The day this post is published, I will be preparing myself for an interesting weekend. I will be joining my boyfriend for a weekend in his hometown and attending a wedding. That means I’ll also be meeting his family. Which as wonderful as they may be, I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t intimidated.
Even knowing that I am in general a nice person, I always fear and wonder what impression I’m making on others. It’s human nature to desire wanting to project yourself in the best way possible. But sometimes that just isn’t possible. And herein lies the anxiety, especially when you’re someone who is hyperaware of other people’s emotions.
I feel like I’m a walking contradiction. I generally don’t particularly care what people think about me, but I simultaneously want validation that I’m living my life in a way that is respectable and admirable. I know how bad comparisons are, but it’s just how my mind works (thanks, ED). So when I see other people who are very well-liked and “popular,” admittedly I feel a little jealous of how effortless they make it seem. Obviously I’m disregarding that individual’s possible self-doubts despite having a magnetic or outgoing personality. But just because we have different personalities doesn’t mean one is superior.
There are fun phrases to describe the so-called phenomenon, but my neutral resting face isn’t exactly the friendliest. Especially when I concentrate on something, my expression turns into something reminiscent of an angry witch. I do make the effort of at least smiling at any person I pass by, but people respond differently: some actually smile back, others just give me a blank stare and continue on their way. At the same time, I rarely ever start a conversation with people passing by, which writing it out, that makes me sound not-so friendly. I definitely say hello more often than I used to, but I still avoid making mindless small talk or getting myself stuck in a conversation I wasn’t intending. I even make an effort to avoid seeing people I know just to not have to talk. I know, it’s ridiculous. Introvert instincts, activate. Introversion is too often misunderstood as being stuck-up, a mentality that “You’re not good enough to start a conversation with.” But this is definitely not the case. I just find any type of conversation draining; it has nothing to do with how I feel about you.
Last week, I actually had an amazing moment when I was working at my university’s Writing Center. I was helping a student in writing up an assignment, and she specifically made the comment that I was very happy. In an honesty, I’ve never really had a comment like that before. I have spent so long in a grey daze that often made living day-to-day very difficult. It’s enough energy to just function and show up to my responsibilities, let alone try and act cheerful. I was also very shy as a child and never enjoyed meeting new people or even just interacting with people I know, so my attitude was less than welcoming.
Obviously when I was younger, I didn’t necessarily think about how my attitude and energy I put toward life affected everything. That concept was just too vast and abstract to even comprehend. But when I wondered why I was constantly insecure over my friendships and relationships with others, I didn’t really try to look introspectively for an answer. But your mentality has a very significant impact on how you view the world, also known as good ol’ karma. If you put in the effort to think positively, you’ll receive it back. No matter how difficult it is to avoid tearing yourself down and criticizing yourself over little instances you feel weren’t up to par, you have to focus on the overall good. Chances are, whatever you feel was awkward or annoying or unfriendly, nobody else would notice. They’re too busy thinking about themselves to be concerned with every mishap you might experience. It’s just life.
So when I think of the four-hour drive this evening to spend over a day with people I really want to impress, I have to remind myself to simply take a deep breath and be myself. I have to remember that my own personality is enough and my own worst critic is me. The worst I could possibly do is withdraw in insecurity and keep myself guarded. By choosing to allow myself to possibly make mistakes or feel negative emotions from others, I am simultaneously allowing the world to see my real, genuine self. And that’s all I can do. Some people will like me, and others won’t. I can’t please everyone, and I won’t gain much from trying.
In light of my current situation, I remain optimistic. No matter what my boyfriend has maybe said about me, I create my own expectations. I’m not about to put up a front or pretend to be someone else. I’d much rather have the potential to form deep connections with others and maybe get hurt in the process than dwell in my comfort zone and let my anxiety run rampant.
Look out world, here I come, whether you like it or not. You’re about to meet someone who makes way too many puns, rambles on about nonsense, loves making TV and music recommendations, constantly twitches her feet, and uses lots of outdated phrases. But beyond my awkward and random traits, I know I am a kind, thoughtful, and caring individual. Like it or not, I wouldn’t want to be anybody else.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie