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.

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Behind the Smile

Earlier this week, I was getting food on my way from one commitment to the next (as is the life of the college student), and as I was paying, the cashier who helped me made a remark about my unwavering smile.

“You seem really happy […] Maybe some of your happiness will rub off on me,” they said.

I tried to brush it off, to convince them my face is prone to smiling. But to no avail. This isn’t the first time someone has taken notice of my constant smiling and interpreted it as a sign of everlasting happiness.

Hyperbole_Smile

I’ve received several comments over the years reflecting on my constant smiles and positive attitude (i.e. “happiness”). And it’s because, often when interacting with people (which is all the time in this age), I smile. Anyone who knows me knows with absolute certainty I will be smiling a good percent of the time I’m with them. But not everyone knows my smile stems more from feelings of awkwardness, anxiety, and, okay, happiness… but usually for the other person. I care a freak-ish amount for people close to me, and when I get to enjoy their company or hear of their good fortune, I can’t help but smile. But that doesn’t mean I am always as equally happy for myself. Because, lately, behind my smile for others and their happiness, have been thoughts of immense uneasiness and confusion. Thoughts that don’t typically warrant a smile.

To say these past several weeks have been stressful is an understatement. I’m nearly a quarter in to my final year of undergraduate school, but that’s the least of my worries.

Okay… Maybe third or fourth on my worry list.

I’m at such a crossroads in my life right now. And while that sense of uneasiness originally stemmed from my sudden doubt in my ideal career/passion (that I’ve been working the past few years toward), it’s sprouted into an uncertainty with who I am and what I know about myself. Because I feel like I don’t know myself anymore, not completely. Though I guess no one knows themselves completely… Except God.

Over these last few months, I have held such pride in figuring out who I was in terms of my introversion and anxiety. I’ve made measurable progress in acknowledging and embracing these facets of my identity. I am who I am–it’s different from a lot of the people in my life right now and that’s okay. But as much as I’d like to think I’m completely at peace (and have likely said as such on here at some point–side effects of an especially low-anxiety, high-confident day), I know I have a ways to go. And that’s fine. I’ve come to grips with that (some days). But while I’m navigating through this ongoing journey, I’ve embarked on another. And, depending on how consistently you read my whirling, disorganized, bordering on a public diary of a blog, you have likely figured out what it is.

The remainder of this post discloses more on my journey with my faith and God. I strongly encourage you to continue reading. But should you wish to stop here, I respect your decision and thank you for reading to this point. Have a wonderful day.

I’m finding and solidifying my faith, my relationship with God. And that’s where I’m feeling especially crossroads-y right now. I don’t come from a family of faith. I don’t have many people in my life who practice faith. And that’s completely okay! I love the life I’ve been given and the people in it. But coming from a background with such little essence of faith has made it all the more difficult for me to openly express and feel at ease with my journey (but not enough to stop me from posting about on my blog–all of which they know about and have access to…). At least for the time-being.

But the other issue is, I don’t even really know what it is I would be saying or revealing. don’t even fully understand where I am with my beliefs and how deeply I believe them. So how can I expect others to understand?

If right at this moment I were asked to explain my beliefs in concrete terms, I’d consider myself what I’m calling an “in-betweener”. I have faith–more than I used to: I have a relationship with God (I talk with Him and think about Him so much–it’s almost fear-inducing considering how little I used to do either) and I strive to live life according to His standards. But at the same time, I don’t surround myself with members of the believing community. The few times I’ve ventured out I’ve felt so out of my element with people who have a firmer grasp on understanding His Word and have had a relationship with God almost their entire lives, who have committed their lives to following Him.

It’s not a competition–I know that. This all stems from a relationship with Him and the striving to live through His Word. But I’m not there yet, not completely. I’m not ready to commit my life to His standards, not in the way He asks. And I don’t know if I will ever be. I feel gratified in the beginnings of this relationship, but I can’t stay in this early stage forever.

So in the meantime, I’ve sought guidance and support from those around me who have continued to greet me with love and acceptance so that I may figure out what I need to figure out. And while I’m hoping to do so soon, I know in the grand scheme of things, this will be an extensive, lifelong journey. And once I do and come to a concrete decision, I pray that those who have remained in my life up to this point will remain, regardless of what that decision means.

…I don’t think there’s a facial expression that accurately depicts internal journeys of self-discovery. But despite all I’m going through, I will always be ready and willing to give my smile, my happiness, and my love to my loved ones (whoa, shocking) and random cashiers and anyone who need it.

Thank you, Friends. Much love.

Does This Really Work?

“What would happen if I told her she was something good, every day?”

This is the infamous underlying message in Aibileen Clarke’s famous lines “‘You is kind, you is smart, you is important,” from The Help (Best. Book. EVER! If you ask me. Which you didn’t…). Unfortunately, it’s not much thought of in comparison to the other dozen messages strewn throughout the novel. But it’s likely just as, if not, more important than its counterparts. Especially in an age in which mental health is becoming more prevalent, beginning to lose its stigma, and undergoing exploration by  curious individuals–young and old–perhaps encouraged by personal experience with the concept.

