One of the hardest things I face is having to “people” with others. I think the fear of not being understood and others thinking I’m weird is what holds me back so the easiest thing for me to do is limit my time with them. The problem with that is you miss out on having some great interactions at times so I’ve decided I want to learn how to “people” again.
Let’s face it, humans ARE social creatures and we have been since our species existed. I know many of us introverts say we’d love to live in a cabin in the woods, far from anyone and just be at one with nature. I’m sure some people have successfully done that but they are the exception to the rule. I think the key is to work out what works for you, know your limits, have healthy boundaries and bail when it’s time to bail so you can run back to your safe haven.
I have realised that having some form of human interaction outside (and even inside) the house makes a difference in my moods. I get it, being social can help us feel good as well as be another outlet for us. So how does one go about this? I really don’t know, I’m fumbling through this myself.
I’ve been getting to know my neighbour – I’ll call her Tanja (since that’s her name). She moved into the adjoining house next door three years ago and we hit it off immediately. I knew she was a good type and kindred spirit. The problem was my introversion got in the way. There was always an open invitation to come over, and we’d often have a chat over the fence each week but there was always a part of me that didn’t want to intrude or be annoying or just plain weird.
This continued for quite some time, we’d help each other with things, chat over the fence, occasionally I’d pop over for a cuppa and a natter but for the most part, I was still timid. I was having a chuckle the other day when I was thinking about how our friendship evolved and I came up with an analogy that sums it up well. I hope this amuses you too.
The friendly face peered over the fence and with a smile she said, “hello little one, don’t be scared, I won’t hurt you”. The timid furry creature looked up, unable to gauge if this person was friend or foe. Sheepishly she smiled and edged towards the fence but not too close in case she needed to get away to safety. Each time the friendly face appeared over the fence she would say friendly and soothing words and with each visit, the furry creature would become less timid.
One day the friendly face appeared and offered the furry creature a little food and she took it from her hands and ate it. It was such a sweet strawberry and she savoured every bite, it was grown by the friendly person. And each time the person appeared, she was always friendly and calm. By this time the furry creature was learning to trust that this person over the fence meant her no harm and she would readily accept the offerings handed over the fence.
As time went by, this would continue. It wasn’t often food offerings, it was mostly kind and supportive words and love projected by the face over the fence. The furry creature enjoyed her interactions. But one day came and the friendly person sounded sad. The furry creature edged up to the fence and peered over and saw the sadness and tears. Without hesitation, she crossed the fence to console her new friend and a close bond was formed.
From that moment on, the furry creature would rush up to visit the friendly person over the fence and they became friends. The chats and visits became more regular, and while the furry creature still needed to hide in her own sanctuary when needed, she had gained more confidence in humans and would come out to see the friendly face more. The furry creature started to realise that the friendly person also needed to run to her own sanctuary when things got a little overwhelming, and realised she wasn’t the only one like this – we all need a cave to hide in now and then.
So, now I realise it’s not impossible to make friends with others, it’s helped me to learn how. Tanja is great at
not so gentle prodding to push me out of my comfort zone but she does it in a way that isn’t too scary.
I think for me, I need to be sure that someone new is to some degree on the same wavelength as myself for me to even dip my toe into the puddle of a potential friendship. Either way, I’ve never needed many friends, but it sure is nice to have some. The bonus of knowing Tanja is her grown-up children and some of her friends that I’ve met are also people I enjoy talking to and knowing. And through them all, I’m learning how to “people” again. And without alcohol involved in the equation, it’s even better.
Note: the above analogy is also the same way I met and befriended a local possum, though I do try and interact as little as possible with it.