People Who Love People Aren’t Me

There’s a quote from the first live action Disney Alice in Wonderland movie where a character remarks that the now grown-up Alice has “lost her muchness.”

Friends, I’ve lost my muchness.

I am a coward. More specifically, I’ve become a coward. I didn’t used to be a coward, but nowadays I’m afraid of everything. Everything makes me nervous these days. Each noise and step forward in anything I do fills me with overwhelming fear and terrible anxiety. Even a mere phone call can fill me with dread and cause my heart to beat rapidly, and my whole body becomes instantly overheated. It’s a terrible life to live.

In truth, it wasn’t always like this for me.

I’m not sure when I retreated completely back into my turtle shell. When I was little, I was super skittish, but I shed that skin and started to take up the mantel of  royal position of young society know as the heart on her sleeves drama queen. My emotions were well-known, and I expressed them outwardly and openly.

I even performed without inhibition back in my younger days. I actually enjoyed it and sought it out often.

In high school and college, I performed in my high school’s marching band. More specifically, I was in my school’s color guard. In front of crowds of people on either a football field or a gym floor, I danced and spun a flag for at least seven minutes straight. I also sang in my school’s chorus and auditioned for solos.

Hell, when I was a freshman in high school, I was the only freshman brave enough to try out for a solo in for our Spring chorus concert. I relished in the opportunity for all eyes to be on me. I never suffered from stage fright, not once.

I used to love an audience. Now, if I can even here footsteps, I cower and run as far away as I can.

So what changed?  Well, I’m not entirely sure. Maybe, it’s because I’m finally an adult with adult responsibilities when I really shouldn’t be allowed to adult, and I’m hyper-aware of everything in the world. I’ve just lost the ability to relax in the world. I will say, while I’m not sure exactly why I’ve become so nervous and anxious, there is one thing that I find is often the source of my nervousness.

People. People have become the main source of my anxiety for some strange reason.

Don’t get me wrong, I can “people” like anyone else. I worked customer service for nearly seven years. I know how to show interest in others, be helpful, and hold conversations. So long as I’m aware that I am interacting with customers and doing my job, I can act as if I’m ok with other people.  For the record, I like people. I liked customer service because  I was able to help people, and I like cultivating relationships with people.

The problems and fears seem to be more related to their perception of me. It’s extremely fearful and frustrating to have opinions and ideas regarding other people but to not have a clue as to what they think of you. I try to read different clues in their mannerisms or speech, but my anxious brain decides that any action or bit of dialogue should be perceived as negative. They obviously don’t like me because they didn’t say good morning. Despite this fear, I wake up every morning and do the same thing.

I try.

Sometimes, I manage to be extra brave for as bad as my social anxiety can get. I’ll answer the phone call from the unknown number. I’ll speak up at a company meaning. Other times, my bravery in spite of my social anxiety is just getting out of bed when I’d rather stay in it. Either way, I wake up and do the same thing.

I try.

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