I've often avoided people as well, but this is rather because I think people are shit, and I'd rather not meet them because they don't interest me, than any lack of self-esteem I might have. Sure, my self-esteem has been low at certain points of my life, but coping with and reversing this drop in self esteem is what has led me to discover the views I am sharing with you now. It basically happened because I doubled a year at school and changed my attitude to that of a very nice and considerate guy to better cope with my new class and 'get accepted', which backfired completely as they thought they could just waltz right over me. So don't think I'm just rambling - I've been there, too.
One of the things I noticed is my voice. When I felt better about myself, I noticed I spoke louder and in a lower voice. So now, I always try to keep my voice low and speak at a sufficient volume. Thatcher did this, too, and it worked for her (I won't tell you to use her as a role model for anything else, though). I study communication techniques, and it's probably not a surprise that people associate this type of voice with authority. It's a simple, easy trick, but it works.
The problem with desperately trying to fit in, is that you're trying to fit into something that doesn't fit you, which will only make you feel more uncomfortable. People notice this, they know you're uncomfortable, and being uncomfortable makes others uncomfortable, too.
My drop of self esteem was not (solely) because of me, but because of outer factors, pressure, if you will. Society is constantly trying to make it so people have low self esteem. People with low self esteem are easier to control and manipulate, after all. People buy into these artificial 'values' society creates, and will mock you for not following them, which will make you feel worse. The mere fact this is at a changing level instead of a constant shows that the outside pressure plays a bigger role than the person you are.
I assume all people are bastards (without showing it). I leave it up to them to prove the opposite. The attitude that they need to prove something to you, rather than the feeling you have something to prove to them, is already an attitude that could help you along a long way.
Social anxiety in my eyes is the imaginary fear that something 'bad' will happen even when you do something that is totally and completely socially acceptable, your brain keeping you hostage from being yourself. Yes, we are socialized creatures and therefore our brain holds some of the things we'd otherwise do back, but it often gets overbearing and also tries to stop us from doing pretty much anything that involves other people.
I was on the train the other day, and this woman sitting opposite from me failed to open the garbage can. Immediately, my brain started telling me to use what I'll call 'polite negligence' (though I'm sure there's a better, official term for it), which is basically people acknowledging others' presence but ignoring everything else and thus, in this instance my brain shouting out 'no! don't open the garbage can for her! It'll attract her attention and reveal you were watching her (even though I wasn't, she was simply right in front of me) and acknowledge you saw the 'embarrassing' thing she did (being unable to open the garbage can and having stuff her garbage down her purse)!' Which, surprisingly, is exactly the opposite from what is socially acceptable! The socially acceptable thing would be to help the poor lady so she doesn't have to run around with her garbage all day, so once I had told my brain to STFU, that's exactly what I did.
I know I adopt rather aggressive language to get the point across and my message might seem like 'be a jackass!' but that's not really it. I'm not a jackass to people, though I sometimes put them off by being honest (though rarely permanently). I get into fights sometimes, but the girl I had the most fights (for the right reasons) with is the one who respected me the most in the end because I never shut the door entirely. My message is be a jackass to people who are being jackasses to you, acknowledge which relationships are good for you and which ones aren't and drop people like they're garbage if that's what they deserve. Be honest in your evaluations of people, to others as well as yourself.
Do you like sports? You should go to a sports game with a hefty crowd once. It is the best place to shout in public and start random conversations with strangers, by far. The sense of unity fans have will also create a certain kind of respect that will build up not right from the start, but after people start recognizing you as a regular spectator.
And don't go 'but I have social phobia!' Yes, I'm sure that you do, but the fact you're telling me you're struggling with it is an indication you don't want to feel like that (otherwise, you'd feel totally okay about avoiding people and stuff and wouldn't feel anxious about it in the first place), so the fact you have it alone shouldn't be an excuse for trying to change.
