To those of you who know me, I don’t come across as a shy person. I’m loud, talkative and probably appear relatively confident. The truth is, I’m really not confident at all, particularly when I meet new people. On the one hand, I love meeting new people, I always see the potential for new friendships and enjoy getting to know someone for the first time. Conversely I also hate meeting new people, I really have to push myself in new social settings and always worry that the new person I’m talking too, might not actually want to talk to me.
So I cover my nerves/shyness with a ‘bubbly persona’ and chat away as if I really am confident. Sometimes I’m glad I somehow manage to find the courage to talk to strangers and other times, I want to run away as fast as my little legs will carry me and hide under my duvet. This affects me even when I’m talking on the telephone and although the person on the other end of the line can’t see me, I still feel my legs start shake with nerves, even as I pick up the phone.
Unfortunately a great deal of my social anxiety, probably stems from a lack of self confidence. I dearly wish that I could just assume that everyone I met, was as interested in me as I am in them. I also wish, I could stop worrying whether they liked me or not and just let things progress naturally. Instead I have a small, but very noisy voice in my head, that constantly throws doubts into my mind. Then of course there is the fear of being judged and equally the worry of being too judgmental yourself.
Having been erroneously judged myself, I am very aware of not doing it to others. I try hard to have the attitude, that I like everyone until they and they alone give me a good reason not too. It’s all too easy to allow yourself to be swayed by the opinion of others, so I try not to listen to gossip or speculation and form my own opinion. However that’s not always easy; I think to a certain extent we all judge someone within a minute of meeting them. It’s a natural human trait and at a guess, I would assume it’s some long lost instinct for self preservation; from way back when our lives depended on recognising, whether or not someone was a friend or foe.
I think some of that initial judgement happens sub consciously and can be wrong. How can we possibly know someone within such a short space of time? On my part I often reflect it back on myself and worry someone doesn’t like me because …. When in actual fact they were just having a bad day. Sometimes you think you have judged someone correctly and it can be years before you realise that you got it completely and utterly wrong. Unfortunately your gut instincts can fail you and even a friend, can turn out to be duplicitous and the last person on earth you should have befriended. Other times your intuition is spot on and it isn’t too long before you are proved right for having had your suspicions.
First impressions do count and unfortunately can be all too easy to mess up. I gave birth to my fourth child, ten days after moving to Gloucester from Devon and spent the next year practically housebound; tied to a grumpy, colicky, constantly breastfeeding little boy. I finally emerged from a very demanding year with an almost psychotic desperation to make new friends and finally have a social life again. As a result I drank one too many glasses of wine with a potential new friend and ended up telling her all about several skeletons in my closet. To my intense embarrassment she remembered everything the next morning, but kindly laughed it off and she is now one of my closest friends. Thank goodness she didn’t trust her initial judgement, as it was probably ‘who is this drunken lunatic?’
I’m still not sure I will ever lose my social anxieties but I have learnt to keep wine to a minimum when I am trying to make new friends. Maybe half a bottle of vodka instead?!