Eveslofl

Is social awkwardness a permanent personality trait

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I have a lifelong problem of social awkwardness and anxiety in group situations. I am very comfortable socializing with 1-2 people. When it gets more than 4-ish I lose my mind. This has made it hard for me to break into classes or events with large groups of strangers. Depending on luck, I sometimes end up in a group where I just happen to be very comfortable with. 

This was obviously a problem when I was in school. In adulthood, I finally get to choose when and where to socialize. I thought the most self-loving thing was to cater to my introverted nature and control the types of social situations I put myself in. I try to meet my social needs with small groups and close friends. During networking events I focus on talking to 1-2 like-minded people. It has worked so far, but once in a while I have a bad social day and something triggers me bringing me back to that out-of-control social awkwardness again.

The most recent trigger was when I found myself having both friends and strangers in the same room. It overwhelms me and it is super awkward to socialize with strangers when my friends are around. On one hand I hate being watched as I socialize. On the other hand when I talk to the friend I can’t help but feeling like I am cornering them posessively and stopping them from socializing with others. It’s like two modes of socializing in one room and it seriously confuses me.

Are introverts forever introverts? Will we never reach the day when we become fully socially comfortable in any and every situation? I am quite tired of sheltering myself from unwanted social situations, but if I don’t, I end up feeling drained and ashamed that I didn’t handle myself well. Am I supposed to just fully accept this part of me as a personality trait, try my best in choosing the right social environments and knowing that I will always be triggered once in a while? Or is there a lasting cure to social anxiety? What does it look like for an introvert to confidently assert herself in all social scenarios, and to be socially fearless?

Edited by Eveslofl
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I feel a very strong familiarity with your situation. Ach. I can't help but empathise and sympathise completely. It's a very.... would you call it... distressing? state of affairs, and difficult to deal with. 

I don't have a solution. I'll say that upfront. I'm a learner-teacher, at best. I'm also a terrible spiritualist, for full disclosure.

I can, at least, say it's not forever.

I know from my own experience that it diminishes the longer you work on it. There's no guarantee that every situation will be comfortable, but the scope of uncomfortable situations can be whittled away at, bit by bit, until almost everything you deal with in your typical life is comfortable. I couldn't even speak to most people when I was a teenager. I now give no second thought to presenting to rooms of people, and leading discussions where I see myself as being able to do so. That doesn't ever mean I can lead every discussion, or lead every topic, or even be terribly confident in a lot of social situations... but that sense of humility is a strength, even if it doesn't feel like it at the time. It means I think about what I say, before I say it. I think about how I act, before I act*. That means... a lot of positive things. That you even recognise it, places you far ahead of the curve of humanity's gestalt.

Don't worry.

Introverts are not destined to always be introverts. Many of the most outwardly extroverted, professional and 'successful' people I know are introverts who just learned to cope. Their focus was on was the way they dealt with the world around them, how they processed their feelings. They feel the same pains and worries that us introverts feel. They just found another path, usually ones that inwardly acknowledged the issues they were facing, and compenstating where they needed to. They didn't lose their fear, they just learned a way of operating that let their fear to go away for a little while at a time. The most successful people I know are anxious wrecks, to the definitions of most people. I even see it in Teal Swan. It's part of why I quite like her. We all worry, we all second-guess ourselves, we're all operating under the spectre of a pile of shadow-aspects of ourselves. The only people who don't are very rare people who are building a pile of personal ruin for themselves.

The saying goes: imagine everyone else in their underwear. That's trite advice nowdays. The more emotionally contemporary version of that advice is: imagine everyone else is as anxious and self-concious as you. Because they usually are. Society is a game, and we all play to the rules. Our anxiety might be with us, enmeshed within our souls (hopefully not; I hear Teal Swan's advice can help with that), but even so... there are paths out of that. The first thing to do is realise there's no need to worry. In even asking the question, you're one step closer to one of the million solutions that are out there, and you're one step closer to what you want than the billions of people out there who haven't asked that same question yet.

