Have you ever stopped to think about it?
Generally speaking, you probably wouldn’t have, until you’ve been prompted to, like now. Generally speaking, it wouldn’t naturally occur to you, unless the change in behaviour was vastly different and / or the outcome was noticeably different to how it was before or how you would have expected it to be. It would have had to have been something big, impactful (is that even a word?), and any smaller change would be much easier to notice in others, rather than noticing it in yourself.
Noticing how we’ve grown… This very thing happened to me last week, and let me explain it and give it some context.
The before: I was never good in social situations where I didn’t know anyone. I’d be awkward on the inside and on the outside. I’d fumble, I’d fidget, I’d drop things and trip over my own feet. My nerves would get the better of me and it would take all my will power to stick it out and not just run and hide. It always felt like everyone was watching my every move and judging me. And this awkwardness and overall feeling of being extremely uncomfortable, would extend to situations where I’d have to dine alone at a restaurant or sit alone at a bar. Now, I’m talking about a time where carrying a mobile phone wasn’t a thing so you couldn’t use that as a distraction; If you wanted something to do alone, your options were to bring a notepad and pen (and just write) or bring a book to read.
But the other week, I put myself in a situation where I was at a social event alone and where I didn’t know anyone who’d be there. The kind of situation that would have terrified me previously. Crazy right? Why put yourself through something like that? Why arrange to be in a situation like that? Simple. I was tired of waiting for someone else to join me to do, see or go to things that I wanted to. I was tired of missing out on living for me.
Despite having a little part of me whisper negative thoughts in my ear, I mustered up my courage and determination and just went. Alone. I went with the intention of not worrying about whether I’d meet anyone to talk to, or if I’d just stand there and look around by myself. (Context: Art gallery event) I refused to worry about being judged for being there alone or standing too long in one spot. I wanted to go for me and the rest be damned.
The now: I’m not going to lie – I did feel a bit awkward. Everyone else seemed to have arrived with at least one person that they knew and were happily chatting away. I remember scanning the room and not recognising anyone. After checking in my coat, I went to the bar and grabbed a drink to sip on, so I didn’t look as awkward as I felt, and then proceeded to walk the room and do what I was there for: To look at the art and just immerse myself in it.
Yes, there were people who looked at me. And there were probably people that judged me. The difference now though, was that I didn’t care. People are going to judge you no matter what you do – whether it be right, wrong or indifferent. You’re going to be judged. But all these people were strangers and the chance of bumping into any of them again, would be rare. Not to mention that I now don’t see how the opinion of a stranger should matter to me, when it’s the opinion of myself that I carry with me every day, that really matters; That’s the one that I have to live with – not some passing opinionated moment.
And it was around then that I realised that I had grown up, changed and evolved.
I did meet a lot of people that night and when the expectation and judgement on yourself is removed, it’s easier to just talk to people and let the conversation flow. It’s easier just to be yourself and not worry about anyone else liking you or not. Everyone has the right to walk away from a dull conversation, myself included, and that attitude changed my night.
And would you believe that in the end, I had some people tell me how they envied me for looking so comfortable, being there by myself; That they’d wished that they could do the same. And so the conversations kept flowing.
So my words of wisdom here is to just do what you love and the rest be damned. You've learnt so much from everything you've been through that it's unlikely that you'll handle things the same as you did the last time. All those past events and situations where you walked away and thought "I should've said ..." or "I should have done ...". All of that changes how you will behave the next time something similar happens.
So don't deny yourself of experiences. If it's something you want to do (and it's not harming you or anyone else), then why not? Don’t wait for things to happen to you – go out and seek it for yourself. Don’t be so concerned with the opinions of those who you’ll likely never see again – be comfortable with who you are and who you see in the mirror every day. And awkward on the inside doesn’t equal awkward on the outside. Besides, we all get nervous and feel silly from time to time. It’s normal and natural, and it shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want to.