morbidly awkward

Following up on something in a previous post: my severe lack of self-esteem makes it difficult to socialize on a normal level.

I don’t feel like I have anything to give another person, whether as a friend or a casual acquaintance. I don’t think other people are interested in being around me, and if I try I feel like they are actually repulsed somehow by my attempt to interact with them. I am not interesting, I lose track of conversations, I have a hard time listening, and when I do say something it usually comes out wrong, and I feel stupid as a result. This effect gets worse in proportion to how much I would like to have a conversation with someone (which is rarely the case, but it happens).

I am terribly awkward at making conversation because I am overwhelmed while the other person is talking; my brain is working on so many different levels that I find it hard to keep up. I am trying to figure out something to say while wondering if I look ignorant, or I’m thinking about the stain on my shirt, or remembering the idiotic thing I said last time I talked to the person. In the meantime I have lost track of what the person was actually saying, then I feel stupid for not paying attention to the other person. This reinforces my fear of social interaction, and the next time is no better.

I dread interacting with people at the store or at restaurants, because people are only being friendly because it is required by their job. I loathe buying something where you have to talk to a salesperson, because I know I will get overwhelmed no matter how much I have prepared beforehand; internet shopping and the drive-thru window were made for me. I hate having to call people and talk to them for any personal or office business, because I am self-conscious about my voice and I always seem to stumble over my words. I could be dying and on the phone with 911, and I would be worried more about my side of the conversation than about the compound fracture in my leg.

The end result of all this is that I try to avoid dealing with people whenever possible. Talking to people exhausts me, not because I don’t like people (and I don’t like most people), but because I don’t really value myself. My negativity gets in the way of being an equal participant in social interactions. This gets worse as I get older and I become less confident in my ability to relate to people.

The only exception to this rule is at work, on the rare occasions where I really know what I am talking about, and I find that I can contribute intelligently to the conversation. This doesn’t happen often, but sometimes it surprises me. Last week I had a snap meeting which I unexpectedly was in charge of, and had no time to prepare for, but everything worked out okay. I answered everyone’s questions reasonably well, and I didn’t feel like a failure afterward.