15 Days of Social Discomfort: Day 3. Nodding like a king

If you have a great style (or pretty girlfriend, or swaggering walk) and some dude with a creepy grin noded at you – that dude was me. And the nod was meant as a sign of approval. But let’s start from the beginnig.

It’s 1:45 pm. I have just exited my train and as I’m making my way outside the railway station, I am becoming increasingly anxious. Of what? No idea. Because I didn’t have a goal today. So, what do I do? After walking around and beating some people in the eye contact game, I decide to stand down right in the middle of a busy pedestrian area. It feels awkward as hell, hence I judge I’m on to something and stay where I am. However, there’s actually not as many people passing as I thought. I’m getting bored. So I search for an even more crowded spot.

And I discover something: There aren’t actually as many people in one place as it looks like from afar. Nonetheless, I want to do it anyway. This time, I lean onto a wall across a Douglas store and just look at the passersby. What makes this so awkward is the Douglas store: I feel like a stalker, and I pity the poor clerks who must by this point be about to call the police to remove me. Isn’t it amazing how quickly our superego comes up with rationalizations en masse as soon as you take a tiny step outside your comfort zone, effectively threatening that mofo?

At 2 pm, I’m starting to feel uncomfortable just from the presence of all the people around me. I expected that – I’m an introvert – and note that this is where the mental muscle is built. So, I start going around and looking at the people like I’m their king: kindly and into as many faces as possible. I’m starting to feel really good about myself. I’m starting to enter some kind of mental zone. I smile ruthlessly, because I’m having a damn good time.

2:40 pm. Time for an almond break. I read some Reddit posts on approaching strangers (the end goal, after all), but that only increases my disinclination toward it. At 3:10 pm, I’m starting my king exercise again. Leaving a mall, I see a man pushing a buggy and instinctively hold open the door for him (which he doesn’t need, because he decides to wait for someone inside). I’m in thriving mode.

To entertain (and feed) myself, I’m throwing almonds in the air and catch them with my mouth. I would my feeling doing it as stage fright – but regardless, I hit 90%. I’m having fun. The rest doesn’t matter so much. But still, I have goals: approaching. So, I start looking for some lone girl in a quiet place. Of course, I don’t find her. This will have to be awkward for me. I will get rejected. Fuck it. That’s the whole point.

Side note: As always, I meet some ladies giving away their jesus brochures. These guys seem to follow me everywhere. Seriously, it’s frightening. I smile and shake my head at them.

Reaching 3:40 pm, looking at people is getting really challenging – but, to bring another muscle training analogy: The first reps are over. Now it’s time to grind through the ones that hurt. The ones that really tear your muscle fibers down so they will grow. So, I push myself to continue and start nodding at some people whose style (or girlfriends) I like. They nod back. It feels weird, but effortless – natural. It’s almost as if I’m unlocking something inside me. I certainly like to think of it that way. As I’m entering a metro back to the central station, I notice how few people in there even bother to hold eye contact with me: procisely none. They are so shy. I think they would welcome everyone taking the burden af approaching, of talking – of leading – away from them.

Soooo… I didn’t do some heroic leaps outside my comfort zone. But I got comfortable holding eye contact, I got into a feel-good zone, and I even made the first steps toward interaction through my nodding. I think this is much more long-lasting than going out of my way and completely burning myself – believe me, I’m destroyed enough. Once I have listened to some music and podcasts, I arrived at my worst: Being in my head, wondering whether that girl there is signaling me to approach her for five minutes, needing ten attempts for a somewhat comprehensible voice message to a friend. That’s the torn-apart muscle fibers. It’s painful – and thus a clear sign that I’m making progress.

Time for some bratwurst and TV.



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