It's all fine. It's just one step at a time, and the knowledge that the self-reflection and self-doubt brings is a strength... albeit one that needs to be balanced. Finding balance is everything.

*the internet is partially excepted from that rule. The internet is a parallel world. 😛

Edited by Done Now
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I haven’t known this person all that long but someone that I met recently, told me that she was very shy when she was younger.  I do not know if she found it painful at the time but apparently she went for a year or maybe even years at school (as a kid) and never said a word.   

But she made a decision. She decided that she was going to pull herself out of her shell.  So she started  doing public speaking. I think she said she joined ToastMasters.  But she worked on herself and now she is very socially outgoing.  Apparently she does have to remind herself that other people like to speak too.  

Me:  I teach, so I do public speaking for a living.  When I have something to teach I can give my presentation and interact with the trainees.  I don’t have to follow a script.  I can answer questions.    But in social settings I still mostly do not know what to do for myself.  I’m better with a one-on-one.  Even if there were three people, I would be worried that I would get shut out of the conversation if the other two are particularly talkative.  I’m usually very happy to talk about any topic when other people bring something up.  Of course there are topics I like more than other topics.

People can be more “introspective” or more “extrospective”.  Introspective might want to talk about their inner world of thoughts, feelings.  Extrospective might want to talk about world events or the news.  There is also an intimacy need factor.  Personally, I’m more introspective with a fairly high intimacy need.

But  I’m reluctant to bring up my own topic for fear that others won’t want to talk about it.  That could be related to an inclination to keep my needs to myself.  Or an inclination to keep my needs to myself until I know it is safe to express them.

Does any of that resonate with anyone? 

Edited by Scot
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No personality-trait is a permanent trait. Personality is nothing fixed. It can change. Every "Personality" is a huge coping-mechanism you developed trough socialisation (family). You experienced something that made you to become like that, that what you today call your "character". you developed fears and triggers. and with every suppressed aspect of yourself, you also suppressed the "good" things along with that.

Your traits are not set in stone, it can change and be undone.

Have you already tried out the completion process or parts work (which is kind of the same) ? you can undo such things by re-intigration of aspects you "lost".

Teal made a video an introversion and extraversion by the way.

 

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I identfy with everything you said. I truly do feel the same way.  For me, I remember the moment my severe social anxiety started - I was 18 and working as a waitress at pizza hut.  The feeling of needing approval from others so I could get a decent tip sparked a fear in me that I was never able to turn off - the fear of them seeing my fear of them - of them finding out that I am insecure and need their approval. I then became afraid of my own fear - it became my enemy and something I was ashamed of. This was a vicous cycle. I am now 34. I still have social anxiety but it has diminished. Much like you, it feels self loving to try to control my environment some, however it is strangely exhausting to always have this control. And like you, every once in a while I get caught off gaurd and I feel anxiety and then immediately feel afraid of it - afraid the other person will see it - and this compounds it. So I become ashamed of not handling it well because I know they've sensed it - and the worst part is making THEM feel uncomfortable. And then I feel rejected.

So I relate completely. However, it has gotten better. I used to be on paxil and came off of it one year ago. I am fine off of it and don't need it anymore. To some degree I have accepted my shame. It still disappoints me but it is more part of me now and less of something I fight against. 

Hope this helps.

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On 5/18/2018 at 6:08 PM, Done Now said:

I know from my own experience that it diminishes the longer you work on it. There's no guarantee that every situation will be comfortable, but the scope of uncomfortable situations can be whittled away at, bit by bit, until almost everything you deal with in your typical life is comfortable.

Thank you so much @Done Now for empathizing, that alone helps a lot I think. I'm glad to hear that it does get better and I guess that really is the only way about it. When I posted this I felt a rush to just change everything in one day and be a different person. I think I need to realize how much I have improved and acknowledge that too. I feel less alone after reading about your experience :)

On 5/19/2018 at 12:12 PM, Scot said:

But  I’m reluctant to bring up my own topic for fear that others won’t want to talk about it.  That could be related to an inclination to keep my needs to myself.  Or an inclination to keep my needs to myself until I know it is safe to express them.

