Deep down, Im not really any different than the average person. Its taken me a long time to be able to see this. After spending most of my life feeling like no one could ever be as strange, quiet, and anxious as I was, I now realize that Im not so far off the mark when it comes to having an average personality.
We all have our idiosyncrasies – thats part of being human, I suppose. In fact, I consider myself lucky sometimes – it could be worse. Really, it could be.
Having forced myself into mainstream society, I can now say, with confidence, that we all have our hang-ups. Ive had conversations with so-called extroverts, only to find out that they suffer from the same insecurities we all do. Ive learned that low self-esteem is often shared with introverts and extroverts alike – it just manifests itself in different ways.
From the conversation based exposures, Ive discovered that most people really are insecure. In the past, Id always assume that I was the problem. If people ignored me, it was something personal. If I was excluded, it was because they couldnt stand me. If there was a lull in the conversation, it was because I was too deficient to carry a simple conversation like a normal person.
But one of the biggest secrets Ive discovered is: Most people are waiting for someone else to make the first move. I really should tape that to the mirror where Ill see it every morning.
The difference between not speaking (and missing a great opportunity) and engaging someone in meaningful conversation is often a matter of forcing out the first few words. I used to worry that if I made the first move, Id be rejected or that, somehow, it put me at a disadvantage when the conversation did happen. This does not matter in the grand scheme of things.
So what if I have to make the first move? To me, that just shows how courageous I can be, and how far Ive come. I always feel the better man for it.
Well, you might ask, what about real extroverts? Ok, now here is what Ive found: True, there are those individuals that are so confident and stuck on themselves that none of this seems to apply to them. But, they are only a minority – and most of them are at least approachable.
In fact, Ive never encountered anyone that refused to talk to me, or ignored me, because they thought I was not worth their time. Granted, some seemed to quickly get rid of me after some superficial small-talk, but again, this was not the norm.
No, the fact of the matter is that most people, even the ones that look miserable and unapproachable, will warm up after a few words are exchanged. I would venture to guess that I used to have that miserable, unapproachable look about me. Being almost paralyzed with fear and anxiety will do that to a person, I suppose.
And that reminds me of another very strange finding: When I first started this forced conversation experiment, I was convinced that no one wanted to speak to me. I was always the first to say hello and initiate conversation. I found this depressing because it felt as though no one wanted to talk to me, and that I was just being a nuisance by saying hello first.
However, after a few months, I noticed that I didnt always have to make the first move. People slowly started making an effort to talk to me first. Was it because I simply didnt notice their efforts before (being mired in self-pity and negativity), or was there a genuine warming up, so to speak?
Ive been thinking about this a lot lately and Ive come to the conclusion that because of the positive experiences Ive had lately, perhaps I look a little more approachable. Hmm¦you never know.
Despite any progress Ive made, I accept the fact that I am still shyer than the average person. However, I do not accept the fact that I have nothing to offer, that I have to settle for a mediocre life, that I cannot engage people in a positive way and brighten someones day, and that I dont deserve to have a group of close friends.
We all have the right to a fulfilling life.