Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I like to think of myself as a well-put-together person. I’m educated, have a good job, responsible, etc. But I’m starting to see signs that I’m just kidding myself. I dress well for my job, but rarely go through a day without spilling something on my tie.
I also like to think of myself as a good person, but I have a very hard time making friends. My first impression on others is that I’m standoffish, when I’m really painfully shy. People who get to know me do like me, but very, very few take that much time.
I’m also driven and focused, but some days forget to even pet my dog. Any advice on how to live like the stand-up, interesting person in my head, instead of the stressed out, responsible, (boring? unfriendly?) guy everyone sees?
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Who Am I?
The guy with the food on his tie who’s great at his job and gets flustered around people sounds more interesting than the guy you made up in your head. Not petting your dog is kind of lousy, but everyone’s built with room for improvement.
Please just embrace the real version of yourself that you’re projecting. Nothing wrong with being a little frazzled, reserved, hyper-focused. People respond to authenticity — maybe not in droves, depending on what you’re so authentically presenting, but solidly enough to quiet your self-doubt. Becoming comfortable in your own skin will maximize your appeal to the people best suited to you.
Full disclosure of possible bias: I come across to people as standoffish when I’m really just shy, and the ability to look polished is a superpower I apparently lack. I’ll let readers counteract my slant:
My first thought was to wonder whether food-on-the-tie guy was single, straight and in my metro area.
I’m shy and have been seen as standoffish. I’ve come to realize there are many others in the same boat. So now at, say, a conference or party, I look for others standing back and make an innocuous remark to them, like, “How do you know the hosts?” They’re almost always grateful that someone approached them, and several have become good friends.
I’m klutzy, occasionally short-tempered, and some days the to-do list just feels overwhelming. We’re all faking it to an extent. One thing I would recommend though is taking a deep breath and trying to relax yourself — most things are not so urgent that you can’t slow down a little. Also: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Life is more fun when we can laugh at ourselves.
EVERYBODY on earth, outside of total psychopaths and narcissists, thinks the same thing inside. Relax and enjoy it.
I have to remind myself to ASK rather than talking about myself the whole conversation. There’s nothing wrong with setting out to improve yourself, but start small and think of what you really want. Set a reminder on your phone for playtime with your dog, if that’s what’s important. Carry a Tide pen for spills.
Dog parks are, by the way, social gold — if words don’t come easily you can just watch the dogs.
Thanks, everybody, including the three people requesting his number.
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