@Scot I definitely do that all the time in group situations. And it doesn't help that I am always very "out of it" and focused on my anxious mind rather than the group dynamics. Which causes me to say stuff that doesn't really flow with the group, which makes what I say be diminished/ignored, which feeds into my lack of confidence to contribute etc etc. This vicious cycle is part of why it is so hard to change. But again in pairs or groups of 3 I have no issue. I just need to develop the "larger-group awareness" thing - some people (extroverts) are really good at that and I seem to have zero natural skills in it. It's an entirely different social mentality and very different from my self-absorbed introspective ways.

On 5/22/2018 at 10:15 PM, my-alteregos-and-me said:

No personality-trait is a permanent trait. Personality is nothing fixed. It can change. Every "Personality" is a huge coping-mechanism you developed trough socialisation (family). You experienced something that made you to become like that, that what you today call your "character". you developed fears and triggers. and with every suppressed aspect of yourself, you also suppressed the "good" things along with that.

I agree. The reason I even want to change is that whenever I watch an extrovert, I feel and envy the sense of ease and freedom, and I have a strong feeling that it is part of me too, but why can't I express it? So I agree that it's a suppressed aspect. I have tried the completion process with a practitioner over Skype once, and to be honest it didn't really help me. I did it because I was looking for something cathartic and that makes a big change inside me. Haven't found any process that does that exactly. But I heal the most whenever I am triggered and come out from that.

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In my experience it is more a matter of self confidence, the confidence that you get when you care for your needs no matter what it takes.

In those social settings do you often feel anxious but you stay there anyway, and kinda try to act a certain way to make yourself more sociable? if that is the case then my advice is to never do that unless it is absolutely necessary, and maybe not even then. Because the only way you can be free to be yourself in social settings is to listen to your emotions and not put yourself in that situation. That will create a sense of safety within your body. That sense of safety takes roots in the cells of your body over time and will allow you to feel safe in that situation no matter what you feel in other people and no matter the expectations. That is something that that you cannot force, because it comes with being dedicated to caring for how you feel in a very honest way

For me it has helped to realize that people, especially extroverts are very insecure inside, and seeing them interact and act from their deep down insecurity gave me a great sense of control in those situations, because i knew i was a few steps ahead due to knowing what is actually happening. That did not calm my anxiety completely though, because there was still the judgment i had for myself, a very harsh judgment that made me feel less than i should be, made me feel that i don't have value or power. In the end what gave me confidence and a realistic control in social situations has been realizing that usual interactions are most times superficial, non-important, and that life is about much more than socializing with groups of people in a superficial way. I like it sometimes, but generally i do not bother to waste my time with that and i prefer talking to one two or three people at a time as that is much more powerful.

The good news is that if i could do it then anyone can. It was extreme. For a long time i could not even imagine being able to be in a group, not even if if forced myself

Take yourself easy and don't push yourself. Naturally you may feel like you want to socialize in that way. If so then be gentle with yourself and take it very slow. Learn to take yourself out of situations if it is too much

It is okay to be like this. It does not mean anything bad about you unless you decide it is so.

You can change it but only as a result of unconditionally caring about how you feel, not from any desperate attempt to get rid of your fear, which can only make it worse and backfire

This has been my experience. Hope it helps or inspires you in any way

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On 5/23/2018 at 1:44 AM, Millie said:

the fear of them seeing my fear of them - of them finding out that I am insecure and need their approval.

Exactly! Not just fear/shame but also the fear/shame of being seen as afraid/ashamed. Thanks for your comment, it helps to know someone feels the same. I need to also accept my shame as part of me and I hope it will get better each day.

