It’s pretty common to hear me say, “I don’t really want to go out tonight; I’m reading a good book,” or “I have to get up early tomorrow.” I’d rather spend the money on VIP passes instead of general admission to get out of the crowds, and when I do go out, I have actually shown up to bars before they open.
What’s unusual is that there’s not one person in my life that would label me as anti-social or introverted, so I initially thought this was a sign that I was “maturing.” But after thinking about my “old age” for a while, I had a flashback to when I wasn’t the coolest kid on the block.
Before and during college my idea of a great night was working out or catching up with a friend. Drinking was rare, and holding an interesting conversation with the “popular” crowd was beyond me. I didn’t really care to go out, and felt out of place in a crowd. I had a type of social anxiety. At that point in my life, I wasn’t happy with my situation. There was nothing wrong with not wanting to join the party, but I didn’t like that I wasn’t comfortable in those types of situations. Eventually, near the end of my freshman year of college, I decided to do something about it.
I don’t remember what I Googled, but it must have been something along the lines of, “how to make friends.” Funny, right? I assume that this is a unique reaction, but that should tell you how isolated and shunned I felt. To me, this was a logical step, and it was a moment that changed my life. I started devouring anything I could find on internal and interpersonal development, behavioral and social psychology. The most important step in my development was starting something that was pretty unnatural to me: I went out, a lot. When I said I went out, I don’t mean just on weekends, I was out every day and night, and when I wasn’t out I was journaling about being out. I was on a mission and my soul intention was to be as social and desirable as humanly possible. In time, after countless conversations and situations, I became pretty damn good. There was a point when I actually started being able to predict what other people were going to say. I knew that a minor facial expression was preempting a specific comment. I could see five minutes into a conversation. Up to that point it was the most empowering, satisfying, and intriguing time of my life.
The only reason I’m telling you all of this is because when I was the “psychic conversationalist” it wasn’t natural. I had to force myself to go out. I was not a natural social butterfly, and I never will be. At my core I will always be the guy that dislikes going to parties. Your natural state is comfort; it’s where you go when people say just be yourself. This state is a beautiful place to be in, but it’s also dangerous. It can hinder growth and limit you. There was a lot more I wanted to experience that my “old” natural state couldn’t provide. It’s just wasn’t within its capabilities, and I had to truly push myself to understand both sides.
Reflecting back on these moments revealed the truth about my current situation. I’m saying “old” things, because I’m finally exhausted from being someone I’m not. This has not been, and is not my natural self, and being unnatural takes a lot of energy. There’s a switch in all of us. Instead of “off” and “on,” it’s labeled “natural” or “unnatural.” This switch acts more like a scale. Your natural side starts off much heavier than the unnatural side. It has the weight of your whole life up to this point holding it down; if you want to create change, you need to place constant effort, or weight, into developing the unnatural side. The caveat to this is that it’s a constant uphill battle, because everything you do is filtered through your natural side first.
When it comes down to it, I’m not saying anything new. The idea of making discomfort your friend has been around in the self-help arena for ages. The epiphany for me, and what I would like to admit, is that I was using my age as an excuse for not wanting to be social. There lies the problem. The real reason for my anti-socialness lately is that I’m just not that social of a person, and if I start using what sounds like a viable excuse to stop being social because it’s more comfortable for me, I will start having a life similar to what I had Freshman year of college. So, what are you using as an excuse? What is holding you back from the life you want, and how badly do you want to change? Do you have the friends, relationships, career, and all the experiences you want? Most of time, if your answer is, “No,” it’s because you’re not willing to work outside of your natural state. The only way to be able to achieve what you want is to be uncomfortable and put forth the effort. It won’t be easy, it’s actually exhausting, but if you want change, that is where you will find it.
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