I like to think that I am easy enough to get along with and that I can carry on a conversation pretty well. Mind you, this has come after years of practice and awkward pauses in conversations. When I was a teenager, if I was forced to talk to strangers (because for some reason grown-ups love introducing teenagers to strangers) I’d start having an internal panic attack, screaming and crying in my head and wishing that someone would get me out of this situation.
Nowadays I can pretty much carry a conversation just fine and if a topic is all talked out I can change the topic to something else of interest fairly quickly, but even now there are times when I just run out of things to talk about. What’s worse is I feel this crushing need to fill the silence, it’s like a voice is talking in the back of my head saying, “What are you doing just standing there like a weirdo? Say something you fool.”
And then I start talking back to it and a little fight/conversation is going on in my head, “But what should I talk about?”
“I don’t know, try talking about the weather?”
“That’s lame and so cliché, besides the weather never changes.”
“Okay then how about their shoes?”
“Their shoes? Do you think I’m into fashion? I don’t know the first thing about shoes.”
“You could just tell them that you like their shoes.”
“What if they reply that they don’t actually like them and the only reason they wore them today is because they had nothing else?”
“Oh for the love of, just say something you idiot!”
I basically feel like it’s my fault that we’re not talking. Like I did or am doing something wrong and that’s why they aren’t trying to talk to me. It sounds absolutely stupid I know, but that’s how it feels, that’s how I feel. I end up putting a lot of pressure on myself even though there is nothing to feel pressured about, but that won’t stop me.
The worst part is, afterwards I start thinking about what I did wrong, analyse the encounter in my head, trying to think of what I could have done differently. You’d think that it would be a good way to learn and do better next time, but it’s a fruitless exercise for me, I don’t really learn. I just scold myself for not noticing something or not doing something different.
My biggest problem is relaxing around strangers; as I said before I feel responsible for the situation, and get wrapped up in trying to figure out what my role is and to carry it out. I often feel sad when I see other strangers talking to each other normally, wishing I could be like that. I know I should accept myself for who I am, shortcomings and all, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing I could be a better person than I am.
There is a silver lining in all this; despite my shortcomings I am better at conversations than I was before and I am able to relax myself around strangers a lot faster than before. Still, I do stumble now and then so I still have a long way to go. Wish me luck.