4 hours ago, Matei said:

Because the only way you can be free to be yourself in social settings is to listen to your emotions and not put yourself in that situation. That will create a sense of safety within your body. That sense of safety takes roots in the cells of your body over time and will allow you to feel safe in that situation no matter what you feel in other people and no matter the expectations. That is something that that you cannot force, because it comes with being dedicated to caring for how you feel in a very honest way

This is so true. I have forced myself out of my comfort zone way too many times, and blamed myself if I didn’t. Like a zero sum game. I stay frozen in unwanted situations instead of leaving. If I leave I regret not sticking around trying harder. Thanks for this - it makes so much sense because I must have developed a very poor self-trust and sense of safety by forcing myself to socialize. And now I’m realising that even if this forcing works once or twice, it will not create lasting change. That definitely comes from confidence and a strong sense of self and unconditionally meeting my own needs overtime.

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Just today  actually just watched a video with Teal doing completion process on someone with the same issue, so I would recommend seeing this :-)

Also I totally feel with you - I have the same issue. However whereas I started out super introvert and afraid in almost any situation, I have now become really comfortable in work-related or education-related situations or other structured settings, for instance I now love to stand before a class and giving lessons or standing in front of 300 people at the Company x-mas lunch performing a rap. So it can change, you are not locked in dire introvertism for your entire life ;-)

However when the setting becomes "relaxed" and everyone are doing small talk and perhaps drinking, like at a party or social gathering, I often don't know what to say and where to put myself and become awkward Again.

 

 

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Awkwardness is a beautiful thing!

 

Why?

 

Awkwardness gets rid of facades. Life isn't always fluid, sometimes its stumbling around erratically and breaking things!

hahaha. Awkwardness is real! It's rich!

 

here's the thing; You don't have any guarantees that you're never going to be awkward again; the best approach is to stop hating on yourself for being awkward in the first place. Love your awkwardness. I can't do this for you. You need to find the reasons why it's OK to be where you are; only then can you begin to bridge the gap between awkwardness and this other persona I can tell you've been envisioning who is socially fluid and capable.

 

You need to start where you are. Self love isn't about hammering yourself into being the shape that you want to be until you love yourself, it's learning to love who you are, where you are, no matter what shape you are now. ❤️

I used to be pretty socially awkward. I would never speak up and share my opinion. I was conflict avoidant, people didn't really know who I was at all because the person I was was always hiding. That's why you feel nervous around your friends and strangers at the same time; you have not become centered quite yet and dont' want the difference between your initial self and your authentic self to freak your friends out.

Begin to listen to your heart and honor it. Only by honoring it will you be able to eventually discern the fear that is there to protect you from the fear that is limiting you.

 

I gotta be honest. Now, I have no idea how people perceive me socially, and it's because I listen to my heart. Some moment, talking to people will feel good. But the moment the group I'm in stops feeling good, I'll leave, often abruptly if I get really bad vibes from them. I'm like a cat in social situations; you know how cats will run away when they don't want to be petted? Yep, I do that. Or if I don't like the look someone's giving me? I'm out. Lol. I am pretty aloof socially but it works for me. Being aloof has lead me to connect with more people than normally; oftentimes i'm surprised at synchronistic things happening and the most amazing people I've managed to meet by honoring my heart. I imagine it must be the same for others, as well.

 

Be you! Stay true!

You are in my thoughts and prayers. ❤️

Edited by Tessa Rae
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On 6/6/2018 at 7:48 PM, Casper F said:

I have now become really comfortable in work-related or education-related situations or other structured settings, for instance I now love to stand before a class and giving lessons or standing in front of 300 people at the Company x-mas lunch performing a rap.

That is awesome, 300 people... I would literally go blank and collapse lol. Glad to hear that it does get better :)

On 6/16/2018 at 11:52 AM, Tessa Rae said:

You need to start where you are. Self love isn't about hammering yourself into being the shape that you want to be until you love yourself, it's learning to love who you are, where you are, no matter what shape you are now.

Thanks Tessa! Although this aspect of myself is hard to love, I will try my best...because it's sad to not love it, just like it's sad to not love a child ❤️ 

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