TheHelp

Aibileen (really Kathryn Stockett, maybe) was really on to something here. What if we told someone something good about themselves every day? What if we told ourselves something good about who we are? Every. Day. What would the effects be? How would we change? Aibileen’s curiosity wasn’t solicited by simple curiosity, however, but from the drive to make a change. A positive change.

Miss Aibileen Clarke, maid to middle-class white families in 1962, Jackson, Mississippi, is witness to innumerable hateful, unfathomable acts in her line of work. In her latest position (at the time of the book) she struggles to standby and watch the child of her employer receive ongoing beratement, bordering on emotional abuse. Rather than standby and watch the makings of a depressed, self-loathing young child as, Aibileen guiltily admits, she has done in a past similar situation, she runs interference, attempting to undo the work of her boss. To readers, Aibileen ponders the power of words, long-term, the influence consistent positive affirmation can have on an individual, on a life. She ponders enough, she begins to act on thought, filling her boss’ child with good feelings, turning her into a proud, happy adult. Or, at least, we hope. We don’t get to see the long-term results of Miss Clarke’s plan. But we can certainly get an idea through trying Aibileen’s methods in our own lives. We can come to know that child’s ending through writing our own.

We can tell ourselves something good every single day and reap the benefits. We can experience the good feelings evoked from a few simple, powerful words. It seems like such a blatant cause-and-effect experiment. How could we not do it? It’s so simple, but I have yet to meet anyone who willingly shares about their daily confidence-boosting pep talk. Thus I have reason to believe few people do this. This little daily act can have a lifetime of impact on your self-esteem, your mental health. I really encourage you, dear Friends, to try this. Obviously I haven’t lived very long, so I can’t accurately confirm the claim regarding positive lifetime influence. But the other stuff, without a doubt.

For the past month, I’ve been tasked with reading positive reaffirmations to myself daily to remind myself of self-worth, the prioritization of personal needs, and the lack of necessity in worrying (it’s an anxiety-targeted list). And, me being me, I’ve dutifully, before bed, pored over my lists of reminders. Initially, I was skeptical; How could this work? This is ridiculous, these sentiments are silly. Everything I’m reading is something I already know (though don’t necessarily remember or always agree with, hence the reminder). Will this really help?

Only a few weeks have passed since beginning this nightly ritual, but I’ve truly begun to feel better about and more comfortable with who I am. At first I thought I was mysteriously having a few consecutive days of seemingly minimal anxiety-high confidence. But when these feelings persisted, I had my epiphany. Reading a few feel-good sentiments every night might seem ineffective on paper (screen). Too easy, too routine to warrant any real, long-lasting results. But this really works. Has really worked for me, and I think it might do someone out there the same.

You don’t have to think of anything particularly creative to tell yourself, just something truthful and kind. Every day. Every. Day. You could also gather a few affirmations from a quick internet search (and even find lists specific to your mental needs). I’ll get you started:

BillofRights_Personal

Aibileen Clarke feared she was too late in her rescue to promote self-love, but it’s not too late. You can start today, and you can find that kind, smart, important, other super awesome adjective(s) individual and remind them they were never really lost, they just needed to be remembered.

Love yourselves, Friends. For to fully love others, you have to start with you.

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.

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’m Not Ready

They say that nobody’s ever ready to take on something new–to make the leap, if you will. Buuuuut that’s why they call they call it a leap.

I start my senior year of college tomorrow. And I already wish it were over.

Now, this is not some I-don’t-want-to-be-in-school-I-love-summer or I-have-no-motivation-as-a-senior-and-therefore-do-not-want-to-do-anything plea. I actually quite love school and learning things. And I’m forever grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the growing I’ve done because of my time in college. Especially in regards to social anxiety. I don’t know if I would have come to recognize this fact about myself and gotten help for it without my experiences at school. But. I just. Want. To be. Done. Why? I’m glad you asked.

Internships and work experience are heavily emphasized to college students, so as to prepare for the Real World, post-graduation. And throughout my three years in school I’ve held four internships. Each one teaching me something new (yay!) about potential career fields, various work environments, as well as my personal work preferences and marketable skills in the workforce. It’s great! To me, it’s basically catching a glimpse of that Real World. And because of all my work experience and internships, I feel like I’m nearly there. Like my education is now just delaying the inevitable. I’m going to enter the workforce after I graduate, hopefully getting a job in my field. Except that feels like exactly what I’ve been doing these past few years, so why not just stay in the workforce permanently instead of constantly moving between a job and school?

Well, I still need my degree, for one. I’ve worked hard for it. Not going back when I have only one, measly year left would be such a waste. I’d feel as though I had nothing tangible to show for it (aside from my nifty experiences and personal growth). Plus, as I have reminded myself, several times, there are still things to learn. And I’m a sucker for learning things. And more outworldly experiences, internal growing, etc. And even after graduating from school that will be the case. So I am ready to go to school to get those experiences and to grow. And to get my degree.

