Okay Meredith, even though you suck at socializing, let’s give it a go.
Oh God, they’re talking about wine… I don’t know anything about wine. Shoot. Okay, just nod your head and wait for the next topic to come up. Okay, the wine conversation is ending, and the next topic is… vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard. Ooooh, I might be able to add something to that!
“I heard that place is nice.”
That’s it? That’s all you got, Meredith? And I know that you’re boiling hot right now, but don’t you dare take your coat off because remember you’re wearing your “emergency bra”. The bra that makes all boobs look like a loaf of bread that’s rising out of the sides of the pan. Why do you still have this bra? Also, why are you wearing a t-shirt that says “I flex for food” to this social interaction? Don’t you know that these other parents are judging your responsibility levels based on your wardrobe alone?
They can’t base it off what you’ve been adding to this conversation because you’ve added six words to it… the same as a toddler.
A toddler who apparently likes to flex for food. Yup, no way these kids are going to be allowed over to our house for playdates. Their parents must be thinking, that the responsible party speaks in Dick and Jane style language and walks around in public with boobs that look like a bread machine malfunctioned. You shouldn’t be allowed out of the house.
Friends… I suck at socializing.
Right there, readers, that’s what goes on in my mind just about every time I socialize with people. And then, if a rare thing occurs and I actually begin to carry on a conversation with someone, I assume we are having a pity conversation and I’m actually annoying them. Therefore, the next time I see them, I hide… sometimes behind a bush, so that they don’t feel like they have to interact with me again. And then they see a strange woman, whom they’ve talked to once, hiding behind a bush… so who does that help? Certainly not my psyche.
I was laying in bed with my husband the other morning, going over our latest social interactions with other couples with him and I said, “I suck at socializing.” And surprisingly, he said he did too. He said he thought most people probably felt that they were bad at socializing. It shocked me because I felt like between the two of us, my husband was a lot better at casually socializing. He admitted that he talks more when he gets nervous and then regrets what he’s said after. I admitted that without him with me, I feel like a castaway on a raft trying to catch fish without any bait.
My social became worse when I was asked to host comedy shows.
Before Covid happened, I used to perform stand up comedy locally. There’s a wonderful club in town called The Vermont Comedy Club and I occasionally got to host for professional comedians. My first job ever hosting for the club was on New Year’s Eve 2018. I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited! I would be hosting for Matt Braunger and Mike Finoia! Matt would even be recording his latest comedy special that weekend at the club! Although I was super excited that the club had put faith in me to host the weekend and I would be able to do my material in front of a paying audience for SIX shows, there was a horrible weight on my shoulders that I would also have to socialize with these same people backstage. Oh my God! That was way more terrifying than performing or anything else that I could be doing that weekend. Would they want me in the green room? Would they want me to say anything to them at all? Did they get annoyed by hosts in towns wanting to carry on conversations with them?
What could I offer anyway, I’m just a stay at home mom from Vermont?
Every night I would take the stage and host, loving the audiences and the time to work on material, but dreading leaving the stage and being stuck with the comedians backstage.
I got so stuck in my head on that first night that I blanked when saying Mike Finoia’s name on stage to bring him up.
A huge hosting no-no. Announcing the performer’s name is really your main job and so for the rest of the weekend, I constantly relived my slip-up and made myself feel worse about interacting.
Both comedians couldn’t have been nicer to me and I later got the chance to host for many others at the club, including Cameron Esposito, Ron Funches, and Guy Branum! I was so excited when the club would ask me to host, but I could never fully enjoy the moment, as I would instantly want to throw up in terror about the possibility of backstage socializing and the chance I might annoy the hell out of them when they just wanted some time to focus before going on stage.
I was never able to shake this feeling, even when I started hosting each week for a local comedy show called “Comedy and Crepes” at a restaurant in town.
My producer, Ash, would get these incredible comedians from all over the country to come to the restaurant and headline a show and I, as host, would have to talk with them ahead of time to get their information. It was the part of the night that I dreaded. Sometimes, I would have to put my hands in my pockets to stop them from shaking. But then, a comedian, Andrew Mayer, came through town, and he had this bit that spoke to me and made me really think that what my husband had said was true!
EVERYONE feels like we suck at socializing.
Even this comedian who has been all over and even won the Boston Comedy Festival. He felt the same way I did when it came to meeting new people!
You can hear Andrew Mayer’s wonderful bit that opened my eyes right here on Spotify from his album, “Having a Nice Time”.
I don’t think I’ll ever get over feeling uncomfortable talking to professional comedians. Does a pee-wee basketball player ever get comfortable talking to an NBA player? Probably not. But the idea that even someone who has gone a lot further with their performance than I might even hope to get battles with this feeling, opened a door for me to really think, do people in my everyday life feel this same way?
Does everyone suck at socializing? Is everyone anxious about it?
