by Josh Orendi
“When we socialize we see the world through social eyes that are sometimes clouded by social lies.”
It sucks admitting this, but I have sometimes felt (and still sometimes feel) this way…
Like an optical illusion the lens I see the world through can be clouded or distorted by the lies I have been told and the ones that I tell myself. Feelings of anxiety, fear, and insecurity begin to swell in new social settings — the first day in class, calling strangers on the phone, working an information table. The bubbling intensifies when the voice inside my head reinforces the fear with messages of worst case scenarios and thoughts of rejection. Doubt and excuses not only creep in, they take over. Like a caterpillar I form a cocoon of isolation around me with my words and actions — I sit alone, barely smile, drop my eyes and shoulders, pull out my cell phone, try to look busy, lose myself in the lonely silence despite the noise of the room. Those thoughts in my mind manifest into an extremely real, frightening, and often painful reality. Gut wrenching emotional paralysis, drowning in the poison that is filling that moment, my only rational thoughts focus on one idea: escape, retreat, run, avoidance. There is no beautiful butterfly about to emerge. I am just trying to survive each painful second while maintaining a half smile so nobody asks me if I’m okay. I recognize that I am socially disabled, but I can’t do anything about it. This is just who I am. I deal with it.
That’s my best shot at vulnerably sharing how I felt (and still sometimes feel) in social situations. Gradually, I discovered inspiration, techniques, and new habits that have helped me realize a new social identity. I no longer have to “deal with it.” Perhaps my most profound discovery has been this:
My social eyes are a social lens looking outward at the world. When I allow myself to focus my social eyes externally on others, I feel liberated. It’s fun to be curious and generous. It’s fulfilling to help others. When the phone call is about the other guy, the new room is full of people I can make smile, and the information table is my excuse to share an opportunity that might change someone’s life — when it becomes about them and not me — the social lies go away. I’m not the most important person in the room anymore. It’s not about me! I honestly feel empowered to know that I’m a catalyst to something great when I invest in conversation with others. When I socialize, it’s about the other person. For me, that was the lesson that freed me from my social cocoon (so to speak).
For the linear thinkers who read this, consider this: It’s mathematically impossible to feel the inner emotion of fear at the same time that I am being 100% generous — focused entirely on others.
Now, when I get that old familiar rumbling of fear in my belly, it’s a healthy reminder that I’m focused on the wrong person. “My social eyes, no longer listen to social lies, so I’ve come to love the opportunity to socialize.”