Everyone has a list of things they’re afraid of. For me, I have a fear of creepy dark spaces (mostly due to watching too many Criminal Minds episodes in college), bungee jumping, huge cockroaches, and meeting new people. Some of these fears seem pretty legit. I mean, have you SEEN those African cockroaches?! Oh my gosh, they’re disgusting. And I’m pretty sure they’re indestructible which just worsens the situation. Bungee jumping just freaks me out completely. I’ve canyon jumped in Switzerland and it was amazing/terrifying/best experience ever but the whole being dropped while attached only by your feet and elastic thing is what makes me say ‘HELL no’.
Meeting new people, though, is a little different than those fears. It’s a little less rational because it’s harder to pin point exactly what scares me about it. I get panicky and nervous and sometimes want to skip the whole situation entirely to stay at home in my bed watching TV. Sometimes it feels like an impending doom of “what if it’s awkward?” or “what if I go to this party, know no one there, and then no one talks to me because everyone is already in their set social circles, etc.?!” It’s that kind of fear of the unknown.
If you ask the people that know me, they’d probably not guess that I have a fear of meeting new people. Because, well, I do kind of love it even though I’m scared of it. Once, when I was in one of my panicky, nervous moods before having to meet someone new, I texted my friend to tell her I hated meeting new people and doing this, do you know what she told me? She told me to shut up. She said you love this and you’re going to be fine. And you know what? She was totally and completely right.
See, my fear of meeting new people isn’t enough to make me stop doing it. Studying abroad and traveling was a time when I was constantly put in situations where, by the nature of exploring new places, I wasn’t going to know everyone. And the people I was traveling with weren’t going to know everything so we HAD to make new friends and meet new people. And the best part was that we weren’t supposed to know what we were doing. Sometimes there was a language barrier that made me act like I was in a game of really bad charades or other times I just had to ask dumb questions since I didn’t know any better. Either way, it was something I had to do to. And every time… I survived. And every time, it got a little easier because I realized that I didn’t die and the world didn’t come to a grinding halt. Yes, sometimes it was terribly awkward and I probably (okay, definitely) looked silly. But through that, I learned to laugh at myself in those situations. I still get nervous in new situations but I’ve learned that you have to give up your ego and fake it ’till you make it. If you act outgoing, then you’ll come off to other people as outgoing. Then, maybe eventually, you’ll be a little more outgoing.
I think it’s sometimes easy to forget that, as humans, we are inherently social beings. If you smile at someone and say ‘hi, how are you?’, they’ll most likely answer you back. This doesn’t mean that you have to go revealing your deepest darkest secrets to strangers but chatting about the weather or complimenting someone might make someones’ day and make everything a little happier and friendlier.
So, maybe fear can be a good thing. It can put you in situations that you would never have been in before and it forces you to get uncomfortable. Then, those uncomfortable situations help you grow and learn. If I had been stubborn and scared enough to not leave my house every time I was scared going into a situation knowing nobody, there is no way I’d be where I am today. My fear has helped me grow as a person and discover who I am.
Now, for that fear of cockroaches? That is never budging.