Monday, 12 January 2015

Social Opportunity - Not Initiating and Regretting It

It really sucks that this is my first post in two and a half months.
However, I am back at it again making this the first one for 2015 and the start of my second year of blogging!
I want to write about opportunity today, but specifically opportunities in the social spectrum as this lies to the heart of many issues when you have social anxiety like me.

Back in the day, when I was very much in denial about my social anxiety and, to be fair, mostly unaware of it, I saw myself as an oblivious person.  I knew that I had an impeccable knack for not realizing that someone was trying to talk to me.  Whenever there were signs that someone was trying to converse mewards I would tell myself that maybe they're mistaking me for someone else or maybe they are trying to start a talk with someone behind me.  When a smile would appear and the person's body language open up to me (you know, typical social initiation signs) I would always immediately deny that it was actually happening.  "Why would this person want to talk to me?" is a question I still struggle with to this very day and I hope to God will one day overcome.  In the meantime though, I deny the reality and often come across as weird or cold - I don't reverberate the energy that the other person projects to me.  Before you know it, after a few abrupt superficial sentences the other person is gone and then the self-loathing starts.  Hell hath no fury like my mind after a failed social interaction.  I go into painstakingly small details of how the person really wanted to talk to me regardless of whether there is any sort of divide between us (as I like to create fake hierarchies in my mind where I am at the bottom and all are above me).  Then I start feeling guilty.  Guilty that I could not honour this person's bravery in trying to bridge a gap in a world where the chasms between us grow larger by the day.

All the above happens without my facial expressions not changing much at all.  I am reminded of a flight I was on the other night which so well illustrates the above.  I was seated next to a woman and I could feel within in me that I had to talk to her.  Initially I did not, but that strange energy that drives us to reach out to other people swole within me.  My friend who sat in front of me even tried to help me on.  The energy then became so great that I started resenting myself for not doing anything.  The mind fury was its usual fierce and through my self speech I broke myself down to the metaphorical ground.  The feelings of unworthiness and guilt were so much that this negative feedback loop would prevent me from reaching out.  All of this happened without my facial expressions changing much at all.  To an outsider it would look like I was casually paging through and airline magazine. 
The sad part is that she probably wanted to talk to me, because she did break the ice later on, but I was already so down in the dumps that I was a mere shadow of a man.

I am a feminist and I believe in the social and legislative equality of man and woman so you would think that affording the opportunity for a woman to do the ice breaking would actually make me feel good.  It didn't.  Indeed, I felt so emasculated and ashamed of myself.  Not per se that I afforded her the opportunity to start, but that I had a desire within me which was constrained from reaching reality because of fear.  To live a life ruled by fear is the worst life there is, I would reckon.  Sadly though, this is the life we as anxiety sufferers (even my case which is quite mild) live.  Our amygdalas just have to be overactivated at the most inopportune of times.  Fear becomes our masters and we live under its iron fists - lives of unrealized potential.

I guess that's the hardest part about missing opportunities; looking back one day and seeing all the opportunities you missed, all the potential squandered, all the what ifs.  Believe me, as a anxiety sufferer I play through thousands of what ifs and miss even more opportunities by daydreaming. 
It's not all doom and gloom though.  If I really have a definite objective for conversing with someone, then I can talk to anyone.  For example, if someone told me to go ask someone about this or that I can do it.  However, general superficial conversation (which really makes the bulk of social interactions) that brings hardship.  You would think that a harmless lamentation of rain or a nice compliment of someone's hair would be easy to do, but those are the hard ones.  What if the person thinks I am one of those people that complains all the time?  What if that person thinks I am creepy or what if I am seeming too flirtatious?

I end up saying nothing.  The movie of what ifs playing in my head.  The other person leaving the scene probably wondering why I was so cold.  I know that I am anything but cold, but a fire on a cold day is only of worth when other people can feel it.

At least, in my journey with social anxiety I have reached the point of realizing when opportunities arise and when I miss them.  This wasn't always the case and this already puts me well ahead of where I always was.  Next up would be to act on those opportunities in spite of fear regardless of whether the interaction turns out all right or not. 

God make me valiant, brave, courageous