Socialize, baby!

If you feel socially anxious, and not very outgoing, get ready to change that. One of the easiest ways to boost your self-confidence is to get out there and start interacting with people.

When I was a kid and in high school, I was very shy. The odd thing is that both my brother and I were always very shy, but my dad, who raised us as a single parent, was not shy at all. He was very outgoing. The problem, I believe, is that he never got out of the house much when we were kids, and we were rather isolated growing up (our dad was also a hippie in Texas, which didn’t help our fitting in). Throughout high school I came a little bit out of my shell, but I just did not find the people there very interesting. In college, however, people were very interesting, and had a lot to say.  And there were also a lot more people. In fact, it’s almost as if one of the general education requirements for college (if you live on a decent-sized campus) is to meet new people. In your classes, in your dorm, through student organizations, etc. City people also seem to be more outgoing than the ones in my hometown. After three years of college and city-living, there were still plenty of awkward situations, but I was very accustomed to introducing myself to new people, giving a firm handshake, making small talk or on-the-run talk that students do all the time. I also eventually started to have a lot more intimate conversations, which to this day I can feel becoming more natural.

Experience is a confidence-booster. That’s why teenagers beat around the bush a whole lot when it comes to relationships, while middle-aged adults are not so well-known for doing so.

While trying to socialize, I tried going to a bar, and had an okay experience there. Only met a few people. And besides, I don’t drink. Not saying it’s worthless, but there are better places to meet people. Personally, I have kind of made a “family” of activists I know through events where I see the same people continuously. Another way to meet people is to go to networking events, although you can expect that to be somewhat professional in nature.

I found out about a vegetarian potluck on Craigslist and went, and there were over 70 friendly, outgoing people in their 20s and 30s, most of whom were new to the group. I stayed for over four hours and met so many friendly people, it was very encouraging as well as an energy boost. It was the level of self-confidence booster I couldn’t get just from going about my daily routine not interacting much with new people. There is something wonderful about sharing a mutual interest in someone new and parting with their contact info. It’s a form of mutual affirmation of worth.

Funny thing is that I kept saying to myself 2-3 months before that if only I read more books, studied harder, devoted more time to sculpting myself, people should find me more interesting and I wouldn’t have to do any more work than that. No, actually, you need to go out and make things happen. Relationships don’t just happen to you; life doesn’t just happen to you. Yesterday morning I was at a talk by Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!, and she said, “Peace is not merely the absence of war; peace must be waged! peace must be won!” This applies to life in general. Once you have that relationship, you must sustain it. Before you have it, you must be prepared to take the necessary steps.

So get out there and make a committed effort to finding places and events where you can meet people who interest you. If one or two don’t work out, don’t give up. Don’t take no for an answer. Just keep searching.

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