I've said this before, but when my brain is trying to tell me to not do something (for example, when it wants me to pick the spot in the train next to the old tart instead of the spot next to a hot girl) that logic tells you *is* socially acceptable (no one's going to complain if I sit down next to the hot girl, after all) I just do the complete opposite. If people (some people would make a face like you just hit them when you speak to them) react badly to something you did that doesn't break any social conventions that's their problem. Don't let their insecurity carry over to you. Letting others' insecurity carry over to you (the need to insult people, for example, people who insult others a lot usually do so because they feel insecure, thus passing their insecurity on to others, so they're insulting you because of themselves, not because of you) is something you should avoid. This 'STFU brain! I'm doing what I want!' attitude when it's trying to tell you not to do something you want to do, that no one else will find offensive (if your brain tells you not to push someone under the train because they just bumped into you, you should probably still listen to it) and then finding out your brain was wrong every time and being able to say 'haha brain, see I was right?' really works. It just does. I've been a lot happier since I broke out of that suffocating embrace, that straight jacket that is your brain holding the person you are and want to be hostage.
Basically, social awkwardness is less about what you do, than the manner in which you do it. Ever seen a bunch of jackasses being jackasses and felt yourself wondering 'hey, these guys are being total jackasses! How come their behaviour seems to be accepted by the people around them?' Well, it's because the confidence they radiate. People might be thinking 'hey, you're a jackass' but be too afraid to speak up when everyone else is accepting this person and thus not just hide, but also change their opinion. Again, I'm not telling you to be a jackass, but they're a clear indication that even if you do stuff that should be socially unacceptable, no one's going to say anything, so it's safe to do things that are socially acceptable which you nevertheless are scared of (addressing someone, for instance).
What you really need to ask yourself is, what has this 'considerateness' done for me? Do people appreciate me more? Probably not. Being very considerate with people who don't deserve it makes these people think you want something from them, or something. Helping them with stuff makes them believe you think they're better than them, and even if they don't they'll feel you're pointing out their inadequacies by succeeding where they fail either way. It's paradoxical, but I speak from personal experience and am past the point of hiding from the truth (which is what I just told you) in favour of thinking less of myself. Usually, it only starts paying off to be very considerate with people once you know them a little bit better: them perceiving the change in your attitude helps them to recognize the relationship is taken to the next phase, makes them feel special and like you more. That is basically friendship. There are exceptions to how quickly you should adopt this attitude (in a business relationship it helps to be considerate from the start, for example) but you can take it as a general rule.
I won't claim I adopt my own rules perfectly all the time and am a perfect social being (none of us are), but I know they work, because when I follow them, everything goes well for me. When I don't, when I listen to my paranoid brain, I get caught in a vicious circle of feeling bad about myself. I've managed to avoid this quite often.
Something you need to be aware of, is that other people probably feel just as insecure as you do. That's how society made it. Most people feel insecure all the time, even if they don't show it. The stereotype of the guy with the biggest mouth often being the greatest wimp is often based on truth.
I have a dominant personality, or at least I had, until it was largely destroyed after spending a couple of years in my second class, but I'm still me, and personality traits can be built up again from scratch. Before that, I was always the leader among my friends, the one who set out the rules of play and the one people came to looking for answers. Why wouldn't I be able to achieve that status again? Why wouldn't anyone be able to achieve that status again?
One thing I sometimes do is controlling verbal cues. Verbal cues are indications in a conversation that indicate when it's who's time to talk. 'Huh?' at the end of a sentence, 'Don't you think?', 'Right?', things like that. The important thing to know is that once you get the hang of it (basically, by displaying the right attitude in a conversation), this happens mostly spontaneously.
Life is much more fun when you're dominant. If your dominant, you can do things others would otherwise never accept of you - not because they're forced to! But simply because they accept it.
Another trick when you're anxious is to think of situations where you were successful, rather than keep thinking about what the other person is thinking, what he will be thinking, and how he'll react. You don't know what he's thinking, anyway.
The bottom line of what I'm trying to say is, since you can't avoid social interaction, you might as well look outward instead of inward and blame others instead of yourself when you have to.
And I'm putting this right at the bottom because I think it is important for you to not write off my advice. You will not be less considerate if you do these things. You will be more considerate. People want to find other people they like, people they feel good among. By opening up to others, you are being more considerate, people will like you more, and that is what they want. Believe it or not, people want to like you. That's why they're pissed off / unfriendly when they find out they can't like you (even though their reasons are sometimes bizarre and shouldn't always be considered). Of course, you always have the option of saying 'eh, fuck you'. That's your choice.
Ben-Jammin wrote:I can't say anything here because I hate myself more than anyone else.
Arkbrik wrote:Wow, you need to get out and meet some assholes.
stubby wrote:When did this board turn into a place where people talk about problems and take things seriously? What the hell is going on here?
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