The dictionary defines it as:
An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
Be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.
This one little word evokes so much—so much meaning, so much to think about, and simply, so much. But for me, it identifies something that has always been problematic—fear of interacting in a social environment.
Most that know me would ask “You? Afraid of being social?”
Let me make this a little more clear. I’m not necessarily afraid of interacting with others or the idea of being social, because I admit, I do enjoy the occasional solitude, but what has always been frightening for me was the enigmatic party atmosphere—where you walk around and mingle with the unknown; a stranger.
Will they think I’m foolish when I open my mouth and start speaking? Will they judge me because I like to wear black nail polish? Am I too outspoken for their not-so abrupt personalities? Perhaps. Although I typically don’t become concerned about what other’s think of me, there’s this little part of me that is fearful of that abyss we call socialization.
When I’m at a party and I’m surrounded by people I don’t really know, I notice there are others effortlessly mingling about and meeting new people, finding out what they’re all about, what they do for a living, how many kids do they have—the inquiries are infinite. How do they do this? For me, this has always been an extremely uncomfortable environment. I don’t like to be quizzed on where I’m from or grew up, I don’t like to be asked how many kids do I have, and inevitably everyone’s favorite—“what do you do for a living?” Now don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I’m not ashamed of it, but when approached on the subject, I become uncomfortable and insecure.
I often ask myself, why does it matter? Do you honestly care to know what I do for a living? Because to be honest, discussing what I do the entire evening is boring and trite. Aren’t we there to enjoy ourselves and get away from our work atmosphere to begin with? For most, it’s an ice breaker, but for me, it’s an intrusion on my privacy. For the most part, by asking me this one simple question, they are putting me in the spotlight.
Sometimes I find it unbearable walking around a party while trying to find the ideal subject with whom I can converse with, only to emerge in the same banter of what school my daughter attends, or what grade she is in.
Pleasantries aside, there are the select few whom I do enjoy meeting and getting to know, and although I feel like I’m attending a Jr. High dance for the first time, standing in a corner, waiting to be asked to dance by that one special boy, I typically leave that party enjoying myself. So while I get off of my fearful horse if only for that one special evening, I know in the end, I will leave with a sense of accomplishment and pride. And maybe a few phone numbers and email addresses to engage with my new friend(s) who ultimately, just a little bit, helped me escape from my fear of the unknown.