I haven’t posted in ages, it seems. Though I continue to weave my way through life on a steadfastly introverted path, I have been sharing my trials and tribulations with a therapist rather than on my blog, and that has been a great help. I hadn’t realized that a pervasive, simmering anxiety had settled into my soul until I was at the breaking point. So, instead of turning to blogging I turned to a professional.
Haven’t tried it? I highly recommend.
But seeing a therapist is not the point of today’s post (I can write on that later if interest sparks). Today’s post is about the trouble with Hello. Such a simple word but for someone like me, a loaded word that carries the weight of insecurity, social anxiety, the overpowering need to flee.
To others this hidden turmoil can come across as rudeness.
I promise, I am not rude, but the simple act of saying Hello (cue Adele’s husky voice), or the anticipation thereof, can send me shooting down side aisles, turning the other way before eye contact is secured, wishing I’d just stayed home after all.
But people don’t bite. So why be nervous or distressed over saying Hello?
For one thing I live by the illogical belief that no one knows who I am, that I am a shadow who moves through the world, not fully realized not fully recognized. People wouldn’t know me anyway and I’d just end up embarrassing myself it I said Hello.
For another thing, a simple Hello can catapult me into a…wait for it…a conversation. A conversation! An interaction between two people that should be pleasant and fulfilling. Why would I be afraid of this? Because typical conversation can be difficult for me. I don’t like the physical act of talking-my throat literally feels like it swells. My mind races in a thousand directions my mouth doesn’t keep up with. Then I spend ages after said conversation reflecting on everything I said wrong. I’m such a fool is a typical feeling that lingers once I have moved away.
The ill feelings that swell after a simple Hello can kick me in my gut and make me want to cower in a corner.
But I forget a simple Hello can lead me down an unexpected path of happiness and contentment and fulfillment the likes of which I would not get had I retreated to that dark little corner. The truth is, I enjoy people. Catching up on our lives. Sharing our concerns, fears, recent happenings. I especially like to hear people’s good news.
Last night I went to a party. My husband and I had been invited to this party for ten years straight. It’s a company party put on by one of our friends who also invites non-employees like us to revel in holiday cheer. But this party is large-300 people-and I had such a fear of hours of chit chat I always declined the invitation.
Last night we went. And thank goodness we did, though at first I admit I was uncomfortable, looking the other way to avoid eye contact, sipping my glass of wine a little too quickly, hovering in the corner. But then…then…it happened.
A friend who I see maybe once a year looked at me the same instant I looked at her. Eye contact was made. There was no aversion now because her face lit into a smile and she started over.
Then…I felt nothing but joy. She not only knew who I was (remember my irrational fear I’m invisible?), but she was happy to see me. Conversation wasn’t uncomfortable like I always fear it will be and then other friends who I rarely see popped over and that was seamless and pleasant as well.
What was I afraid of? I don’t have any idea. I think the fear over thinking no one knows me, that I’m invisible, can be debilitating. Further, if I am recognized, the after-effects of an uncomfortable conversation can set the stage for all interaction going forward even when each interaction is different, unique, and like last night, enjoyable.
So I’m throwing out a challenge to all the socially anxious introverts out there, devilish combination that may be, to say Hello. During this holiday season of parties, good cheer, and peace, take the opportunity to interact with friends and acquaintances. To say Hello! I remember you…we met… Or It’s so nice to see you again! How have you been? Or, This is a great party. I’m glad traffic wasn’t bad…
Any small statement can ignite a pleasant conversation. Don’t be afraid like I am. Go for it! Throw that Hello out into the world and see what benefits you reap from it!