“You’re Socially Inept and We Know It!”

Just as a forewarning, this post is going to be a rant.  It is about, as indicated in the title, the pressure society puts on you if you are the least bit shy and how I feel about this way of thinking.

I just don’t understand why people act as if I’m utterly strange and socially inept because I’m not attached to someone.  Now, first let me state that I would love to have a boyfriend.  There, I said it. Maybe, deep down, I am a bit desperate.  But, if I were openly, blatantly, outwardly desperate, I would be going up to every guy who’s the least bit attractive and flirting up a storm.  But, I’m not, because I am a rather shy individual.  And, this is why people probably think I’m socially inept.  The rationale goes like this: you can either be super clingy and lovey-dovey with your boyfriend/girlfriend and be thought of as acceptable because you have an active love life, or you can be surrounded by several friends and going out every night (usually this includes meeting up with guys and going on a flirt-fest). These lifestyles are both stamped with approval by society because you are always with someone, never alone, and thus normal, healthy, and social.  Enter all the so-called misfits who for whatever reason don’t have a boyfriend and don’t have many friends (or no friends) nearby.

I would like to publicly clarify why I have no boy to cling to and why I don’t have many friends.

First, I have no boyfriend because as I already stated, I am rather shy, and also because there are not many opportunities to meet guys.  Last year, I was able to start a new life, and branch out, but alas, no guy found that I was the perfect one for him.  Does that make me socially inept?  I would like to remind you of healthy, social people who are created by God to live the single life their entire lives.  Also, are we really arrogant enough as humans to think that we have the right to judge people and condemn them non-verbally for not having the “right” personality?

This leads me to discussing why I don’t have very many girl friends.  I would like to say I am an ambivert, but a very shy one at that.  7th grade I only had one friend.  8th grade I had one main friend in my class, and a few acquaintances with girls who were older than me.  9th grade was spent with again, one friend.  And, 10th through 12th grade was spent with acquaintances who I only saw at school, although I had 4 girls from church who I became pretty good friends with during 11th and 12th grade, but they were 2-4 years younger than me.  Last year, my freshman year of college, I blossomed, at least in my mind.  I still was a bit shy, and did take time warming up to people, but I learned that I will not have any friends by never talking or speaking up.   I guess I figured if I never disagreed with anyone, they would all be friends with me.  But, that’s precisely how I never gained friends! So, last year, was fantastic because for the first time in my life, I had more than one good friend.  I had found my niche.  And, I was happy.

Fast forward to this year .  Because of a health problem that is still not resolved, I have had to stay in Ohio and work.  Needless to say, I feel like I have taken a step backward and really will have to up the ante in the fall when I go back to the Bob.  At work, I have progressed some and truly am working at being my real, loud crazy self.  It’s definitely a struggle, and sometimes I feel as if I’m going nowhere.  I feel as if some people would never guess I’m shy, but others who are with me for more than 5-10 minutes at the register or the customers to whom I bring out their food, know that I’m really not that talkative.  The reason for this is both the fact that I honestly cannot think of a thing to say, as well as I am afraid people will judge me. I know, I know, I shouldn’t care what other people think. But, the fact that people WILL judge me whether I care or not leads me to worrying about what they will think. It’s a vicious cycle! Just a few days ago, I was switching the salt and pepper shakers at a table to be in the right order.  An older lady laughed at me after I did so.  When I did so, did I know what she was thinking and thus refrain from switching them because I knew cared what she thought? Obviously not, but that got me thinking about how many times people laugh at me or tell stories about me when I’m not around because of awkward, weird things I do.  Do I wish I wouldn’t worry about this? Yes! Life is so much freer. But, learning to not care is a huge, long process for a shy person.   Again, I’m working on it.  I just wish people would take the time to realize that.

