by S.D. Grimm
I’m not particularly noticeable. I’ve been thought of as standoffish and snobby by people who didn’t know me yet. I’ve been the person no one in the room wants to get to know. I’m often the person no one remembers seeing even though I was there. The first to leave. Invisible. Quiet. Elusive.
It’s not that I dislike people.
It’s not that I want to hide from conversations, either.
In fact I love to sit down and talk to people about deep, soul-searching things. I cherish my friendships and desire to be able to be myself in social situations.
It’s just that social situations are terrifying. Talking to people on the phone? Rare form of torture. Being called out as the center of attention? The stuff of nightmares. The thought of being tossed into a room filled with strangers and being told to mingle? Enough to keep me at home huddled in my zombie-apocalypse room.
Talking one-on-one with someone about things that have nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with revealing something personal, be it a deep-seeded emotion or favorite comic book character or greatest fear or anything Star Wars related? My idea of awesome. Getting to know a small group of people with whom I think there’s a real possibility of cultivating friendships? One of my favorite things. Hanging out with people I’m already friends with so I can be my crazy, witty, shy, adorably awkward self? Heaven on earth.
Recently I was invited to hang out with some friends, who I am just getting to know. Excitement and anxiety started to mix in a dangerous concoction. What starts out as “Yes! People actually like me!” “I wasn’t completely awkward,” and “I managed not to accidentally tell them to ‘back off’ with a look.” Turns quickly into, “But what if they hate me?” “What if they didn’t really want to invite me, but I was just there?” Or “What if this is some long, drawn-out prank to get me to go meet them and then no one else shows up?” “What if they change the time and then forget to tell me because they don’t even remember inviting me in the first place?”
You can laugh. It’s okay. But you should also know that these thoughts (and more) literally crossed my mind. Not in a funny way, either. Looking back, I can sort of laugh at myself and at least think “why would you go there?” In reality, these thoughts put me in a serious state of panic.
I almost stood them up because I thought no one would notice anyway.
For me, starting a friendship is something that not only terrifies me, but is also something I crave. I LOVE my friends. I wish they knew how much they meant to me. And yet, I have to conquer stupid fears and sometimes crippling doubts to believe that my friends like me too.
That got me thinking.
It does matter to me what the people I like think to some degree. I mean, I value their thoughts and opinions. On the other hand, my friendships aren’t just about what they think of me. It’s a give-and-take relationship. I make them feel loved and appreciated. They do the same to me. So … that means even if I’m scared, even if I’m anxious, even if I think an actual invite to hang out could be a ploy to make me feel stupid, I have a choice to make:
I can let fear win.
Or I can let my friendship win.
And when I choose to let my friendship win, guess who benefits? My friends. (Me too, actually!) But that’s what matters: that my friends feel the love and appreciation. Knowing that in my head helps me when the fear grips. Allowing myself to believe that other people could actually be interested in the shy wallflower helps me to take those brave steps forward.
And that’s what life is about, isn’t it? Taking brave steps forward? Because, yeah, bad things could happen. But so could good things.
That’s the risk of bravery. I saw this quote on a meme about being brave: Sometimes the fear won’t go away, so you have to do it afraid. And that spoke to me.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t still have thoughts of relationship sabotage or that I won’t be afraid and stand off to the side when the room is full. It doesn’t stop me from sometimes sneaking to the next aisle at the grocery store when I see someone who might know me, or slow my heart from racing when the phone rings. But it does allow me to stop and think. To make deliberate choices.
So maybe I should title this Confessions of a Braver Wallflower. Because every day that’s what I strive to be. Braver.
But remember, you can’t call it bravery unless you’re pushing through fear.
S. D. Grimm’s first love in writing is young adult fantasy and science fiction—everything from urban fantasy to superheroes. Her office is anywhere she can curl up with her laptop and at least one large-sized dog. You can learn more about her, her debut novel Scarlet Moon, and her upcoming books at www.sdgrimm.com