Getting out of my ‘social comfort zone’

I am a strange individual. Introverted, yet I can be outgoing in the right environment, and with the right people.

In fact, around other people, I tend to ‘warm up’ and become increasingly sociable – and sometimes a bit hyper/over-the-top even. That’s when the people-pleaser and entertain steps in.

“Mate, there’s no way you’re an introvert”, a colleague – and my eventual manager – in my previous sales job told me. Working in an open-plan office, in a job where I was interacting all day long, I was a pretty chatty guy. Certainly not quiet, or shy, or anxious. An anti-hermit, if you will.

And yet, it’s only when I’ve stepped away from an office environment and that role (three years ago) that I’ve realised how socially anxious I can be.

It’s almost like I’m two different people (hey, I am a gemini, after all). It’s taken me this long to realise that I experience social anxiety. There’s a few specific things I’ve noticed.

For example, scenario 1: spending the whole day indoors just in my own company = bad idea. Doing that for a couple of days straight, or more, in a row? Even worse. In fact, the longer I remain in my own space, the more low/depressed/generally sh*tty I begin to feel. I start to overthink things, catastrophize, worry, all that stuff. Also, it becomes much harder to re-integrate and feel comfortable in the world again e.g. at the gym, in the supermarket, even with friends.

For me, the trick is to exercise self-care by both respecting my introversion/need to be in my own space, but also make sure that I get out and about, even if it’s only for a walk or to the gym. This is especially crucial whilst I’m not currently working. Exercise and sleep are also really helpful to my mood. I’ve been to the gym 5 days in a row at time of writing, and I’ve noticed the effect on my mood, and the momentum that builds from this continuity.

In a recent post, I wrote how I went to sleep feeling in a social mood after spending an evening with my parents, only to then wake up feeling not so up for it. (Side note: there’s something about mornings; at the start of each morning in my 5 years of sales, I always experienced anxiety at the start of the day before that first phone call or meeting, and then it would ease up as they day progressed – again, social anxiety also having an impact here).

I’m pleased to say that I got to the gym in the earn afternoon, and Whatsapped Mate P to ask if he was there and wanted to train (he happens to work at the gym, and often finishes his shift in the early pm and does a workout). As it turns out, I’d just missed him. However, I took it upon myself – before he’d responded – to ask one of the other Personal Trainers when I’d got there if she knew if he was still around or not. She said she’d check the rota for me, and after I’d finished warming up on the treadmill I walked past her and let her know he’d got back to me, and to say thanks anyway for checking the rota. She commented, kinda surprised, that he wasn’t going to be in until Tuesday; I said that I knew he had kids, aka was just a part-timer! She laughed and I carried on with my workout.

Later, I was getting some boxing gloves on for the punch-bag, and she was by the equipment getting something for the client she was training; she commented on the snow outside, and we made some brief, light conversation.

She’d actually come across as quite shy when I’d spoken to her for the first time earlier (though I am kinda grumpy at the gym / avoid people) – I took this follow-up as a good sign. Maybe she was just being polite as I happened to be there. I actually ended up walking past her again, and would’ve said a quick bye/“have a good weekend’ had she not been in the middle of doing some ab-work. I’ve found out, the hard way, that the longer you leave it before chatting again, the harder it gets! (See the ‘Cute gym girl’ post; btw, she was working out with another dude this week, who was showing her the ropes! He seems like a nice guy though, and the vibe I got between them was totally platonic #allgood).

And then, another girl who works in Reception at the gym was looking for one of the Personal Trainers, and I stopped her and asked if she was looking for the PT I’d seen just a moment ago. She wasn’t, but I was on a roll here. I’m usually a grumpy lil f*cker in the gym (there’s also another reason for this – aka “the incident at the gym” – future post on this to come).

After my workout, in the car driving to the supermarket, I then took my own advice following my ‘Phone calls vs Whatsapp’ post – and gave Mate P a call! An actual phone call. I’d followed up our Whatsapp chat earlier and asked if he was watching the boxing the next day; we made tentative plans to watch it together (weather-dependent, due to the snow, and also his car’s been playing up with the cold weather). It’ll be cool whether this ends up happening or not (update: it didn’t, but I wasn’t feeling it on the day, anyway! #classicme). This was actually the first time we’d spoke since our night out, so it was good to catch up.

As a guy who barely says a word at the gym or makes phone calls, I’d ridden the way, kept building momentum, and just went went for it. I’ve been feeling pretty good this week (at time of writing) – partly due to the gym, but also as I’ve felt productive, doing small daily tasks to keep me on track with job applications (I applied to 3 this week – at time of writing), and with the blog.

I’m still learning, as always. But I know that, for me, it’s striking that balance between my solo-/down-time and interacting with others (the right people) – whilst not going into entertainer/pleaser-mode and feeling like I’m going over-the-top and not being myself.

I just need to be conscious of this. Onwards.

✏ Written: Friday, 2nd March 2018 @ 9.48pm

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What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Where do you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum? Are you a hermit or a social-ite? Do you need to warm-up or dive straight in? Let me know in the comments below! 💙

8 thoughts on “Getting out of my ‘social comfort zone’

  1. Gosh, this reminded me of how difficult my worst introvert moments were! At the same time I feel like being introvert is a blessing in disguise because it definitely helped me figure out who were the true people who cared about me, in my life. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thanks for sharing. I find that many people think if you are chatty or even a little social, you can’t be an introvert. Whereas it’s like you say, in the right mood, the right crowd, we aren’t always shy and withdrawn. It just means that sometimes we need that quiet time, we need to decompress.

    I think you did great pushing out of your comfort zone. As they say, life begins outside of your comfort zone and it’s always beneficial to keep up the momentum when it hits.

    I am actually extremely introverted and with a hearty dollop of severe anxiety to boot. Thankfully my closest friends understand me and so while they will invite me to things, knowing full well I will 98% of the time decline, they do always ask just in case they hit me on that 2% social mood.

    While I’m at the hermit end of the spectrum, I am aware of how important connections are and starting my blog helped me to develop them.

    I’ve also been pushing my own boundaries a lot more. Including reaching out to people online (terrifying, but I’m getting better), moving to another country (beyond terrifying) and earlier this year I even did an audio interview with a friend and blogger. Something I would never have considered before.

    Needing our own space vs experiencing painful loneliness is where we can sometimes find ourselves.
    I think we always need to press those boundaries because otherwise, they will constrict around us.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m an introvert for sure and far more comfortable in this than I used to be. I love time to myself, my default position. But I have a social side that comes out and surprises me, and like you I can go a bit over the top. But I’ve been cultivating a circle of very good friends, where respective acceptance is key and I’m enjoying this immensely. So I can go two or three days alone, but then I’m itching to meet and chat with one of these lovely people for quality socialising, and that’s probably the key thing – it has to be of a certain quality beneath surface chit chat or small talk …these days, I won’t put myself out for small talk, I steer well clear with no hesitation! Lovely post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds like we are very similar! I *love* my downtime, but too long without interaction isn’t a good thing for me. It even helps to be in a coffee shop/environment with others around me, even if we’re not talking! Quality is a *big* thing for me. Such a balancing act for me. When I get in “social” mode I can go over-the-top, and forget about the basics like eating properly(!) and jump into a bunch of things. I need to push myself and reign myself in… it’s just about knowing when to do which!

      Liked by 1 person

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