Another part/side of the coin is that my extended family has been no help.  When I was in maybe 11th or 12th grade, my uncle asked me who my 3 top best friends were at school.  Because I paused and didn’t immediately list them off (remember how I didn’t really have any?) , he (in my opinion) arrogantly assumed I was a social reject.  And, you know, maybe I was, because I didn’t hang out with people on the weekends.  But, he is not really the most social person either, and it’s not like I tried to be weird. I guess my family thought/thinks I should have tried/should try harder to be social for the sake of their dignity and family name. (Wait…isn’t that caring about how someone, me, would affect others’ opinions of them?) Anyways, had my uncle asked me that question last year, or even now, I could list my top 6 or 7.   (The only problem is I don’t know if these friends still consider me in their top whatever.  But, that’s not my concern or the issue at hand here.)  Even if I answered the “who are your top 3 friends” question sufficiently, I feel that my uncle would still condescendingly ask if I currently hang out with them.  It’s as if pointing out my flaws and failures in life makes others feel better about themselves and their lives.  It’s like they’re saying, “I may have done this thing that I regret, but at least my social life is better than Emma’s.  She really needs to fix that huge failure of a life she has.” Maybe  they really aren’t saying that, but I  do feel like I’m continually being watched and critiqued.  It would be one thing if I were completely depressed, always hiding away in my room, cutting myself, and plotting to murder people.  That’s how society paints shy people.  But, I would NEVER want to waste my life in that way.  Again, I loved the new life I had last year.  As an ambivert, I enjoy some social interaction and miss the fun social life I had last year. But, it does take a bit for me to warm up to people, and this fact, along with the realization that there really aren’t that many people my age near me to hang out with, presents an obstacle in me fulfilling my societal obligation of being super social.

The thing is even if anyone took the time to see whether I would like to have friends or not (READ: Yes!! My social interaction meter is way too low, even for this ambivert!), they would have to hear this story, the whole thing.  I have a feeling that people at work, church, even last year when I made friends at college, somehow deep down knew that I was desperate for friends.  And, that my friend,is the  most critical question of the day:  how do you move on from the past of few or no friends without sharing your loaded-down past full of baggage?  How do you make friends without looking desperate?  Are you to never make friends because you might be that toxic person with baggage that will pull them down? I thought the only way to get over the past and change is to do a 180.   And, if you had no friends in the past, the opposite of that would be to make friends.  Also, right now, where I am in life, where there are literally no people to hang out or who want to spend the time of day even trying to allow me to share my side of the story, I dread when people ask what I did for the weekend or the last night.  For me, my social life is work.  Yes, it’s that bad. But, it’s either that, or sit at home.  Extended family, which would you approve of more?  And, please do tell me, from an ambivert’s point of view, how you find people to talk to and what to talk about just like *that*.  Maybe you can do magic, but I surely know I can’t.  Even just this past Sunday at my birthday party, I sat by myself because my brothers and cousin didn’t want me to sit with them. So, instead of putting up a losing fight with them and getting talked to for making a scene for that, my family politely reprimanded me for sitting there by myself and not mingling.  Some people (*cough many of my family members*cough) do not like me or find me annoying; am I to make them hate me more by forcing a conversation with them? I realize I do need to branch out more, but the only possible people at church to do anything social with would be my ex-friends who decided I wasn’t worth their time of day because I sided with people they didn’t agree with on a church issue; women who are married; singles who are in their late 20s/early 30s who I feel see me as, again, socially inept/awkward; a girl who I have tried to be more friendly with but knew me as my extremely shy self years ago and who already distanced herself from me back then.  I’m not blaming any of these people for my lack of outgoing-ness.  I wish I could force myself to buck up and talk.  But, I sense that these people  feel that they don’t need me.  There would have to be work on both sides of the equation.  And, that’s just too hard.  Deep down we all want friends, but we want it to be instant and easy.  And, for some people, it comes just like that for them.  But, again, there are people who are naturally outgoing, but move right past the shyer people because their personality is non-existent and thus annoying to them.  For people to assume that I’m the only one in the wrong for not making a daily or weekly attempt to socialize is a bit rude and unfair.

In conclusion, to all the people out there who I may have offended for not talking to you, I’m sorry.  The shy part of my ambivert self usually takes over; I’m really not antisocial.  I’m working on it, but sometimes I just wish  people would take a little break from the judgement.