The feeling of not fitting in, being the odd one out, and the constant fear of being judged is something most people experience when around others. These feelings have become increasing common along the with the excessive use of social media. We feel a sense of pressure to live up to the lives that we see on several platforms that are usually edited and corrected to the point of unattainability. Or quite the opposite, we begin to isolate ourselves from the online community full of judgement and expectations. There are multiple reasons as to why we are occasionally overwhelmed with the feeling of social awkwardness, yet it’s incredibly important to remember that you are not the only one, because I know for sure that I experience social anxiety as well.
In my case, I’m not sure I remember when it started, but I definitely know that I experience this inability of fitting in when around large groups or close friends. I don’t know how to let go and be my true self, as I am over aware of my feelings, thoughts and movements. For example, I become incredibly compensating and considerate of others needs over my own, so that I do not upset anyone or reduce their interest in spending time with me. Another coping mechanism is limiting my hangouts to seeing people one on one, to reduce the anxiety I feel with the less people around. Finally, I realised that sometimes I would just not show up, the countless events or hang outs I missed out on due to my society fear or awkwardness was alarming.
It was not only when others and myself began to realise this habit of hiding myself, I knew I had to make a change. I was scared of showing people who I am, expressing my true feelings and being myself out of fear of not being good enough. Yet, I learnt that where you invest your energy, attention starts to fall on it. I kept investing my energy in my awkwardness and fears, that forced others to recognise it as well. People would notice my discomfort, which would worsen my anxiety. That realisation is when I decided to direct my energy on my company, whether it was friends, family or co-workers and how I wanted to present myself to them. This happened gradually, yet so comfortably, I even began dressing differently, just by focusing my energy on what made me feel more myself. I began to talk more, listened carefully, and shared opinions. Gradually I became closer to those who mattered most to me and grew excited for social engagements, to the point where I initiated plans.
Writing about it now seems simple, but it’s not and I don’t believe I realised the changes I was making, until I reflected on them now. However, I truly believe that where you direct your energy and focus, is where the attention will go. Even if you feel the same awkwardness from time to time, remember who you are and how you would like to be understood and valued by the people around. As once you are genuine with yourself, that is how you will be noticed and appreciated by others.
Writer: Mona Mettawa