I crowdsourced this idea through the magic of Facebook, and guess what? It seems like more people than I had thought, even friends that I had thought were masters of socializing had this inner turmoil too.
Here are a few of the responses:
“I worry my conversation is unwanted, that I’m talking too much, that I’m talking about topics that are too obscure (or that I underestimate how much people know), that my humor doesn’t translate…”
“I struggle the most (trying to talk) when my child is not listening and is out of control, it is so overwhelming and embarrassing how much lack of control and awareness of others he has, (and) I internalize a lot of dialogue around his behavior like he is a reflection of me or my abilities as a parent.”
“I often wonder if people want to deal with me. I’m a lot… but I want to be friendly because my kids are older and eventually they will leave me. Haha, but after I get done talking I usually run in my head all the things I should have said differently, sometimes replaying it over and over or (wondering) how to recover for the next conversation. Now I’m also in an admin asst position so I’m talking to a lot of teachers and parents… I’m constantly feeling anxious and I’m super awkward to boot”
“When I am in a social setting (like in a gathering of extended family or in-laws!) and someone is talking to me and waiting for a response I try to mentally count to 5 before I say anything. It’s because I feel like if I speak too quickly I will say too much or the wrong thing and that count-to-5 rule gives me a pause to think. It actually probably makes me appear simple. And I am old, Meredith, so you need to know that many of us deal with this weirdness.”
“I’ve lived in every region of the country, and New England is the most reserved. In the south, you have to talk to people in line at the gas station and church and etc. If I hadn’t had my dog, (my cute lil Yankee icebreaker) when I moved to Vergennes, I don’t know how I would have met anyone.”
“I don’t tend to contact anyone because I’m afraid that I’m annoying them and they don’t want to (be) bothered by me.”
“I wake up every morning with anxiety and do my best to get outta bed quick, breathe deep, and tell myself there’s nothing to be nervous about (normally it’s worrying about an evening social event 12 hrs in the future). I found that it may be related to me having regrets about past social interactions or lack thereof from my inability to strike up a conversation… it’s pretty silly as I’ve never had any friends say anything about my anti-social or awkward behavior except they assume I’m very timid. I had an improv coach talk it out with me once (which was extremely confusing and nerve-wracking at the time!) but I gained a lot of perspective thru my time contemplating said conversation.”
“Huge hater here. Someone told me a long time ago that the secret to get(ing) thought it was to show interest in the other person. But this backfired on me constantly. I start asking questions, and can’t stop, and it starts to feel like I am interrogating them or conducting an oral exam, and the(n) when I stop and look at my drink, they will ask me a question and I am so convinced no one wants to know about me I either refuse to answer or overshare and make everyone anxious too. I’m such fun at parties!”
“As a Southerner, I try to make everyone feel comfortable and welcomed at social events. That’s good. As socially awkward, I don’t know when to shut up because it’s a really good story if you just let me- no, I insist- on finishing it. Yes, it is 15 minutes long, no, you may not be excused to go to the bathroom. That’s bad. But I just can’t help myself, it’s like that time when….”
“I had a lot of trouble feeling like I “fit in” in HS so now I have those same thoughts and insecurities when I meet or talk with someone as an adult. What if I say something stupid or wrong? What if I offend them on accident? What if there’s something in my teeth? What if my clothes aren’t fancy enough or I don’t look the right way? And unfortunately, I’m insecure about my body too. What if I’m not thin enough. Blurg. It’s kind of hard to write this”
And one of my favorites:
“It comes out, no matter how hard I try. When I’m in a reception line at a wedding, or funeral, or any such formal gathering. I can’t help it, but I always blurt out, “Nice Shoes!”
One of my friends even offered a theory about why so many of us feel this way:
“We’re our own worst critics. (The problem is) usually all in our heads and usually, we all do fine. In reality yes – everyone sucks at socializing now because everyone hides behind their phones and we have learned to voice our thoughts behind a keyboard and screen. So when we get in front of people, most, will usually be awkward and not really know how to talk to each other.”
I got a lot of responses from people who had their own reasons why they felt this way, from being bullied in school which led to insecurity, to not having received enough positive reinforcement growing up in the family setting.
The biggest thing that I learned through really digging deep into all of this, is that most people feel awkward and uncomfortable from time to time or all the time when socializing.
So, if you feel like you suck at socializing, you’re not alone. Socializing can feel like the equivalent of opening up your diary and reading from it in front of an audience. You’re showing how well-spoken you are and what life experiences you’ve had (or haven’t had.) And if you’re a parent, socializing can feel like your parenting is on parade as well. There are lots of moving parts and your own internal dialog can be deafening. But have grace with yourselves, friends. Most of what you’re thinking is just that, what you’re thinking, and nothing more. Because, chances are, the person that you are struggling mentally to make a connection with, is struggling just as much to make a connection with you.