed at those who dedicate their college years to studying literature, language, and composition (i.e. English majors). Or anyone pursuing a “liberal arts” degree, really.

It’s funny. I think when I first revealed that I intended to study English in college no one really questioned my decision. Probably because they thought (read: hoped) I would change my mind once or twice or six times at some point while earning my undergraduate degree. Because the average college student does, in fact, change their academic focus at least once in their first four years at school. But I think we all know I’m not average. 🙂

Ever since I was a wee lass I’ve loved words–using them to express myself, to convey the otherwise untold life experiences of other people, to interpret those written experiences of other people. I don’t know how many people maintain the same interests as they navigate the early stages of life, but reading and writing have continued to serve as as ways to enjoyably spend my time and express myself and demonstrate some degree of talent. To not at least entertain the idea of pursuing a career in this area seemed foolish to me (but to each their own). English was what I wanted to study and I was certain I wasn’t going to change my mind (or I was certainly hoping I wouldn’t–hello, identity crisis).

Now I’m going to be a senior and clearly I haven’t changed my mind about my career path and will not be changing my mind at this point. Now that What do you want to do with that? question that was initially asked in a joking manner is posed more seriously. This question becomes much more genuine, much more higher-stake. So my response should be genuine and thoughtful, right? Especially if I’ve known I’ve wanted a career in the English field most of my life. Right? Well…

You know, in all honesty, I don’t 100% know what I want to do. Does anybody? Really? Even the aspiring lawyers and psychologists and teachers. Sure, you have to complete certain schooling and achieve specific certification for careers like this, where experience and credibility are pertinent to your success. But with any career, even in my case where I think I know what I want to do, you can never really be sure until you enter the field and try out that dream career.

When it comes to responding to the original question, instead of prattling off an ambiguous, English major-related job title (that probably hasn’t been invented yet, as they say), I instead say the one aspect I want my unknown, English-y career to have–writing. I want to “go into” writing.

Then if Mr./Ms. What-Do-You-Want-To-Do-With-That inquires further I try my best to elaborate, though I don’t know how much of what I’m considering for a career is legitimate and how much is just some hybrid job I’ve made up after researching for careers in my field (Hey, I’m not worried about finding a job–yet–I’m just curious about what might be out there when I graduate. Don’t act like you’ve never done that before.).

I want to write–I’m thinking more in a journalism-related field than creative writing and novels, and not necessarily for a traditional newspaper. I want to write about things that matter to people, even if only a few. Community issues. Life events. Untold personal stories. I just want to write about life. I won’t even limit myself to writing. You don’t need solely words to tell a story. I can work with film. Art. Imagery. I want to be a storyteller. And I want that story to help someone. I want to help people. Maybe through a non-profit. I love non-profits. I’ve loved working with them thus far and I’d really like to continue that pattern in my post-collegiate career… And so on.

That sounds like a specific kind of career, right???

Yeah, I thought not. But doing something with any number of those qualities seems like a mighty fine way to spend your day (and get paid for it) to me. 🙂 Recognizing this response is a bit all-over-the-place, I usually stop after clarifying my preference for journalism over book-writing, because my inquirer usually assumes my “going into writing” means writing books. If I’m going to be a starving writer, I should at least get a book out of the situation. Or something.

And after I nab my awesome English-y career or book deal or what-have-you, I can diagram sentences on the side! Or tell English-related jokes…

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

To.

To who?

 

 

 

 

 

 

To whom.

Ohhhhhhhhh! Isn’t that so good?! Hilarious, I know!

Yeah… I’m going to be living on Ramen noodles for awhile… If I’m lucky.

Oh, also, before I forget–Happy One-Year Anniversary to me! 😀 A year ago (literally, to the date, I couldn’t have planned this better if I tried) I started writing this blog on WordPress. So exciting! I’ll have my hard-earned Ramen noodles and my blog. Yes!

Okay, that’s all. For real, this time…

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!

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!

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…