(This article was written on May 25th, 2005.)
I'm 26 now, and it's been over 2 years since I first started this site. It's been an interesting journey to say the least.
This will be my last article. What else can be said about the topic ;) . I wanted to try and cover every possible angle because I know how big of a problem it can be. It's more than just "go out and talk to people". It was sad seeing the number of people on shyness/social anxiety forums feeling completely overtaken by it. I would certainly encourage everyone that has made improvements to try and help others.
As much as I love the internet, online chat is not a substitute for real life interaction. It creates no lasting memories. There are no special moments to look back on and treasure. It just becomes a blur after awhile.
In some ways, it's very deceptive. There’s internet chat, message boards, and email that allow you to interact with others. It seems like you’re getting some interaction. It seems sort of like socializing. Maybe I don’t need real people after all. Maybe I can live online and get my needs met?
When I look at the shyness/social anxiety problem from afar, I realize that the internet may in fact be hurting people more than they realize. It provides a temporary fix, but not a long term solution. You're escaping from reality but you aren't getting anywhere.
In some ways, it felt like I wandered down another path in life. As a kid, I considered myself fairly normal. I wasn't super outgoing, but I had friends and went to birthday parties. I didn't need Tony Robbins or self improvement tapes to get through life. You just do what comes naturally and you act like a kid.
But then somewhere along the line, something changed. It could be a million different things for people (you don't fit in, you go to a new school, you become self conscious). If left unchecked, it can really build on itself. It's like the movie "Back to the Future II" with Michael J Fox. In his travels, he went down two different times lines. A few years ago, I was in the "alternate 1985". The kid that I use to be wouldn't have ended up there.
How do you get back on track?
Everyone has had happy and "normal" times. It might be a long time ago and you've completely forgotten about it. But, what did you use to? Who did you use to be? What kind of people did you enjoy the most? I think the answers are going to be a guide for the rest of your life.
The friend that I liked the most as a kid is still the kind of person I'd like to hang around. Everyone is attracted to a certain personality. Maybe you have to look harder to find it in people if it isn't already there. Maybe, you need to give more people a chance and not be so quick to judge them and exclude them from your life. That's one of the things that I had to work on.
If you've got a photo of yourself as a happy and smiling 10 or 12 year old kid, where would that person be now? What was "normal" back then?
There's a whole list of things that I've done in the past year to 18 months to "get back on track":
-Get really clear about what I want to do and what I want to look back on. Internet use is down dramatically. TV/media is turned off. I want to spend as much time as possible doing things that I enjoy, around people that I enjoy and in an environment that I enjoy.
-Spend time with kids (two 8 year olds). They are a ton of fun. They don't care about any of the stuff you're worrying about.
-As much as I liked Tony Robbins a few years ago, I sold his books and tapes. I didn't want to become dependent upon some outside influence for my happiness (i.e. I can't be happy until I get another tape or go to a seminar).
-I changed my living environment to better reflect where I want to go in life. I'm not a psychologist or a professional, but I think it's a pretty honest reflection about how you feel about yourself.
-Reduce/eliminate alot of irrational fears. The book "The Culture of Fear" was very interesting and eye opening. I don't take TV or the media seriously at all anymore. The odds of something bad happening to you or going wrong are probably no bigger than when you were a kid.
-Give back more. Spend more time reflecting about what I've done for others.
-I needed a new story and a new way to define my life. I'm still working on this.
-Don't take everything so seriously. Chill (lllll...add some more l's). Slow way down. This year will probably be the slowest of my life. I've got alot I want to absorb.
Why is it so hard to be "normal"? What makes everything so difficult?
I think it's probably a combination of things. The culture changed alot from when I was a kid. I grew up believing that a "normal life" was....you go to school, make friends, graduate at 18, go to college, hang out/have fun, and by your early 20's you've had experience with girls, you have a reasonably good idea about what kind of girl you want to settle down with and things just fall into place. Life isn't some big obstacle course.
Now days, that image is very blurry. Some people live at home until their mid 20's or later. People settle down later. There's the world of the internet that allows you to have pseudo "relationships" and interactions with people. There's also a ton of distractions with TV/media influences, peer influences.
I'm starting to think that instead of motivation or "positive thinking", what I really needed was direction and guidance. I needed to figure out a transition phase for my life.
I also realized I need to get much better at planning for the future. I don't want my life to get tossed around by peoples opinions, rejections, or any outside force. I don't want to turn 30 and find myself right back where I was.
Socializing and being around people (in real life, not on the internet!) is like a daily vitamin. When you don't get it for weeks, months (or years), you're going to feel the effects psychologically. I'll end this article with a few final thoughts and observations:
-Everyone fits in somewhere. Nerds or geeks in highschool become CEO's and entrepreneurs in other environments. Everything is relative. Define your life however you see fit.
-You can always get up tomorrow and try something completely different. It sounds so common-sensical, yet why do people keep doing things for months or years that aren't working?
-Start to see people. Really see them. Who are they? Who's the sales clerk taking your order? Notice how everyone is the same but they display it in different ways.
-You're the judge and jury for your life. No one else is keeping score. You can define your life in a million different ways.
-If you want to get massively ahead in life, step out of the box. Place a higher value on your time than those around you, become more decisive, ask better questions, find better peers. Step out of the box any day of the week.