I've struggled with being "the quiet one" my whole life. I was constantly teased in school for not talking. Kids would come up to me and say things like "Are you a mute?" "Are you deaf?" and especially "Why don't you talk?" Most of the time, I wanted to say something back and respond, but nothing came out of my mouth, nothing came into my head/I could never think of anything to say to them, so I kept my eyes down and ignored everyone around me. I only had 2 real friends growing up. The first one was only my friend because she was my twin sister's friend, so we all spent time together anyway. The second was a friend I made on my own and I'm still friends with her today. She's the best friend I've ever had and has been for the last 14 or so years. Now that we're adults with our own lives, she now lives 5 hours from me. My quietness/shyness/social phobia whatever you want to call it got a little better when I got my first job since I was forced to interact with the public. Skipping ahead to present day, I am still working in retail, where its my job to greet people and be friendly and approach strangers. I find this extremely difficult. I can do my job well, except for that part. I made it my goal to get promoted, and when the time came to announce the promotions, I was not one of them, and I think its because of my fear of people. I don't know what to say to them, I always think they are judging me. I just came back from a playgroup, and I started going to it to help both me and my son get used to being around more people. My son is perfectly fine around other people, approaches them and everything, no fear. I myself find it hard to say hi to someone. When he approached other kids or adults, I got nervous because I didn't know what to do: What if he took a toy out of another child's hand? Would I have the courage to step in? I don't want him being held back because of my own problems. At playgroup today, I barely said anything, almost never looked anyone in the eye, never greeted anyone. Not because I didn't want to, but because whenever I thought of doing it, I felt my heart race and my mind go blank, and my eyes go to the floor. I felt thankful that Graydon was there to distract me from the other people, which is awful because that means I'm hiding behind him, and how can I be a good mom if I hide behind my one year old son!? Writing that out just now made me feel like I want to cry. My one year old is better with people than I am. This problem of mine has held me back from what I want to do my whole life. I could have a better job, more friends, more fun, if I was just comfortable around people.
Which brings me to my next point. I've been thinking about this a lot the past few weeks, ever since those promotions were announced. Should I keep trying to be better with people? (which I've been trying my whole life and haven't gotten very far) or should I just accept myself how I am, and not keep stressing about how bad I am with people? I've been pondering these questions the past few weeks, and I would love it if I could just be comfortable with who I am, but that means not growing as a person. I would love to have friends in this town, but the thought of making them is terrifying.
I used to be incredibly shy when I was younger. The type that burst into tears if the teacher called on them, my face would turn bright red, I'd mumble and people were forever saying "Speak up!!!" So yeah. I know how you feel.
I was getting better at the end of elementary school but then going to high school sort of kicked me back a bit. It was a huge regional school and I didn't know ANYONE in any of the classes except gym and french.
The times in my life that helped me be more "forward" were:
- taking a vocational course where there were only 12 people in the class all day every day for 8 months (that's where I met DH). It was scary but overall a nice group of people and we all got to know each other.
- Then there was the telemarketing job. Extremely hard at first but talking to people on the phone was much easier than approaching them in person. Also having "scripts" and learning the difference between being rejected because of what I was selling vs ME. I was at that job for about 14 months. While it was a "great" learning time for me, it was incredibly soul sucking. I took it all too personally. It changed the way I saw the world. I became more cynical etc.
- Just being with DH. He's just about the only person who I'm completely honest with. I used to be very closed off, not talking about how I felt, not opening up to others. Being with DH and feeling loved helped with that.
I can DO stuff, but sometimes I still have that claustrophobic feeling of being looked at and judged when out. Like I just want to be away but I'm trapped. Like waiting in line at the grocery store when everyone is bored and just staring around at everyone else.
Personally, I'm taking time away from work, looking at switching gears so that I'm not OUT so much. I used to try and try and try and halfway succeeded while being miserable.. until I just decided enough! I'm changing lifestyles! I like hanging out with kids so I'm going to do more of that. I like gardening, I like being home. (Although I still make sure I get out, I don't want to become a crazy cat lady!)
If you did want to make new friends, I would look for gatherings where there's less pressure to interact, where it isn't the main focal point. Going to church is a good example. There's some chit chat before and after the sermon but mainly you just sit there and listen. Taking some art classes where you're busy making things is another example. If you have something to work on while talking, it's less intense I find and it gives something to talk about. What about joining a knitting group where you could sort of sit on the edge and listen while others do most of the talking?
If your job is that painful for you, I would think you'd want to go somewhere else. I've never been as shy as you, yet I would be uncomfortable with your job. I think you should accept yourself for who you are, then step out gradually if you want to. PP's suggestions sound very good.
first of all, are you aware that you had selective mutism as a child? It sounds like you did. And so did I. I got a bit better as I got older, but I am in a similar position - my son is sociable...and I am pretty stand-offish. I try, but because I had SM and never knew it, I never got help, and on top of it I realize as an adult that I was never shown proper social skills from my own parents when growing up either... and yeah, it's a bit of a disability for me. I'm kind of functioning...but I have no social life and that really bothers me. I was never able to work for long periods of time as an adult, and I didn't know why. I was afraid to go to the mailbox and I didn't know why (it had developed into agoraphobia).
I think you need to accept yourself, yes. Be easy on yourself, take care of yourself. But keep striving to better yourself too. You might be able to find a better position for yourself where there is less direct stress on you, less provoking of your anxieties.
I had friends as a child, but I do not have friends I can trust now. I am awkward in social situations. And I beat myself up too, because I want my son to have friends in his life and I'm not providing that well enough for him now. I keep trying to get better. It's all I can do.
All I can say to you is I understand, and it's too bad we don't live closer :)
This sounds a lot like me. I just find it hard talking to other people.
There's a thread in Finding Your Tribe called "Introvert Mamas" - you might want to check that out. There are lots of like-minded people there, and some good book recommendations.
I have recently realized I had selective mutism, but I wasn't sure if that's exactly what it was, because I also think I might have Asperger's. Whatever it is, I'm sick of dealing with it. I just want to be normal. I never got help. All the adults around me always said I was a good kid. But enough about my childhood, I don't know how to be a normal adult. I would love to have someone to talk to, but I don't. I don't have insurance for counseling or therapy. I just want some friends. Does anyone have any tips on how to make friends? It seems so easy for other people to start talking and before you know it, they exchanged phone numbers and go to each other's houses for dinner, etc. How do I make that happen? (Yes, I've read and taken note of HeatherAtHome's post, but I'm looking for more, too) Any input or ideas are appreciated.
If you have an interest, take a class. For example, I was interested in painting ceramics and a friend took me to a ceramic store where, if you bought a piece, you could sit there and paint it (fire it, if it was a mug or a plate). Now, a friend told me about this place, but you could look in a phone book for a place like that. It would take some courage to talk to the owner, employee but you could do it. Anyway, I find that sharing a common interest opens people's mouths.
you should read Dale Carnigie's (sp) classic, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." this is an old book full of perennial advice. you can learn exactly how to handle interactions with people so that people will like you. your position in retail is going to be perfect for practicing.
and regardless of what brought you to this point in life, YES, resounding YES, keep working at relaxing and opening yourself up to the goodness of people. as you get older, this will get easier. especially if you start with this book for some solid advice on getting along with people.
someday you will look back and say "WOW, i have really changed."
all the best!