She's a ........

If you happened to see me on the street or meet me through a mutual friend chances are you would be confused by me. Most likely you would think I don't like you, or I am stuck up, or weird, get the idea. You would most certainly be uncomfortable around me and not know what to say.  This is not unusual. My most consistent reflection throughout my whole life has been, "When I first met you I thought you didn't like me." Yep, I know. It's never easy to hear people think I don't like them, but I know it. It's not on purpose I promise.

What I wish I could tell people when I meet them the first time is, I am super shy and introverted. My introversion can be hard to navigate when my physical or emotional energy is low. Socializing and/or meeting a new person is hard for me, but if I'm tired it's painfully hard. I literally have nothing to give and all I want to do is hide and go home.  This comes across like I could care less about who I am meeting or talking to. That is not the case, I am just so emotionally tired that I can barely think.

As for being shy, when I meet someone new or walk by a stranger I get super anxious. Knots start to twist in my stomach, my temperature rises, my body slightly tremors and my thoughts start to race. From the outside this is not apparent because I have years of mastering the art of hiding my anxiety. My outer "calm" does not reflect my inner chaos.

As a child I was painfully shy. I was so shy I couldn't even ask the cashier at McDonald's for ketchup. I would send my sister to do it for me. I was this way with every single person I didn't know. I couldn't speak to strangers. If I didn't know you I was almost crippled with fear at the thought of having to talk to you.  Some of this was because I constantly had new people coming in and out of my life. Most adults that came around my mom were not healthy or safe people. I had to learn early how to keep my guard up. I had to be tough so people wouldn't take advantage of me.  This served me well and kept me safe. In fact it saved me from many potential dangers. Unfortunately, the unlearning of this hard edge has proven pretty challenging. Luckily, as an adult I am not as shy, nor are my edges as hard.

Something else happens when I meet someone new that makes it hard for me to relax and be natural.  It's fear that I carry on my heart.  The fear of not being  good enough crops up from time to time. This comes through in my inner dialogue and can be so distracting it's hard to navigate.  It goes something like this, "Don't make eye contact......Please don't talk to me.......Ugh, I don't know what to say......I am so uncomfortable right now, how can I get out of this......Be cool.........Think of something interesting to say.........Don't say something stupid....Why the fuck did you just say that, that was stupid....OMG she doesn't like me........OMG she's thinks I'm an idiot.........Am I acting desperate.......Quick, think of something to say.......Don't say that, ugh why did you say that..........This is so uncomfortable....I feel so awkward..........Why can't I just be normal..........What the fuck is wrong with me........ Ugh, I wish I could disappear right now...........I wonder how I can get out of this..."

Navigating a conversation with an inner dialogue like this can be pretty hard. I criticize every word I say and I hyper analyze my body language. I unnaturally try to act cool and open, but inside I am freaking out. This is my shyness and feelings of shame about how I am that crops up. I am literally navigating feelings of unworthiness. Most people pick up on this and take it personal, but it's me and my feelings about myself, not the other person.

My other challenge is, I can feel other people's emotions/energy and often times I can pick up what someone is thinking. It doesn't happen with every person I meet because it depends on my energy level, the more tired I am the less receptive I am.  What happens no matter what is I will feel another person's feelings/emotions. It's the one thing I cannot shut off and it's very distracting, in fact it drives me nuts. In many ways it serves me, but in other ways it's challenging because I don't know the why behind what I'm picking up. So, I try to ignore it or I tell myself a grand story about what I'm picking up.

If you add all of this together, you can see why my aloof demeanor can be confusing. However, if you add all this up maybe it will provide a sense of understanding. See, although I am shy, introverted, and empathetic  I actually love people. I mean I really, really, really love people. When I meet someone I'm hoping and wishing that I won't be awkward or aloof. I so badly want to chill out, be outgoing and friendly. I'm optimistic that maybe we'll become acquaintances or even better, friends. However, getting to the friend part is hard because I have so many fears that get in the way. You would be surprised to hear that there are programmed parts from my upbringing that feel completely unworthy of friendships, unlikable and not good enough. Part of me is terrified of rejection and yet another part longs for connection and intimacy. 

I am by far most natural and comfortable once I know someone. If I can ever get past the uncomfortable awkward stage people are quite surprised at how warm and engaging I am.  The real me is very different than the person you meet. So please know I completely understand how I am. I wish I were different, but it's a process and unfortunately for me it's a very slow process. I so badly want to change. In fact I constantly challenge myself to change. More and more I am able to allow the softer inner me be seen, but it's not consistent yet. Although I have made many radical changes I still have some work ahead of me. 

Next time you meet someone that confuses you try not to take the first impression as a lasting impression. Give the person the benefit of another try, maybe even four or five more tries. Please be open and try not to take their weirdness as a sign for how they feel about you, but rather how they feel about their self in that moment.