Coming Out of the Closet

 

Sorry, I’m still heterosexual, but wow wouldn’t that make a stupendous twist to my blog?

No, I mean a closet that many many many of us are in.  It’s not a secret closet.  It’s a “safe” place.

You see, for so so so so so many years I suffered with social anxiety.  I’m sure it stemmed from being teased as a child.  Gotta love the names people give you.  In grade 7 I was “ducky” because my feet were out to the sides when I walked.  Kids can be so mean, mean kids make for social anxiety that can sometimes last a lifetime.

There comes a point, though, when you just gotta tell the past to shut up and just start really living.

I think I had pushed most of my college friends away.  People stopped inviting me out because my answer was always “no”.  Phone calls went unanswered and never returned.  The people in my life who I loved all slowly went on with theirs while I hid in mine.

How could I ever go out to an event?  Who would I sit with?  What would I say?  What if they saw that I was sweating (amazing side effect of social anxiety)?  I would worry, I would cry, I would pace the floor.  I rarely ever said yes to going out.  It was too hard.  My IBS would kick in so badly that I couldn’t hardly stand up.

I’m sure people just went on believing I didn’t want to be their friend anymore.  Or that my life was too busy.  Or that I was a total jerk who wanted nothing to do with anyone.  All things were false.

I don’t know what clicked in my brain but when it did, I was able to start healing myself.  I began to MAKE myself go out, MAKE myself answer the phone, MAKE my brain shut up when I’d go over and over something stupid I had said – beating myself up about it.  But I began to make some remarkable changes, I began to feel incredibly different.  I was feeling comfortable.

After I finish this blog I am taking Isaac to preschool and then I am going to go to a baby shower where I hardly know anyone at all.  These people are all very very new to me and I am going to go, I didn’t think twice about going, I’m not nervous about going, I feel fine!  What a long way I have come.

I can’t really break down my recovery in to steps or anything.  I’m not even sure how I did it.  I think the number one thing that I realized is this: If someone seems like a snob, it’s usually far from it.  Most people who come across as snobby are just incredibly shy.

Everyone in college thought I was a snob.  Probably because I never made eye contact with anyone.  Probably because I didn’t hang out with many people.  I usually find a little group and then stick to it.  Never with “popular” people.  Those people, to me, were dangerous.  They meant hurt and pain to me.  Now, I don’t even notice.

Shyness LOOKS like snobbery.

I’m realizing that about 90% of the people who LOOK like snobs are just shy.  I’m realizing that 90% of awkward conversations aren’t ME being awkward, it’s other people feeling awkward.

What’s really going on is that most of us are feeling just as awkward as the next person.  We all second guess ourselves.  Lots of us have social issues.  Lots of people have trouble making conversation.  All those years I blamed me for an awkward conversation and I was wrong to blame myself.

It’s nice, now, to be able to pick up the phone and say hello.  It still requires a deep breath but I am doing it.  With this big project I am working on, my phone is ringing off the hook.  People want to chat just for fun or they want to make plans, etc.  I could have never done this two years ago.  I would have avoided every phone call.  But now I just pick it up, I chat, I make plans, I go out with these people and have a fantastic time! This is really making me realize the changes I have made!

People don’t intimidate me so much anymore.  If a conversation is weird with someone then I usually just write it off as them and I not entirely meshing well and I’m ok with that.  I can’t mesh with everyone but I can still be a kind and confident person.  I can still love them the best I can.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get good at eye contact.  When I do it, it’s a lot of smiling and nodding because it’s hard to focus on the eye and hear what a person is saying.  But I’m working on it.  I practice all the time now.  It’s super intense, it feels wrong and uncomfortable.  I’m one of those people who look at your lips and your hair and I know that comes across as…snobby.  You’re wondering what’s wrong with your hair or what’s in your teeth.  People’s eyes are just…intense.  But I’m working on it.  Smiling back at someone while looking at their face or eyes is still hard for me too.  I usually look away right away and then smile…at the wall…or the road…or something.  Ya – looks snobby too…but it’s not.  I just am greatly intimidated by sharing a smile with you.  It’s intense.  I’m working on it.  Please allow me to practice on you 🙂

Today I was coming out of Silas’ school, I was late because we had a very unfortunate poo incident.  The wrong person was blamed and thrown into the shower and then, still smelling the poop, I found out that it was the other child.  No idea why he decided to poo in his night time diaper…but he did and then he said he was feeling very sorry about it.  ANYWAY, I was walking out the front doors as the music came on for “O Canada”.  When the children in this school sing that song, they sound like angels.  A lady who had just held the front door for me was about 5 feet away when I just blurted out “they sound so gorgeous when they sing that song”  She turned and was like “uhhh…ya…”.

I totally started in, beating myself up.  Who starts a conversation with a stranger who is walking away from them?  blah blah blah beat beat beat.  I quickly realized what I was doing and made myself stop.  Perhaps that was a bit odd of me, but whatever.  We all do odd things.  Learn and move on.

So, with this, I would like to encourage you.  I know a lot of you out there are just as scared or MORE.  Most of us are.  I know so many people who struggle.  But I encourage you to stick a foot out that closet door and start forcing some change upon yourself.  It’s FUN to make new friends and to go out and do things, even with total strangers.  There’s wonderful people ALL OVER this planet.

If someone is a jerk to you, that has NOTHING to do with you.  It’s on them.  God, The Universe, Karma, whatever will take care of them.  Be thankful that you’re not a jerk, say a prayer for them and continue on.  Don’t let someone’s pitfalls make YOU feel like less of a person.

8 comments

  1. I feel your pain Leah! And as a fellow “shy person”, I understand how it’s hard to leave the safety of the closet!!

    I never realized that my “painfully shy” came across as “snob” when I moved to a new high school in grade 11, until at my high school reunion I heard the comment so many times from so many different people that I was truly shocked… So sad that it took 20 years to figure out that: Noooo… I really WANTED to be friends with you, I just didn’t know how!!

  2. What a profound and real message. We probably all have some level of social anxiety, and as you said neglect to recognize or appreciate it in others. Speaking up about it really helps to connect people, instead of creating a distance from not understanding.

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