I’m not a people-person. It’s gotten worse over the years, especially now that it combines with social anxiety. As a child, I wasn’t the most sociable person, either. I remember while reading, a friend would come by, asking if I wanted to play outside, and I asked my mother to say I wasn’t able to.
But I did make friends, and I did play outside now and then. I’ve never been a total recluse. How has it gotten to be so bad as it is today? Will I ever learn?
Fun with Friends
Like I said, I wasn’t always the way I am today. Especially as a teenager, I had many friends and classmates I would hang out with. We would hang out together, stroll through the city centre and basically just have fun.
I’ve always done theatre, both as a teenager through high school and later as an adult too. It’s an intense activity. Rehearsals can be draining, and it’s both physically and mentally exhausting. But it’s so much fun. We would often goof around or make silly mistakes. It definitely brought a lot of joy to my life.
On Stage Joy
I had no trouble with performing on stage. Sure, I would be nervous and hope that I would remember my lines, but I love the rustle backstage. The fact that you’re putting up this show together. To hear the audience laugh at a joke you’d been rehearsing for months, or laughing at something you hadn’t considered to be funny at all. There was no anxiety here.
I have never minded giving presentations either. As long as I’m prepared, I’m okay. Give me a day or two to prepare, and I’ll stand in front of a group and bring them a coherent story. It’s not a favourite hobby of mine, but I won’t lose a night’s sleep over it.
For many years, I’ve worked in retail. Not exactly a job you can hold if you have social anxiety. Whatever worries I had, I put them away. It was my job, and I have a strong sense of responsibility. You need me to call this customer? Sure, no problem. You need me to tell this customer that his request is denied? Of course, I can do that. Especially my final years in the supermarket were tough, but I was still a good worker. I did my job.
In a sense, I think my social anxiety now stems from this time. I have seen the worst of people in that environment. People stealing, cheating, lying, even the kind people I thought I could trust. I don’t believe in the ‘sweet old little lady’ anymore. Those were the worst.
So why do I say I have social anxiety nowadays? I trust no one. Any person I encounter, I suspect their main intention is hurting me. They will go to whatever length possible to block me, to cheat on me, to commit some sort of fraud on me.
Unless I’m waiting for a package, I don’t open the door when the doorbell rings. I don’t answer my phone when I don’t recognise the number. Nine out of ten times when I do open the door, it’s some stupid marketeer asking for donations.
I hate having to make phone calls. I can literally lie awake at night, knowing I have to call the doctor or the garage the next day. My previous doctor’s office would try to convince me not to make an appointment when I called. My current doctor’s office is quite patient and understanding, but I’m still afraid to call. My husband isn’t much better, so we have the arrangement we call for the other’s appointments.
In other instances, I’ll e-mail where possible, and if not, then too bad, I’ll miss the deal or whatever I should have called for. And my mother in law calls the garage for us if we need an appointment there.
Just Say No
My fear of people originates in my lack of confidence and my overall lack of trust in people. Especially on the phone, it’s so easy to talk me into something I actually never wanted. I’m not good at standing my ground and saying no to people. That’s also why I hate the marketeers who show up on my doorstep. It takes quite a bit of willpower to say no to any donations they’re asking me for. My (submissive) instinct is to say yes and accommodate them where I can, but I don’t want to give donations to any charity that asks. I also simply do not have the money to do so. Neither do I want to participate in every lottery that asks me to buy a ticket.
It’s not always bad. I know that not everyone is evil. I did go to munches last year, and I even made friends with some of those scary new people. They too were not so bad. I’m not yet entirely convinced they’re not out to hurt me or make use of me, but I’m trying. I’m making an effort at going out there. It’s a struggle, and I think it’ll always be a struggle for me, considering my backstory, but I’m trying to make the best of it. As long as I can withdraw into my private room and have my safe time now and then, I’ll make it.
My husband still calls me ‘bloempje’ now and then, which translates to ‘little flower,’ when I’m too naive or because someone hurt me when I didn’t expect it. I think it’s true. I have delicate petals around me that need protecting. In the big bad world out there, many people are evil and are out to crush my petals, but not everyone. Unfortunately, I do need people around me so that I can grow and blossom. And I’m trying.