If you know anything about me, then you would know that I am a thinker. And often times, I tend to think- a lot. Overthinking, you could say. It’s both a blessing and a curse, having this tendency to over-analyze everything. For one thing, it helps me reflect and make careful decisions for the future. On the other hand, too much of it heightens my anxiety, especially when it comes to societal interactions.
I think this fear of socializing with people started at an early age: I had always been a reserved, even timid child, and had few close friends while growing up. It wasn’t until later in college, though, that my introverted personality kicked in, especially at large gatherings. I would prefer to engage with a small group of people, rather than a lot. I never know what to do with myself, what to say to others; having a fear of initializing conversation doesn’t help, either.
Now, this feeling never really bothered me too much back at school, where I was familiar with most people on campus. Yes, I still felt shy in public situations, but I didn’t feel the social anxiety as intense as it is now. I had my niche, my group of people to hang out with, and I was comfortable with that.
However, since moving to France, that feeling actually began to affect me. Living and teaching in an isolated town isn’t much help, either, as it only intensifies my anxiety. Being in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by people who are speaking in a different language other than what you are comfortable with speaking, and having assistant-friends live far away in the big city, well, it’s rough.
The weekend that I had returned from les vacances de Noël, I was going out of my mind. In my flat, in my small town, with nothing to do but think. Sometimes, I make the effort to take the bus to the city about 45 minutes away, but even when I did that that weekend, running into many of my students on the bus (and listening to them chatting and laughing- perhaps about me, perhaps not) just made me extremely uncomfortable. I remember trying to space out and pretending not to have seen them during the entire ride over.
Teaching at my two schools have also challenged me in terms of dealing with the public setting, of having to face my students, my colleagues, other staff members. Seriously, I would have intense anxiety the night before work, about the worse that could happen in the classroom setting. I always psych myself out, and really, it never really turns out that way in reality. I need to stop overthinking it, as I can’t control everything. Still, it’s a struggle…
I suppose that I do feel a little guilty feeling this way, as the people– staff and most students– have been nothing but kind to me and that I haven’t been exactly the warmest to them in return. Not always acknowledging them in passing and stuff like that. All of these intense, anxious feelings have caused me to build up a cold front, to protect myself from any bad thing coming my way.
…but it’s pointless, as it hasn’t really helped me at all. I realized that building up a front won’t get rid of my anxiety, but rather intensify it. And it certainly won’t help me avoid having to wake up and show myself to the school, to my small town.
I also think about what people think of me. Because of my behavior, I wonder if they think me strange (most likely), awkward (yes), and/or unfriendly (looks like it)? Then again, I can’t be too sure, as I am not them, and asking them would more than likely not yield an honest answer (“What do I think of you? Oh, you’re fine!”). It is when others talk about you that their actual opinions come out.
There’s three months left in France, and I am actually surprised that it’s going by so quickly. That means that I don’t have much time left for repairing what I’ve done- to myself, to others in my small town.
Then again, I think trying to completely change myself into a less introverted, less socially-anxious person in three months is impossible: not only have the people gotten used to my behavior, but also there is simply not enough time. That doesn’t mean that I won’t try to be a bit better; I’m starting to, anyway. Perhaps the next step for me is to forgive myself (the hardest part), and then move forward with small changes. Whether it’s making the effort to say “bonjour” and initiate small conversation with a staff member or being more proactive in the classroom with my students, these little things will make my experience, as well as perhaps the others’, a bit more brighter in the long run.
Just my thoughts for today, as I needed to get some difficult things off my chest, or rather off my mind. Things are already looking up, and the change is already happening. Little by little, every day.
— The Finicky Cynic
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