So, for the past few days I have been at the annual LASACT conference. Sitting through 20+ hours of training related to addiction and family dysfunction can tend to make me examine myself just a little closer. As far back as I can remember, I have been an anxious child and socially awkward. I have always believed that this is just my personality. I do not like to be around large crowds. The night before I was due to come here I was secretly praying one of my children got sick so I would have a legitimate reason to stay home. However, all of my babies are perfectly healthy and I already paid for this. So here I am, pondering life and picking myself apart.
At supper last night, I found myself in an uncomfortable situation with my waiter. I went to supper alone and since I do not like to be around large crowds of people the plan was to eat quickly and leave. He asked for my drink order and I proceeded to tell him my drink AND food choice. As he was writing my order I followed that up with the statement “Yea I’m easy”. He never looked up from his notepad, said he would have it right out and walked away. Instantly I started analyzing that. I sat there the entire time questioning if he would take that statement in an inappropriate way vs. the way it was intended (my order was easy). He brought out my water and guess what? He didn’t act any differently. He brought out my food, and I was treated with the same level of respect that he met me with when I arrived. In reality, he probably didn’t even hear my statement or maybe he just didn’t give a damn what I said.
Regardless, I wasted the entire time at supper completely consumed by what a complete stranger may or may not think of me. Someone I will never see again. Why is that? Well I dug around in my own mind long enough that I think I may understand it now. Growing up in a home run by addiction and abuse, it became second nature to decode EVERYONE around me at all times. The more people there were, the harder it was to do. I never knew what to expect. I never knew what type of mood my parents or other adults were in. So it was critical for me to know their body language, attitude, and pay close attention to every word that came out of my mouth. A comment such as the one said to my waiter last night had the potential to end with a backhand to the mouth, beating, or even sexual abuse. I learned to pick up on cues that could give me the chance to escape abuse of all forms. And I must say, I got pretty damn good at it. The older I got, the more I found it my place to fix everyone’s emotional issues in my home. I got very good at putting out other people’s fires, or so I thought. I wasn’t putting out their fires, I was letting them consume me instead of them.
Social anxiety IS NOT part of my personality. Social anxiety is a learned behavior that kept me alive and safe. In all reality it is something I do subconsciously. I only had the opportunity to realize I was doing it because I was alone and not preoccupied in conversation with someone else. So thank you Mr. Waiter you just gave me some personal development homework.