Finding my voice
I had a really great trip – work was not too stressful, I had a great chance to bond with some coworkers, and I got a much needed refill on girl-talk with my closest friends – but I’m so so so glad to be home. It was exhausting in every sense of the word.
I have mentioned here before how I am a pretty classic introvert; I need a lot of time to myself and social interactions exhaust me. Add to that the fact that I have a touch of social anxiety, so I tend to ruminate over social exchanges too much, worrying about giving the wrong impression. If I did or said something stupid, I can’t get over it; it plays in my mind over and over again.
This means that in social situations I exist in a seriously heightened state of vigilance over everything I say and do. I fear that being myself is just too boring, so I become a slightly manic, high-pitched, and over-expressive version. I speak faster than I would like to because I’m not sure what I’m saying is important enough to fill the air. I may look pretty calm on the outside but internally the machinery is working so damn hard that gears are flying off and smoke is spewing everywhere. I frequently end up with a massive headache that only extra-strength meds will calm.
It’s all completely exhausting.
The problem is I seem to have gotten it in my head that doing something stupid will make people like me less, when in reality it would probably make them like me more. I’ve heard the phrase “it’s nice to know you’re human!” more than once. It doesn’t really sink in though.
But in that magic way that only time and experience have, I’ve started to develop more confidence in myself. As in my true self – the one that feels most comfortable in small groups and tends to stay quiet otherwise. The one that always has a pretty academic take on things and just can’t help that, but will burst into a random dance or the most ridiculous joke in the right company. I’m starting to learn that my point of view is valid too.
This trip was the perfect storm of social interactions: seven consecutive days, lots of people with hardly any time in between, and some sleep deprivation thrown in. I squeezed in a bit of writing as an escape, however, even that doesn’t fully count as recharging for me. The thought of you out there reading my words is enough to trigger a little of my social anxiety and ratchet my brain into a heightened state.
(Note: Don’t worry though – that’s actually part of why I wanted to blog. I wanted to get more confident in letting my words fill this little page. It’s ok if someone doesn’t like what I say, or think everything that comes out of my mouth is sheer brilliance. Sometimes I will say something stupid and sometimes I will be boring as hell. We’re all guilty of it at times – because we’re human. I need this reminder A LOT.)
Knowing I wouldn’t have time to recharge, I made a highly conscious effort to not let my brain get into that manic state. I forced myself to speak in my normal voice at my normal speed. What I am saying matters enough for me to take the time to say it properly. People will listen. If they do not, it’s not because of me.
The social interactions were still tiring, but not nearly as much as usual. My brain still ratcheted up but not all the way to the point where the smoke starts hissing, and I felt so much better for it. I felt so much more in control. When I didn’t spend all my mental effort on myself, I had more time to process the conversation and really listen. I think I had more real conversations than I’ve had in a really long time.
Still, I took Monday off work so I could have a day to talk to absolutely no one. And it was glorious.