Delayed Personal Growth: Social Skills

I keep mentioning that I am socially awkward. The truth is, I can vary in how socially skilled I appear depending on how I feel in the situation.

For example, I always get nervous on the first day of a new elementary school internship. It feels like I am shivering, but it is the muscles in my chest contracting out of anxiety. But once a student asks for my help, I am usually fine. The anxiety goes away and I get to enjoy my time with the kids in the class. I am sometimes unsure how to explain things to them, but that is not due to my social skills that is because I don’t know how the teacher runs their classroom yet. Talking to the teacher on the other hand, can continue to terrify me for a few weeks. I make sure to listen to directions and take initiative, making rounds through the classroom to make sure kids are on task.

In terms of my college education, I have made minimal contact with peers (I have no friends in my major because the two I happened to make graduated) and find it terrifying to go to my professor’s office hours. I have only gone to one professor’s office hours and I only made that initial contact because my friend was in the class and told me I should go to the review session with her.  I went to several review sessions with that one professor, but no other professors. I go through my classes as anonymously as I can, I am a name in the gradebook but my professors likely could not match my face to my name. I have thought about making contact with a professor I have this quarter who I have had before, but I also am terrified for her to know who I am (and her daughter is in the class I am an intern in right now. her daughter know I have taken/am taking classes with her mom).

As far as friends go, I would say that I have friends, but it is more like acquaintances because while I see them at club meetings and stuff like that, we never hang out (or really even talk) outside of club events. I have two friends who I try to keep in contact with, but we come from different lives and are going different places, so while we are friends, they both have friends whose life path are going to be more similar to theirs than my path.

The kryptonite to my social anxiety is talking to/calling people on the telephone. It is an irrational fear that I can only overcome if I have an extreme obligation to make that call or talk to that person. It is almost never as terrible as I think it will be, but I dread phone calls.  Even talking to a majority of my family members through phone calls makes me anxious.

A weird thing about me is that I consider myself an extroverted introvert. I crave time with people, but also know that sometimes I need time to myself or with one other person where we aren’t really doing anything and I can be quiet and in my own little world. I have become more comfortable with getting myself to do things slightly outside my comfort zone. I joined a club last year, I went to a small bonfire/get together in October, I am going to a mental health conference hosted by my school this weekend. I love to intern in elementary classrooms even though it makes me exhausted because being around the kids helps me to feel young (and old at the same time because the 5th graders I work with were born in a world where Pluto was never a planet!). The kids make me laugh and I always learn something new. My club helps me to meet people and has a big focus on self-care (something I should really be more attentive with). On the other hand, books help me when I need some time to myself to just be. Also, I know that a lot of the time I want to be alone, but that the lack of human contact makes me depressed, so I need to get out of the house and just be around other people.

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