I find myself somewhere along the middle. Not sitting comfortably nor squirming in my seat either, exactly somewhere in the centre. Sometimes I am content with that and other times I find it very strange in itself. Either way, I am in it and experiencing it continuously.
There are various aspects to it that I am not aware of. However, one thing I am sure of is that I am definitely one in millions of people feeling similar emotions when it comes to part-taking in society, communicating and exchanging with the world around us.
The locked-down self
Being in lockdown for a while, the way we interact with the world has changed for a lot of us but nonetheless is still a vital part of our functioning, whether we dread or enjoy it. Some days we may feel different when it comes to responding to WhatsApp’s and other days, we may feel like completely switching everything off and grounding ourselves or even not engaging in any activity at all. Mentally and/or physically.
As people, we are constantly engaging with others whether this be face to face contact, through social media or over the phone. From the minute we wake up all the way until we call it a day. Then, there is the whole concept of ‘are you an introvert or an extrovert’? Do you prefer keeping to yourself and staying cosy at home or do you flourish when surrounded by others in a busier environment? Does socialising exhaust you or does it boost your mood in a positive manner? The questions are endless; we all feel differently when it comes to the outside world.
As someone who has suffered with anxiety since a young age, I have had my fair share of over-socialising and isolating myself for months at a time. I tend to find that there is no balance for this when it comes to my personal experience with it. I either attend loads of events where I find myself forming loads of connections and chatting all night or I find myself disassociating from reality and hiding away feeling entirely overwhelmed.
I definitely lean towards the introvert side, but am able to communicate well with society when necessary. I do find most interactions draining and stressful. However, I understand it’s an essential part of our being. I always have to mentally prepare myself in advance before meeting up with friends or going on a night out and I tend to feel really fatigued after each venture out of my home. If someone was to ask me whether I prefer being indoors with my phone or physically going elsewhere, I would certainly pick the first option although sometimes, I am aware that this isn’t the possible option.
There’s no single ‘me’
It’s quite striking as most of my friends see me as this confident, outgoing, full-of-energy type of person who knows how to talk to strangers and shake the room with laughter, but this is a very small fraction of who and how I actually am. The majority of me is reserved, anxious and would rather stay in my comfort zone which is the cosy room I have crafted for myself at home.
In regards to traveling on public transport, I hate every minute of it. Trains are a no go for me in most situations, especially when you are sat facing all the other commuters. I never know where to look and spend way too much time analysing whether the rest of the carriage has noticed how uncomfortable I feel. When taking a bus, I feel a little more at ease as the seats go in twos and usually my face warns people off from sitting close. Not only that, but there are more options for seating too. When taking the bus, I always aim to sit at the back so that I can keep an eye on the other passengers in front and I know no one can come into my personal space without me being able to prevent it first. It may sound crazy but these are the little details I find myself paying attention to.
When going shopping I tend to go for self-checkouts where possible, prior to Corona. Most of the time, I like to minimise my interactions in public wherever I can. This being said, I am not actually an antisocial person. For instance, I know how to lead my conversations in a way that cancels out any small talk (unless I am in the mood for it) and get straight to the point.
Living in various locations throughout my life I have concluded that participating in society isn’t really a choice but a necessity. Whether it makes me comfortable or not, it is something that has to be done. Being equipped with decent people skills is something I do pride myself on, as much as I like hiding at home. I like to think that I am capable of partaking in society as well as being aware of how it impacts and influences me.
The starting point for most things or concepts is being aware first. Once you know how you react to specific situations and people, you will be able to control how you feel with a firmer grip. I am still learning and so are you.
Switch off your phone for the whole day if that brings you a sense of calmness. FaceTime your close ones if that makes you feel less alone. Go to that show you’ve had your eyes set on for a while, you might meet some sound people with similar perspectives and ideas. Cancel that birthday dinner you’ve been gearing yourself up to go to if you’re not feeling it.
My main slice of advice is DO NOT force anything. Do not force yourself to cater to other people’s needs if you are feeling burnt out. I know that a lot of the time I’ll be on the phone to a friend for 2 hours at a time, listening and advising them on whatever is going on for them. And frankly, a lot of the time I’ll feel completely knackered by the end of it; often annoyed that I didn’t say something or excuse myself earlier.
You’re in control
As much as I find pleasure in helping others and comforting them, I need to remind myself that I am number one. Instead of responding to all my direct messages after already having an energy sucking day, I should simply put my phone in the drawer and leave it. But I won’t due to the pressure of ‘you are confined to your home so why don’t you respond, I mean, what else are you doing?’. This is an unhealthy practice I partake in generously and am still working on not to do.
Throughout this lockdown I have been emphasising on not giving in to this consistent pressure to be there for everyone and reply to everything. The message I leave you with after this article is to be conscious of how you distribute your energy. Do not feel the need to respond instantly when you pick up your phone if it leaves you with a headache. Do not go to the gathering in the park just because you feel like you have to show your face. Take your time when communicating with others and stop apologising for it.
A lot of us forget that we are the base of the equation. We are the energy point. If you constantly dim yourself down to please others, you will be left with a minimised version of yourself and you definitely don’t deserve that. That is the bare minimum. If you are so focused on providing your mind and hand to others, you too deserve that fully charged version of yourself. Recall this when you hit the point of exhaustion. You deserve that radiance you give, not just the pieces you have to revive after any interaction.