**DISCLAIMER** Following is a long post that’s only relatable/beneficial if you’re a socially awkward human bean.
If you’re anything like me, (and, lord, help you if you are) then building stable relationships in a new environment is difficult. A variety of obstacles pave the path to social success. Whether it be social anxiety, introversion, extroversion, awkwardness, shyness, trust issues, or just a general dislike of people, meeting people and making friends can be ROUGH. 🙂
Completely un-helpful ish people always say:
Just be yourself.
The more you do it, the easier it’ll get. (“It” meaning public speaking or meeting people.)
It doesn’t hurt to try.
Everyone is super nice in college.
No one cares in college, we’re all just living our own lives.
If you say this ^^ stuff, you should know that I don’t hold a personal grudge against you. My eyes just slide back inside my head when I hear it. Here’s the thing though, when you have social anxiety you can’t just ‘be yourself.’ For me, in group settings I get really quiet, turn red when any attention is directed to me, and sweat ridiculously. I also shake, in this unhealthy tremor-looking way. I physically can’t be myself until the safety barriers placed by my social anxiety are torn down by the comfort of sharing experiences with someone. Socially anxious me is me being me.
It doesn’t get any easier with practice/repetition. I feel equally crappy whether I’m introducing myself to a single person in the hallway or sharing a presentation in front of professional panel. (Whew, alliteration.) I did Speech in high school, took the required courses, and had countless experiences with public speaking and social interaction. I live through it, but it doesn’t get any easier/less painful each time.
There’s thousands more people on campus then there were even in my town, but that doesn’t mean they’re all nice. Being in the Midwest, most people act generally decent during chance encounters. General decency doesn’t mean they will like you, be your friend, not be judgmental, or not partake in harsh gossip.
For those of you who can relate, throughout high school the appeal of finding others like you was motivation enough to push through to college. I come from a school of <500, and my first class at the University of Iowa contained over 600 students. That’s WILD. My social anxiety screamed, “RUN!” when I moved into my dorm, but my heart soared with the hope of finding my life-long best friends. Years of social conditioning taught me that college would be a magical place, where lifetime bonds were forged and excitement peaked.
(In all honesty, I peaked in first grade. But, uh, that’s a separate story.)
So, what have I discovered since moving in two short weeks ago?
Everyone’s life is on its own time.
Biologically, we mature at different times. Physically, we reach various milestones when conditions are right for our individual selves. And in terms of relationships, we meet the people that change our lives when we expect it least. Though clichéd, and, albeit a tad misleading, that statement holds truth. I’ve always found the best relationships accidentally, stumbling upon them while simply living my life and focusing on being happy on my own. I’m not really sure of the science behind this. Maybe we’re more attractive to others when we give off happy, healthy vibes. Maybe it’s just fate. Maybe, we’re more emotionally receptive to others when we aren’t panicking about looking like/feeling like a loner. Regardless, new relationships are out there, lurking in the most obvious of places. The worst part of all of this (the assertion that best friends are found when you’re not looking) is the application of it. When someone says, “Don’t look now,” I suddenly have to look. Even if I didn’t care about looking or know it’s a bad choice. Reverse psychology at its finest. So, when I say stop looking for a best friend/significant other actively, it makes it that much harder to focus on yourself.
If you’re still socially floundering, here’s a few of my habits to cope with the lonely/anxious road to finding your mental match:
Develop a hobby…. I write and take semi-artsy pictures with my Galaxy S6’s cracked camera. If you can have fun doing it on your own, do it the best you can! Maybe you’ll encounter your future buddy while doing your hobby.
Make a playlist. Or two. Or thirty-six… Spotify Premium is my hero. I might just be more into music than most people, but IMHO there’s nothing quite like a playlist perfectly tailored to a specific mood and vibe. Naming the playlist is half the fun, too. Music is a great social connector and solid conversational topic in nearly any setting. There’s few better ways of getting to know someone than by learning and appreciating their music tastes. Sorting Hat, my catch-all playlist, is linked for your perusal. Vibing Bubbly (my indie happy playlist) is also linked below.
Clean/organize/take notes… The most socially appealing you is the best you. Destress and declutter, or improve your time management skills and GPA while you’ve got time to kill.
Try new things… And by things, I mean food. Food is also a universal talking point and just a generally great thing. I don’t recommend boredom-eating as a habit, but there are literally hundreds of delicious dives in the Iowa City area. Visiting families will appreciate your foodie-level dining suggestions and you’ll likely discover something you love.
Never settle… Lastly, but most importantly, resist the urge to settle! If someone belittles, annoys, mistreats, or intimidates you, they aren’t worthwhile company. Take care of yourself, and hopefully focusing on personal discovery will expedite the relational discovery process too.
May the odds be ever in your favor!
Alternatively, if the whole “Stop looking for friends and they’ll find you” method is too passive or not effective for you, there’s a much more proactive option. If it’s something you’re comfortable with, the University Counseling and Wellness Services are a great resource for students. Follow this link for more information on their services:
P.S. There’s no shame in checking it out! Mental health/being happy on campus is important. Their services are free to students and there’s lots of service options available.
P.S.S. If you see me on campus, don’t hesitate to awkwardly nod or half-wave and cringe. I’ll probably look behind myself to see who you’re waving at then turn crimson and nod back. It’s a thing. 🙂