Sometimes sucks. I had a moment of realization yesterday (thank goodness for yoga) when I finally figured out that I don’t need to be a “joiner.” Lately I feel as if every where I go the focus is on “community” and “belonging.” For as long as I can remember I have been a “joiner” and a “follower”, following one or two close friends as they join clubs, groups, classes, gyms, you name it. I join and then I spend hours and hours being anxious about fitting in and belonging. It is like being in high school over and over again. Eventually, I give up on the group experience, it is too stressful. I end up feeling overwhelmed because I feel like I don’t fit in.
What I realized yesterday is that I typically place blame on the group or the members-I look everywhere but at myself to explain why I am so miserable. Now I realize there are people who actually LIKE to be part of a group and have fun! But it is not me. My idea of fun is to be in a building or on a track or road by myself, with no one talking, no music playing, no cars whizzing by. I don’t like to make eye contact because then I will have to have a conversation with you. I do not enjoy making small talk with people I don’t know. Just talking about it makes me sweaty.
I struggle with this and feel pressure and guilt because I feel like there is something wrong with me-that if I only tried to be more social and friendly I would enjoy being part of a community. I end up in this cycle of denying my naturally introverted self, forcing myself to attend community events, join groups, and participate in group activities, and I get so stressed I end up making a total mess of everything, which makes it even less likely that I will ever join a group again.
But I do, because I always think, “Maybe this time it will be different.”
Of course my awkwardness is only in my mind, the people in these groups and communities for the most part are friendly and supportive, but to me, it feels as if they all know each other and I am an intruder. If no one welcomes me and reaches out to me personally, I feel as if I am not welcome. I always feels like I am an outsider trying to fit in. I want to fit in and be a part of the group, but it is just too stressful and uncomfortable. Sometimes the reward is not worth the risk. I know I am missing out on some awesome opportunities to meet new people and perhaps make friends, but the pressure I put on myself is too great.
I finally decided it is ok to be my introverted self. I do not have to be a joiner and a follower. But just know that there are times when I feel the reward IS worth the risk. Those are far and few between. Also know that I really wish I could be a friendly, outgoing extrovert. I wish I were the fun person that everybody knows and loves instead of the quiet, moody person people are afraid to approach. I want to belong, but I feel pressure to do everything and be everywhere -to be a “good” community or group member.
In the end, I have to accept who I am and find the places that provide me energy and joy.