Theory of Discomfort

Hey. What’s up?

Not much is up with me today. Well, not much was up with me today. It’s near midnight, my Saturday already wrapped up. Not a bad day by any standard, but not much of an exciting day, either. Pretty much went to work from 4-10 and that’s about it. Didn’t have any homework to do. Slow day at work, too- typical for a Saturday afternoon at a coffee shop.

I’ve talked about my view on comfort a few times in various posts. How I very much enjoy it and seek it, yet I believe it can breed stagnancy. Why would you change if you’re comfortable? That sentence kinda sums up the potential danger of comfort. But, it’s what we all look for, what we all should look for.

So, what about discomfort, then? The opposite of comfort- unease, restlessness, anxiety.

It’s something you can’t really avoid, unfortunately. I wouldn’t wanna lie to you. You already knew that, though. That discomfort is inevitable. It can be avoided, in some circumstances, but even the most content people will soon enough get agitated/annoyed by something.

I gotta say, despite it being an easy shift at work today, I felt pretty uncomfortable when I got to work. I don’t really know why. I was just chilling at home, not interacting with much at all, and then bam, get to work and I automatically know it’s gonna be a rough go with the whole “talking” thing.

I have those kind of days. Those days where I just know I’m gonna be socially awkward, no matter how much I try to shake it. Like I’ve recently mentioned, they are fewer and further between these days, as I’ve grown, but damn it they still exist. And, today was one of them. Good thing it was slow, cause I sure sucked at speaking today.

I try so hard to understand why it is this way. Because, when it comes to the word anxiety, I don’t like using it. For example, social anxiety. What is that? Doesn’t everyone have a bit of awkwardness when it comes to talking with a stranger? Well, yeah. Anxiety is a word that should really be reserved for more serious settings. Like, people with true anxiety disorders can get panic attacks. I understand the concept of the term ‘social anxiety’, that it’s apprehension to speaking with others, but it sounds way more severe than that. So, I refuse to tell people I have it. After all, I’ve never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I don’t have one.

But man, can I be awkward. I know it. Sometimes it’s just the way I’m perceiving myself. Other times, I’m really just being awkward.  Some days I’m social lubricant, making conversation flow back and forth effortlessly. Some days I’m meh. And, on occasion, I’m more rigid than a Ruffles chip.

Why?

Why are some days better than others, in that aspect? It’s not like there is a reason behind it all. I could understand myself being more uncomfortable in a social setting if I’d done something embarrassing at a party the night before. But, I didn’t do anything to cause this awkwardness. I just woke up with it.

I have a theory on this, I’m sure you’ll wanna hear, right? Hope so. Cause I’m gonna share it.

For me, the root of all social anxiety comes from my inner desire to keep the peace and please everyone. I don’t want to be a people pleaser, but underneath it all, I subconsciously make effort to be one. I don’t want to confront a person, because it’ll make them uncomfortable, and then I’ll feel bad. I don’t wanna ask the customer if they want their receipt, because it looks like they’re in a  rush, and I don’t wanna slow them down. I don’t wanna yell “HOW’S IT GOIN’?” to the guy walking in the entrance with his head down with one earphone in.

Sounds good, right? I really want to make everyone’s day, don’t wanna stir conflict. I’m just built this way, or I’ve designed myself this way as I’ve grown up and listened to certain people. It’s not all good, though. This characteristic causes social anxiety.

At least for me. Some people feel they are anxious because they don’t know what to say. Well, that’s the same issue, isn’t it? It’s not that you’re afraid you won’t know what to say, it’s that you’re afraid you’ll say the wrong thing. 

The wrong thing, in this case, is the sentence that will upset the person you’re talking to. I like to relate this example to the whole “shy around girls” thing. I think all straight men will agree, that at first, talking with a girl you’re into requires substantially more effort than say, talking to a guy friend. Because, you’re into the girl, you want to impress them. You consciously monitor your every word- don’t share that, you’ll look weird, don’t talk when they talk, make eye contact but not too much to where it’s creepy, etc etc etc. You want to keep conversation working the best it can, you want to be as impressive as you can. Yet, it is this that causes the awkwardness.

‘Being awkward’ stems from good intentions. It does. It’s not that the person is afraid of talking, afraid of confrontation, or just timid in general. While this may also be the case, the real reason you’re constantly finding yourself stumbling over words is because you’re trying so hard for that not to be the case. Well, maybe you’re not, but I am. That’s how I feel about it.

It makes sense to me. And, once I become aware of my social discomfort, I try to say more, to break it, and then it becomes even more uncomfortable. Because, now I’m essentially just saying stuff to be saying stuff, so I don’t leave this uncomfortable void of silence. It would make not only me feel awkward, but the other person as well, I assume. It’s a cycle.

Summed up, the desire to ‘make things perfect’ is what causes discomfort in socializing. Wanting to keep the other person entertained, while also not wanting to talk, will make for quite the forced convo. It gets worse when I don’t even want to talk. I may not want to, but I need to. At work, I can’t just not say anything, even if it’s what I truly would prefer to do. If I did that, my coworkers might think I’m mad at them.

The solution, to this theory, then? Don’t worry about it. 

The saying “can’t please everybody” is obviously true, and it works perfectly when it comes to being talkative. Don’t try to force small talk about the weather with a customer just because you feel you need to. Don’t worry about saying something weird.

On the days I feel the most discomfort I realize it’s mostly caused by myself. I worry too much about saying the right things at the right time, not saying enough, saying too much. Overthinking, essentially, causes problems. It’s not up to anyone to be perfect when they’re talking. Some days it’ll be more appealing to talk, other days it won’t- but it’s nothing to worry about.

Thanks for reading

Luca DeJesu, 12:35 AM

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