Food for thought for whoever may need this:
When I was younger, I was very shy and socially awkward, until my last year of college when I turned 21 (surprise surprise). I changed quite drastically, becoming this extroverted and obnoxious character, and I absolutely LOVED it. Nothing brough me quite as much joy as making the people around me laugh and sing and dance, simply by being my ridiculous self, and the same still holds true to this day.
However, even in all of my arm flailing and dreadful queen covers, I still sometimes struggle with social interactions. My first long trip overseas was life-changing, but part of what really changed me were the moments when I was alone, thousands of miles from everything I had ever known, leaving me depressed and lonely. Once I forced myself to take a leap of faith and utter a simple “hey” to another traveler though, the night was always much better. Adventuring with new people in new places so far away always made for an enjoyable time, and I made connections and bonds that will last a lifetime.
One thing I now understand, after over a year of reflection, and re-entry into the life I had before, was that I never HAD to. It was ok not to reach out at every opportunity that presented itself. I always felt an internal pressure to reach out every day to socialize, to mingle, to show people who I was, to be noticed. Now, there is plenty of evidence supporting healthy relationships and social interactions as a way to boost your overall well being and bring about a more positive state of mind, but unfortunately I had an unhealthy stress on myself to socialize. I would scold myself and feel guilty for giving in on even a single opportunity.
I am telling you now that it is ok if you don’t want to. It is ok to say nothing. It is ok to do nothing. It is ok to be alone, to sit alone and hear another group laughing from across the room and NOT feel lonely or guilty for missing out. It is ok to be alone. It is ok.
We put too much stress on ourselves to smile all the time and to be social (or maybe I just do, I don’t know) but I have learned over the years that it actually makes it much harder. I sat in a comfy corner of my hostel a few days ago and heard a group laughing and enjoying themselves from across the room. Of course going over would have been hard initially, and of course I definitely would have enjoyed socializing with new people, but I didn’t even try. The difference this time though, was I told myself it was ok. I was aware of the benefits from going over and making new friends, but even so, I chose not to. I didn’t make myself feel bad, and I didn’t regret my decision. I sat happily watching Netflix on my phone until I went to bed.
The silver lining here is that you should still try to reach out, if you can. The benefits to yourself from socializing and forming or strengthening relationships with others are still there, but the takeaway is to not feel pressured from yourself in a negative way, but in a positive one. Do push yourself to try to step out of your comfort zone, but don’t feel bad about yourself or regret your choices if the opportunity passes and you don’t take it. Both can be perfectly healthy and enjoyable if you give yourself permission to be ok or feel indifferent about whatever happens. Even if you missed out on a golden opportunity, tell yourself that it’s in the past, and that it’s ok to not feel bad about it. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone, ESPECIALLY yourself. You don’t have to force yourself to try to be funny or to socialize just because. You can, but realize that you don’t have to.
The plus here is that not doing so will actually make it much easier when another opportunity presents itself. The more ok you are with not pressuring yourself to socialize, the better you actually will be at it. The internal negative pressure will make you more nervous, closing you off and making you less talkative, while the acceptance of being indifferent to an opportunities outcome will open you up more, making you more relaxed, talkative, and you appear more approachable and confident to others. Telling yourself not to give a fuck about internal or external social pressures that don’t really matter that much will shift your mental state and how you carry yourself into a more positive one. That’s what real confidence looks like, at least to me. Indifference to normally stressful situations is an extremely powerful tool that almost anyone would benefit from. Psychology is amazing when you understand how to game the system in your favor.
So try it, extend a welcoming hand to a stranger, or ask for a group to extend theirs, or do neither. Either way, be happy with who you are, and the decisions you make, and tell yourself it’s ok no matter which outcome comes to fruition. I mean, the universe is gonna implode or something in some odd trillion years anyways, so you might as well not stress over the little things and just enjoy the short time we all have here on this tiny blue dot of ours.
This has been a PSA from one, Mr. Avocado, second evolution of the derper gerber.
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