Conversations are scary.

  • The dark.
  • Being lonely.
  • Tight spaces.
  • Mascots.
  • People.

These things all have one thing in common: I’m afraid of them. Some fears are a lot more rational than others… some are just plain weird. In my defense though, the monster that comes out to play when the lights are out could very easily disguise itself as a mascot just to terrorize me during the day. That’s totally a thing that could happen, right?

Honestly though, it’s my fear of other people that is my current issue. I have a lovely little thing called social anxiety disorder. Just thinking about talking to people makes me feel like the sky is falling, and we’re all doomed, and OMG why is nobody else taking this as seriously as I am because I honestly think I might die any moment from all of the shaking and panicking and impending feelings of doom. You know the feeling of having butterflies in your stomach? Well, mine have knives. It took me a while to realize that not everyone felt that way… Imagine my surprise when I discovered that some people actually enjoy talking to strangers. I have a hard enough time talking to people I actually know, why the hell do I have to talk to  everyone else, too?

Story time – I have a lot of employment history as a receptionist. Part of being a receptionist is making phone calls. I used to get such horrific anxiety at the prospect of calling people that I would have to go to a different room entirely from my co-workers, because having people watch me meltdown while I tried to awkwardly work through a conversation with a client made the whole situation 10 times worse. Because you know, the embarrassment of having to excuse myself to complete a basic part of my job in a closed room by myself wasn’t bad enough. Thankfully, I’ve overcome that. Mostly. I still get jittery when I have to call people, especially if someone is watching or listening while I’m on the phone. I can fake it though, and it works. What I haven’t done, however, is figure out how to fake it in my personal life.

I recently acquired a video game that I have been drooling over for weeks. This particular game is almost entirely dependent on its online community. It’s an online multiplayer first person shooter, for heaven’s sake. The whole point of it is to play on a team with real people, against real people. And what do I do? I play against AIs. Bots. Anything other than real people who might happen to talk to me. If anyone asks, I’m “practicing”. Fair enough, I’m pretty freaking terrible at the game, but that’s not really why I haven’t made the jump to online. I don’t want to deal with people.

And I suppose that my fears aren’t entirely unwarranted. I’m a girl. There are a lot of people in online gaming who treat girls in games… unpleasantly, shall we say? Every single woman I’ve talked to who games has at least one story about online harassment or bullying. The fact that I am a girl and am also really bad at games? I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to deal with  it, because I don’t have the thickest of skins. There is a very real chance that I will walk away from a game that I love because of a single asshole with nothing better to do than be a dick on the internet. But at the same time… I hold back from a lot of things that I really want because of this fear. What if they don’t like me? What if they say something mean… is it going to be enough to ruin it for me forever? They’re going to notice that I’m bad at this. I shouldn’t even bother.

I shouldn’t even bother. That’s inadvertently become my life motto.

So in an effort to change this, I got myself a fancy headset and found a community of other gamers who are also girls and/or gamer girl friendly, who are also willing to hang out with a newbie with no aim until I get comfortable enough to try this on my own. I’m still intimidated – they are after all still strangers who could very possibly say something unfavorable about my lack of skills – but I’m willing to take that chance.

I will learn to like socializing if it is the last thing I do.