From an Observer to a Participant in Life

As much as I tend to liken myself to a bit of an antisocial hermit, I do enjoy an outing into the general public from time to time. Occasionally, I find myself showing signs of stir-craziness and force myself to get out there in the world, even when my thoughts do their best to convince me to stay home. I still have a long way to go before I'm completely comfortable in social settings, but the point is, I'm getting there.

It's been said that everyone's doubtful, negative voice in their head is the ego; basically, the part of your consciousness that is incredibly concerned with keeping up appearances. This probably won't work for everyone, but I basically treat the ego's “negative self-talk” like a pushy salesman. When politely hinting they should go away doesn't work, I give them a look that assures them they're pissing me off. I'm rather large and don't smile much, so I use these traits to my advantage. However, I haven't figured out how to mean-mug the intangible yet.

Currently, the best way for me to silence my inner-naysayer is to yell at it, but I'm sure I'll refine my approach one day. Frankly, I'm just happy that I'm figuring out how to assert control over the situation. Mind you, all this is just for me to get out of the house. The ego bombards me with everything that could possibly go wrong or cause me some sort of crippling embarrassment and more often than not, my response is simple, yet effective.

“Don't care.” Granted, I get a bit more profane depending on my mood that day, but the brunt of it is the theoretically simple act of not caring. I wasn't sure how to approach it at first, but like with most things, the best way to learn is to give it a try and fail a whole lot. Realizing that everyone else is too busy worrying about their own insecurities to notice yours was helpful as well. Not to say that I don't still feel awkward when I run out of things to say or get a little embarrassed when someone doesn't remember me or vice versa, but I am laughing about these things much faster and easier.

Meeting and even just observing how people act is a continuing source of inspiration for me, it's really a shame that I haven't made an effort to go out more often a lot sooner. I highly doubt I'll ever be one of the people smiling and dancing up front, but it's a relief to know that I didn't turn out to be a belligerent, mean-spirited person; or worse yet, an idiot. Out in the world, I see every kind of person imaginable and I like to think it's good for me, even though sometimes they make me angry.

I force myself into uncomfortable situations because I doubt I can figure life out by reading a bunch of blogs or taking online seminars. In fact, I may never figure it out at all, but a good start in the right direction has been going out amongst the masses. The very same masses that I've spent the majority of my life trying to avoid. It sucks when you're there for the rough bits, like arguments or ignorant, hurtful “jokes”, but you've got to take the good with the bad as they say. I'm learning to view everything and everyone as potential learning tools, it makes even the worst people seem a little more useful.

If you see me out in the world, I may not say a word. I might stand in the corner by myself and avoid eye contact with everyone, only looking up to see where I placed my beer. It's entirely possible that I'll say something really stupid or laugh at the wrong time, but I won't be the first or only one and eventually no one will remember anyway. The important part is making the effort to change and open yourself to new experiences. There's a time to “people watch” and there's a time to get out there and just live; that time is now.

As trite as it may sound, the main thing people will remember about you is how you treated others. Your most embarrassing moments are nothing more than fodder for an occasional story at a party. Even if friends share a few light-hearted laughs at your expense, it doesn't matter in the bigger picture. I can assure you that you don't want to look back at any moment in your life and wonder if you should have relaxed and let go of your inhibitions a little. No great story ever began with “I decided to play it safe” so I propose abandoning your comfort zone immediately.

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