Catch-22

…a commodity that enters a person spiritually but that is a physical need: Without this invisible substance, a person will literally die. What could this be? It is the esteem of other people.

Daniel Lapin

As I alluded to in an earlier post, I’ve been told by more than one person that generally, people want to spend time with someone who is confident and has plenty of self-esteem. That’s all well and good, but where does that come from? Lapin suggests, …self-esteem is what you try to gain when you haven’t achieved anything and thus don’t deserve any self-respect. If we accept that, then it would mean people who are full of self-esteem really don’t have any reason for it, and that certainly can’t be good. While I’m sure there are people out there who are filled with a baseless sense of ego, I get a feeling that a larger portion of the population isn’t brimming with self-esteem, but with confidence.

Where does this confidence come from? In almost every sense it comes from accomplishing something. You become confident in your ability to not burn dinner by the smoke alarm not going off or in your ability to drive a car with a manual transmission by not stalling at every stop sign. Where does confidence in social situations derive from? From having successful interactions in the past.

I find myself in an odd situation. When it comes to interaction I am apparently the exact opposite of just about anyone I know. I can give a speech to hundreds of people, lead a meeting with high powered movers and shakers or teach a class on a subject I learned just an hour beforehand with ease, but if you put me in a social situation where I’ve got to introduce myself or make small talk I can’t do it. I freeze, clam up, whatever you’d like to call it, I just can’t do it. The good part is that I know why. The bad part is that I’m not sure how to fix it.

I don’t aspire to be The Most Interesting Man In The World but when talking with new people, or heck, even with people I’ve known for years, it seems like they really don’t want me around, that they’re merely tolerating my presence. Identifying that as the reason for my unease, I was again told that maybe I’m just reading people wrong and that just like anything else, the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. I’ve certainly attended various social events over the years, but they never get any easier. I still get the “you just stepped on my cat” look when I attempt to introduce myself or join a conversation, and from what I’m told it’s because people can immediately see that I’m nervous. What am I nervous about? Nothing. I’m terrified of what the other person will think of me.

This is where I find my Catch-22. I’ve got low confidence because no one wants to talk with me or spend time with me, and the reason that no one wants to spend time with me is because I don’t appear confident. Going out alone has proven ineffective. Trust me, I’ve tried it and asking others to do something is either met with being flat out ignored or told that they’re working, really can’t get out, or just want to stay home tonight. Those same people then go about their business and proceed to tweet or update Facebook with how they’re out doing something with friends and having a great time. If it was a once in a while occurrence it would be easy to overlook, but it pretty much happens all the time. I’ve more or less given up on people asking me to join them for social activities. While it happens once in a blue moon, most of the time when I hear from someone it’s because they broke something and want me to fix it.

My pursuit of esteem has led me to try doing things in order to get others to think more of me, but in the end it’s always backfired. I’ve never compromised my morals, but doing things that just weren’t “me” left me feeling cheap and no closer to making a real friend than when I started. I can’t say that I’ve completely lost hope, but for the past few years I have decided to take a different tack. Instead of compromising my self-respect by trying to conform to what I believe others would like I’ve been working on making myself and the world around me better. Apparently it hasn’t been enough to make others think highly enough of me to want to spend time with me, but at least I’m not just sitting on my butt doing nothing.

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