"I don't hate people. I just feel better when they aren't around." - Charles Bukowski
Being around other people is really difficult for me. I get horribly uncomfortable and self conscious. I usually spend days in advance of a social gathering planning how to best interact with people and then days afterward analyzing every word of every conversation. When I say that I "plan" I mean that I actually practice potential conversations, out loud with myself, that I think I might have with other people. I do this before phone calls as well.
"The picture you see is no portrait of me." - New Order
People that know me will probably think that I'm lying; my friends would probably say that I am extroverted, loud, and egotistical. People that meet me professionally, or through my teaching, would probably have a similar perspective of my personality (although with a lot less cursing). I have been trying to figure out why it is that I hate interacting with other people yet I seem to be pretty good at consistently putting myself into situations where I can meet new people. Some examples of behaviors that go against my inclination to climb into bed and curl up into a ball would be my regular involvement in conferences, coworking, and playing in bands. Oh, yeah, and did I mention that I teach for a living?
"If you set your expectations low you'll never be disappointed." - ?
I've done a lot of thinking about this and I'm not sure I have a really good answer. I think I am able to get over my fears and do these things because I feel as if I have nothing to lose. Since I already feel like any social interaction will be a total failure, and since I have already failed in my mind, why not just jump into the abyss head first? The fact that I feel socially awkward and want to avoid social interactions seems to provide me with the ability to put myself into awkward situations in the first place. I guess this makes me a masochist. This also doesn't seem to make much sense.
I also think that I like being alone in a group and pretending to be more socially involved than I am. I'm really good at meeting people just by showing up at a variety of places and events but I almost never turn those new connections into anything resembling a friendship. I might be good at meeting people but I'm terrible at making, and keeping, friends. My circle of friends is very small and shrinking as I get older.
How does this phobia effect my teaching? Heavily. My nerves get frayed before each class and I find it difficult to maintain the energy-level and focus required to make it through teaching a course for an entire semester. Teaching is very hard for me. Almost everything is hard for me that requires involvement with others. I get tired quickly and lose interest quickly. I'm working to change this but I'm not sure I know how.
Is there a new year's resolution somewhere in here? Not really. Could this be a longer post? Absolutely, but I don't really want to write about this anymore. I didn't really have any point when I started writing this post but I think it all boils down to the following.
"Please realize that just because somebody looks like they have it together it doesn't mean that they do. They are, more than likely, struggling to hold it together just like everybody else." - Me