15 Days of Social Discomfort: Day 1

Man, this was scary. And I have to admit, I kinda chickened out. But let’s get specific.

I arrive in Hanover (the closest city to me) by 1:30 pm. As my train is approaching its destination, I’m starting to get nervous. This is gonna be hard. But I must not worry – I will only make eye contact with people today.

The first of many realizations is that few people look back at me for longer than a second. Also, I have to stop counting because most people don’t look directly into my eyes. After about fifteen minutes, it hasn’t gotten any better and I’ve only had the pleasure of directly looking into the eyes of about half a dozen people. A possible reason that comes to my mind is that this is Hanover – the people from Lower Saxony are exceptionally shy (my opinion as someone who’s not from here). And apart from that, I don’t want to do laps through the pedestrian zone. Thus, I head for a mall.

On the way there I’m caught off-guard by someone trying to convince me of what I’m sure would be a noble cause – however, as a student I am af no use for him. The guy is friendly and I make a face. I’m feeling peaceful inside, but I often don’t bring that across, especially when off my guard like here.

Searching for a place to sit that offers both comfort and a straight view on as many people as possible, I make a few observations regarding my behavior:

  • I am really intimidated by girls of any sort, not only the ones I find attractive. My reaction to them is often a) making a serious face when I’m attracted and b) making a disgusted face when I’m not attracted… or c) looking away and trying to force myself to take another look because we haven’t had eye contact.
  • I am afraid of judgment, and that increases in large crowds: I am afraid to even whistle here.
  • when I’m in an uncomfortable/tense sitting position, people react less positively. I am convinced that my seeming discomfort makes them feel the same.
  • My mind often comes up with things like “it’s gonna scare him/her” (especially with children, mid-age women) or “it’s gonna be awkward for them” (especially for girls in groups or with a parent).

Time for a break now. I head back to the train station and catch a girl smiling at me – however, I ain’t here for approaching today, says my brain. I buy a new pencil and find a good spot to read my WhatsApp messages. That’s something I only do in the face of severe boredom and thus a sign to me to take a real break because after 45 minutes of intimidating people, I’m tired.

Now whistling and clapping from time to time, I start to enjoy myself. Passing by some girls (ignored them, I tell myself it’s time for a break), one of them starts clapping too. The thought process that ensues goes like this:

  1. “Oh shit, gotta show her my approval”
  2. “If I turn around and shout, my voice will sound meek”
  3. “Let’s instead give a thumbs-up and smile”

This process takes me a split second – it was as if my thinking pace sped up tenfold for a second. I turn around, smile, and give her a flicked thumbs-up.

When chilling in a park now, I get pretty psyched up to make an approach – there’s just no girl. This wouldn’t be hard if I stayed if I sought out my comfort zone, and that’s what this is. So, I head back toward the pedestrian zone.

Something I also get today is hostile reactions – guys staring at me threateningly or telling me to shut up (fuck you! I whistle when I want to). That’s tho nature of the game. There’s just people who are like this, and I can amuse myself about that fact.

Now on my way back to the train station, I try to psych myself up for laying down on the floor – but I’m overwhelmed by my fear. Nothing more happens today, because I leave it at two hours of intimidating people (I think I smiled at two – but the nonhostile people just wouldn’t make eye contact) and head home for grocery shopping.

An interesting discovery I made there: I have a frohnatur inside, and I think I can most easily activate by just shouting a loud salute at people – those tend to sound the least hostile. I think the other resolutions are obvious: Fuck my fear and do some more comfort zone challenges (although whistling and clapping were a good start), make sure I’m warmed up and amusing myself before trying to go crazy (this really is much like muscle training!), and going on a little longer – although that should be no problem, because I will have more than two hours of effective training time the next time I go to the city.

However, that will be a few days from now. Can’t ignore my family’s holiday planning. Thus, my friend, we shall leave it at today’s insights and go all-out next time – I didn’t even feel the fear make me shiver today.

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