anxiety · life · social anxiety · Talking to strangers

A Very Simple Interaction

This Thursday was the most unusual day of this week I’ve had because of the number of times in one day that I was approached by strangers for help. I’ve spent half my life avoiding the simplest of interactions just so I don’t have to talk to anyone. Sometimes I push myself to get through it while somehow holding myself together on the outside. Most of the time I feel flustered and caught unawares while struggling to not let my panic show as I’m freaking out over such a brief and non-personal person-to-person verbal exchange. Unlike past incidents where I would basically blank out on the spot and barely be able to respond because I felt super anxious, at least now I can attempt to fake a somewhat calm demeanor. It’s hard for me not to think that no matter what I say, I’ll sound stupid or offensive, though. The times I’d be too anxious to reply were humiliating. In my mind, I gave myself the excuse it was better not to say anything than risk saying something and offending the person, but by not responding, I’d inadvertently appear as if I was ignoring someone and being rude.

Standing inside a subway terminal, I had my earphones in and was actually using my phone to finish typing up a blog entry when a young lady approached me to ask about a subway line she needed to get on but she wasn’t sure if it was an uptown or downtown train. I don’t know what made me take a chance on helping her. The old me would’ve not even bothered to pull out my earphones to hear her out and simply told her that I didn’t have the info she was looking for. I felt awkward being depended on for help but also wanted to challenge myself to try. I ended up using a transit app on my phone to find out her train line was the downtown one and I pointed her in the direction she should go to wait for the train. She thanked me as she walked off, and I chimed with no hesitation, “No problem”. And I admit, it did feel good. I got a rush of elation and satisfaction knowing I helped her and I managed to establish a brief connection with her  (without having an anxiety meltdown) even though chances are I’ll never cross paths with her again.

Later I was in a park waiting to use the restroom and noticed one girl snapping a photo of another girl who I assumed was her friend. My eyes met hers after I happened to see her looking at me. I didn’t think too much about why she was looking my way so I went back to staring at the locked restroom door. Now as I reflect on the event, I realize I recognize the look she gave me. It’s the same look I often have when I desperately want to ask someone for a favor or for help but am scared to initiate a conversation with a stranger out of fear of not knowing how the person will react. A moment later, I felt surprised when the girl came to me asking if I could take a group picture of her and her friend. I took two photos of them. They had shopping bags with them and I happened to take the first photo with the bags showing up in the background, and the second one I zoomed in a little so the bags wouldn’t be in the photo. Afterward, I mentioned this to the girl and she didn’t seem to mind. It occurred to me I could’ve suggested retaking the first photo if they wanted to, but the words never came out of me. The feeling I had was almost akin to being afraid she would react negatively if I said my suggestion, except I think I was actually scared of prolonging the verbal interaction and not knowing what would come next in the conversation after that.

The third incident was a brief one. I was on the subway ride home and a girl stepped on while the train doors hadn’t closed yet. She asked me if the train was going express. I said I wasn’t sure. The one thing I’m proud of myself here is I didn’t avert my eyes as I replied to her and held eye contact with her. Although, that didn’t stop me from feeling like I gave her a completely lame answer. I wish I had given a more productive answer, like, “Oh, I’m not sure, I’m sorry I don’t have the info for you.”

What’s your story? Has there ever been a time a stranger came to you about something and you were able to help him/her even though you felt anxious the whole time?

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6 thoughts on “A Very Simple Interaction

  1. I often feel the same way by trying to limit my interactions with people. I often tell myself that others won’t judgement​ me as harshly as I do judge myself, but I still can’t get rid of that nagging self-consciousness. It’s​ been getting better at work because I constantly have to face these interactions though like you said, there is that sense of accomplishment after feeling like you help someone and I realize people will appreciate the effort in helping more/regardless if i can direct them to someone who knows better or tell them I don’t really know the right answer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep, the nagging self consciousness is constant and there all the time. It’s great that you’re getting experience at work with people and able to feel fulfillment from helping them. I have barely any customer service experience to speak of. It’s tricky. I have a longing to help people and brighten up their day, which is the ideal job I’d want, but I’ve been scared for so long because of social anxiety. I want to try pushing myself by doing volunteer activities that require a lot of verbal communication. Anything except public speaking, which I am deathly afraid of.

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      1. I think you may even surprise yourself with what you can handle socially once you put yourself out there. We’re adaptable creatures :). The biggest step might be just getting yourself out there.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. For sure, I don’t think I give myself enough credit for being able to adapt to situations. It’s weird. When my body and mind are under pressure, I actually think I’m getting that push to make me react accordingly to the situation.

        Liked by 1 person

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