It feels good to write a post about how I conquered my social awkwardness. And you wouldn’t believe the freedom it brings! I used to be the guy who searched for an elusive item at the store and grow frustrated, not wanting to bother with asking a clerk or any other store worker. I didn’t want to face someone’s manner of impatience. Now, I don’t give myself two seconds to look for anything. There are people who get paid to help customers. But just several years ago, my belief was that it did not apply to me. These days, I expect the help. I save so much time and energy!
Can I make a phone call to anyone in the world? Yes!
Can I put on presentations with ease? Yes!
Can I start conversations with people in elevators? Yes!
Did it take some work to turn things around? Of course it did! But it was not complicated. To change my belief system, I only had to be honest with myself and a group of supportive people. I invested in therapeutic exercises which helped me to abolish some very limiting self messages. For example, I changed “unlovable” to “lovable”. I wrote “I David Peace am lovable. You David Peace are lovable. He David Peace is lovable.” two-hundred times on paper. Printing it on paper with a pen or pencil works best. It is a tedious method, but it works. Sounds too simple, I know. But I kept at it. The message sank in. And without even thinking about it, I was asking random women on the college campus out for coffee. I was going way out of my usual comfort zone.
Now for the other part. I kept investing my time with supportive people and following through with some very simple instructions. The stronger I became, the more apt I was to put myself in socially awkward situations (new and awkward to me). One of these situations involved art shows. I created different works of art and entered them in galleries. More supportive people came into my life. Before I realized it, the action of putting myself out there in a positive environment was paying off. I was wheeling and dealing my crafts and getting to know more people in a month than in the four years of high school. My social interactions were becoming more enriched through the steps that were necessary to sell painting and sculptures. It is a lot like the way a friend of mine become a natural conversationalist. He worked in his father’s general store and handled customers from the time he was in second grade. His daily role tempered the social skills.
To date, I think the crown jewel of social skills-building experiences has been in my years of facilitating child and family therapy. To this, I owe my deepest gratitude. Outpatient counseling with youngsters was not my first choice, but to fulfill my licensing requirements, it had to be done. An effective therapist has to know how to create an atmosphere of trust and safety. Most people are not going to willingly open their hearts and talk about embarrassing issues on a whim. The kids on my caseload were usually guarded with their personal lives and information, at least initially. They don’t just wake up one day and declare “I’m going to confront all my doubts and fears with some adult who claims to be a professional counselor”. I had some learning to do. The best skill for me to hone was the art of spontaneity and silliness. It was unrealistic for me to expect my clients to break through their comfort zones if I could not do it myself. I could sing and act goofy with my six-year-old son at home without reservation, but it was a whole different story with other people’s children. However, it became a necessary part of the job. Now I can do it easily. And I can help you do it as well.