A wise person recently told me that ‘everyone has an interesting story to tell’.
It got me thinking, a lot. I can’t disagree with this theory at all. It’s more than a theory, it’s undoubtedly true. But the conversation that prompted that insight came from me acknowledging that I rarely, if ever, get talking to strangers – whether out in a bar, at a party or even out at the shops. I don’t necessarily mean starting a conversation but if someone tries to talk to me, I often don’t really respond beyond polite acknowledgement before high-tailing it out of the conversation, or bar, or area.
How many interesting stories have I missed out on in my life, simply because I haven’t taken the trouble to talk to someone I’ve not yet met?
When I was younger, I was quite introverted and wrapped up in my own little world. And actually, I’ve recently come to realise that I still am, a lot of the time. I came out of my shell a lot as a teenager, embracing dressing alternatively and growing my little circle of friends and acquaintances, but in recent years after going through some hard stuff, I think I’ve gone back into it… a little more each time I’ve been hurt. With friends (most of the time – see below), at work events (when I have to put on an ‘act’) and online, I’m fine. But put me in an unfamiliar social situation and I quite often am not.
Two separate people I am very close to recently told me, independently, that they often see me clam up and that I can be terribly hard work to talk to sometimes. That instead of interacting, I just sit wrapped up in my own thoughts and let them talk until they run out of steam (or give up on trying to get me to join in, whichever comes first). It sounds pretty exhausting, to be fair. I also occasionally get social anxiety that results in me sitting in a corner, trying and sometimes failing, not to cry/run away/both. And even when I’m not feeling anxious, I’m just not that great at making small talk with complete strangers or even casual acquaintances or friends of friends, often leading to people thinking I am unfriendly or aloof.
Or rather, they don’t think it. I probably am being unfriendly and aloof.
Sometimes it’s genuine shyness. And even when it isn’t, it’s not that I have the conscious thought that talking to a particular person doesn’t have any ‘value’ to me, but in hindsight it might well be that – I very often don’t talk to people who are much older, younger or just plain different to me as I think I won’t have anything interesting to say to them, or them to me. Or I’m scared they’ll think I’m a loser or a dork (which I am). And when I do get into an exchange with someone new, even if I think we could get on, I will likely guard my conversation for the same reasons, offering up very little of myself and thus not giving nor eliciting much information, probably putting off potential new friends or lovers in the process. And missing who-knows-how-many of the aforementioned interesting stories.
I did an experiment yesterday and made conversation with a random middle-aged man at a swimming pool. He turned out to be a fencer. I need my fence fixing. I took his details and will now get a good deal on some fencing (cash job, innit). OK, it’s not an ‘interesting’ outcome, but it’s a bloody useful one!
I know without any doubt that I want and need to change myself for the better. I am carrying around a lot of baggage from life events over the last couple of years and I’ve no doubt at all that said baggage has had an adverse effect on my behaviour and thus my life, perpetuating the baggage. It’s like an M. C. Escher infinity of baggage. Now the word baggage looks weird. Anyway!
People can’t alter their personalities easily but I planned to be a better me this year. On the more superficial side, I’ve lost 7lbs (must do an update on my blog about health from a while back!) and got back into running recently. I’ve bought some new (and new vintage) clothes for the first time in ages. But most crucially, I’ve made an appointment with a very highly-recommended lady who will hopefully help me talk through my fears and unpick a brand new me from the tangle of the old one. A phoenix from the ashes of my old self. Or a butterfly from the chrysalis of the person I can be. Let’s see where it takes me.
I know this is meant to be a blog about vintage and I don’t often go too much into my personal life, but I just felt I had something a bit different to say today. I would love to hear any stories or anecdotes about psychotherapy from any of you readers out there as it’s something that holds much more stigma in the UK than it does in, say, the US, where it seems as normal as going to the dentist. I’m scared but I’m also excited.
Are you strangely reluctant to chat to strangers and sometimes even your own friends or family!? I’m sure it can’t be just me.