I am a social klutz!
Get me in a room with a crowd, and I clam up, I just don’t know how to read the scene. When I finally do break out of my shell to talk, I have no idea what to say, I end up saying something stupid and then end up regretting it later on. I am excellent one-on-one when I get going, but to break the ice, I am just a mess of awkwardness.
I feel uncomfortable saying hello and good-bye. When someone asks me how my day is going or how my weekend was, I overthink until I blurt out something negative or way over-exaggerated. Good-byes are especially uncomfortable for me as I have no idea how to end the conversation or the meeting. Do I hug? Do I shake hands? Do I scream? Do I run? I just don’t know!
When someone offers me a compliment, I freeze! Trying to avoid the spotlight, I dismiss the praise with some kind of humble remark. This is rude of me as it takes a lot of courage for someone to extend themselves to give a compliment and here I am shooting it down instead of basking in the glory offered to me. I am equally rude in giving compliments (or lack thereof) as I feel like I am intruding by doing so. WTF?
Then there are the ceremonial instances. The funerals, weddings or graduations, I have no idea what to say or do. No, that’s not true as I know of a million things to say and do, but I can’t-do them all at once. Do I hug? Do I cry? Do I laugh? Argh!
People say to “just be yourself,” but that makes no sense to me. I know who I am, but I am missing the module in my head that enables me to verbalize who I am and whenever I try to be me, it comes out all wrong. I am missing the words to social situations of where I can express who I am. It is only after you get to know me after a few meetings and afford me your patience that you get to know who I am. I really am one tough nut to crack.
For years I believed that I was just an introvert. Content to be on my own, alone in my thoughts. But the more I thought about that personality trait, I am not it. While I am not a full-blown extrovert and I often trip in social interactions, I do enjoy being in the company of others. Maybe I have social anxiety? No, that is not me either. I am not afraid of being around people, and while I sometimes get easily exhausted in social situations, it is not because I am scared, I am just tired from overthinking.
It turns out, I am just socially awkward. Like a deer learning to use its legs for the first time, I am continually fumbling around trying desperately to find a foothold in a social situation, but I often fail. When it comes to nonverbal cues in voice tones and facial cues, I am at a loss. I just do not have the learned ability to read them correctly; in fact, I can barely even hold eye contact with another person. So how am I to understand the situation correctly? Empathy over other’s emotions is another thing that I have great difficulty with, and it causes me to shy away from situations where I might have to console another person.
At first meeting, people think I am shy, or weird, or even arrogant. I am not one to open up freely, not because I don’t want to -I am exploding on the inside- I just don’t know how to! Those who are willing to give me a second or even third chance will find out that I am a very loyal, friendly and non-judgemental person. I love people! I just don’t know how to communicate effectively with them!
Being socially awkward doesn’t give me an excuse to continue being so. It is only a means to understand who I am and how I can improve on who I could be. Like someone who is learning to use a new language; in a social situation, I have a million thoughts racing through my mind, but I haven’t mastered the ability to effectively articulate any of them. The only way to learn how to do that is through deliberate social practice. I must learn the language of socialization, and maybe then I can finally unlock the secret that has been keeping me from my greatness.
Photo credit: Allie Brosh