But I am not ready to go back to campus.

At the risk of sounding weird or… imaginative (oh, wait), I think I’m conditioned to fear my school’s campus. To grow anxious while driving near, parking close by, and walking around university grounds. While the fear has lessened in the past year or so, it still lingers.

I didn’t have the most bang-up experience my first year and a half of school. And I’ve never fully recovered. Sure, there were high points: I was doing well in classes–really well, actually–and staying involved on campus (I ended the year with an on-campus job and a separate internship, even). But I felt incredibly lonely.

At the time I only really had one good friend at school. I certainly value quality over quantity in my relationships, but my college-freshman self was convinced otherwise. And when I didn’t miraculously forge dozens of friendships within my first semester (as a sometimes antisocial, socially awkward/anxious introvert, I had unreasonably high expectations), my self-esteem hit an all-time low. I wasn’t meeting the Standard Social Life of a College Student Expectation–or at least what I thought that expectation entailed. I thought something was wrong with me.

In the time since, I’ve gone through some self-growth, obviously. It took me some time to put together the fact that my introversion just wasn’t conducive to meeting my expectation of making and maintaining tons of friendships. Really, it just doesn’t make sense for me. And, honestly, I know I wouldn’t be happy with attempting to keep up with so many people, anyway. Instead, I’ve chosen my select few with whom I’ve built some pretty solid relationships. And, I’m proud of that progress. 🙂

But that doesn’t mean any sense of dread or anxiety is completely wiped whenever I step foot on campus. It’s not the place, but the memories that took place there. Feeling like I did for as long as I did, I can’t simply let those memories go. Especially when I have to continuously visit a place where I felt so unhappy. Moving on from a place is pretty difficult when you’re obligated to constantly spend time there. You know, to like, earn your degree. I’m ready to let go of this part of my life. But, not yet. Not for another year. And, it’s actually looking to be a pretty decent year.

I’m not ready to go back. But I am willing. I want to turn my experiences into something tangible and move forward. So I’ll make that leap. Let’s see how it goes (spoiler: it won’t be so bad. Probably even kind of great. But, you know, worrying’s what I do).

This was definitely one of my longer, more… honest posts in awhile. I don’t talk about these thoughts a lot (for reasons I hope appear obvious), but this is what’s weighing on my mind at the moment, and I wanted to share it with you, Friends. So… go, honesty!

Have a splendid day.

Well, Now I’m Sad

And I have to post about my sadness and its trivial cause while the feelings are still new and heightened. If I were to wait until Sunday I likely wouldn’t be feeling it anymore.

So why am I so temporarily sad? And why is it such a first-world sadness? I really hate goodbyes.

I know I’m not alone in this. How many people really enjoy goodbyes? But of those who don’t particularly like goodbyes, I’m curious how many, to sound sort of like my age, “get caught in the feels” when they have to leave someone for a time or vice versa. Because that’s what happens to me.

On the outside I act fairly normal/neutral for me, stoic even. Because on the inside I’m experiencing all sorts of unpleasant sadness and heartbreak and end of the world-type feelings. And if I let those feelings rise to the surface, I’ll fall apart on the outside. And I really don’t like falling apart in front of other people–it’s a vulnerable state for people. For me.

Now, I’m not ready to turn on the waterworks or fill my head with clouds of sadness every time a friend or family member or acquaintance go our separate ways. Do you know how many times each day we say “goodbye” to someone? That would be incredibly exhausting emotionally; I don’t think I’d have enough energy to be as anxious as I am. No, my sadness with goodbyes stems from my relationship with the person on the other end of the farewell. How close I feel to them. When I consider a friend or family member incredibly close, I become very attached to them, like I can’t be without them (but not in a weird way).

As I’ve mentioned in my writing (once or twice) I don’t feel close to a lot of people, so when I do, I feel that much more protective of them and that much more afraid that I will lose them. That when we part ways will be the last time I see them. I know, that’s a bit dramatic (this sentiment probably originates from the same part of my brain that holds my irrational fear of cars/car accidents), as the majority of the time, I am likely to see that person in a few weeks or months or years. But the minority–the people with whom I’ve gone years without seeing or talking with–maintain my fear.

There are people in our lives to whom we say goodbye and that goodbye ends up being the final farewell, whether we know it at the time or not. And it’s terrible. I realize not everyone who enters our lives is meant to remain in them, but that doesn’t make the process of parting ways and accepting final goodbyes any easier. Because we don’t often examine our lives overall, but one day at a time. And when you experience one day at a time, feel one day at a time, the present feels so much more intense. And sometimes, I don’t like it.

So I’m sad right now. But I’ll be fine. Life will go on, school will start again, and these feelings will be pushed down, glossed over until the next goodbye. And so on. I and you and we will all be fine in the end.

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! 🙂

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 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!