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It was a late afternoon in early July. The year was 2009. I was 24 years old.
I sat at home with my parents. Summer had just begun. Most people were happy. I, however, was just sad.
I had absolutely no friends or pals to hang out with. Due to financial reasons, I had to stay at home with my parents. It was like I was in prison. The only human interaction I had was when I was talking to the cashier, the bus driver, or some of my teachers at school. Or when I was subjected to my old folks’ incessant nagging.
Except for that, everything was just a void. A void of utter and sheer blackness.
Most people aren’t built to be recluses. We’re equipped with the most beautiful thing there is—the ability to socialize. As higher-order beings, we sense, touch, and receive in a much more sophisticated way than other creatures on this planet.
Whole empires were built on the ability to connect with other people. Relationships were forged. Families and bloodlines were kept alive because of this evergreen ability to sense, give, and receive. Without that, we’re nothing. We’re empty, black holes that wander around without purpose or meaning.
Hence why the lack of socializing made me feel down. Anxious. And quite frankly, it made me feel a little angry.
Two of my five study years had passed. I had done nothing but sit at home every night, feeling sorry for myself, including most weekends. I had three years left in this town before I graduated from college. It was time to do something about my situation.
That same afternoon I made a promise to myself: I would do anything it took to rebuild my social life.
I was so tired of being down in the gutter. Of having no one to talk to. No one to actually spend time with. The majority of other 24-year-olds were probably out partying with their friends.
While I had no one to spend time with.
Why were things like this? What had gone wrong? Was it the 11 years of incessant, nonstop bullying that I had to sustain?
Was it the fact that I couldn’t seem to function properly together with other people since I was socially lagging behind?
Or was it the fact that I let all of these bad experiences hold me back?
Holding back on our true potential is the death of all joy. It’s like a slow-growing cancerous tumor that gradually cripples our lives. It saps us for energy, happiness, and lust. As a human, we’re capable of so much. Why would we allow our minds to tell us otherwise?
If we allow our thoughts to get too big, too impending, and too dominant, we’ve already lost. When we let the void of nothingness dictate our thought pattern, we’re headed for the mental abyss.
Everyone is flawed somehow. They’re just looking for someone to interact with—especially in today’s world of smartphones, social media, and incessant scrolling.
Thus, interacting with people is even more important than before.
You may have all the money in the world—all the power in the world—but without someone to share it with, you’re nothing.
Just doing it
Once I got back from my summer vacation, it was time to go to work.
I didn’t know about anyone to hang out with, other than a couple of pals in my class at the university, so I hit them up. In fact, they were more like study colleagues. I didn’t know them personally. But at least they knew my name.
I got invited to join a party with some other people from my class, whom I barely knew. And this year was my third year at the campus and I’d never socially interacted with these people other than talking about boring school stuff. I didn’t really know them.
However, all of a sudden, I was now supposed to pretend I was their friend. And that meant I had to talk to them about anything but school stuff. I had to talk to them about their personal lives. And that was seriously a tough ask.
Interacting with someone who considers you a geek is difficult enough as it is. Trying to be funny and making them laugh is just so out of the question. Seeing how other people interacted with each other really struck a nerve in me. It seemed like it just came naturally to them. Like they hadn’t been doing anything else for their whole lives.
I became so envious with them, and I cursed myself for not having spent more time with these people previously. They’d been there, right in front of my nose, for those whole two years. Yet, I’d failed to take action. I’d just stood there, sidelined without doing something.
And it was all due to my past experience and my own defeating thoughts. My own feeling of poor self-esteem.
Jumping into any of the conversations was awkward and difficult. What am I going to say? How am I supposed to answer? Thoughts like that were running through my head.
But I had to at least try. If I didn’t make a sincere effort to mix in with these people, I might as well just walk out of there.
The first party sucked. I won’t lie. I said so many stupid things and people gave me weird looks.
It was like I slowly was digging my own grave with every single word I said. But this was part of the process in order to fit in socially.
Starting out with something is never easy. We all make mistakes. And we will get ourselves in uncomfortable and awkward situations. When we start from zero, we can only go upward. There is no way we can lose. We can only win.
Victory might seem distant in such cases. We feel we have to do so much work in order to even get in sensing range of victory. That’s just called good, old-fashioned “work.” Eventually, it will happen, we just need to persist.
As time went by, I was invited to more parties. Talked to more people. And of course, girls. I understood that going out to socialize wasn’t just about picking up girls. I also had to function normally when in the presence of other people.
Things were difficult. I felt like I was walking in a minefield where one wrong step would mean certain death. Each and every single sentence I spoke sounded awkward in my head. Also, people were still giving me these weird looks.
Little by little it crossed my mind that it wasn’t the words themselves that people were reacting to. It was the delivery. The way I spoke them. The way my voice sounded. My body language was tremendously poor. I had a hunched over posture with my arms crossed. I always looked down and away when talking to other people.
I didn’t dare to make eye contact with others.
It was all because I was petrified of getting caught saying something that others would disagree with. Then they would have a reason to call me out for being the dumb fool I was. Sure, I got “caught” sometimes, but for the most part, people didn’t mean any harm. They would just express their sincere disagreements, which, of course, didn’t harm me in any way. It actually made me practice speaking my mind and arguing my stance, no matter how controversial it was.
That cost me some relationships; however, I quickly learned that someone who leaves you over a sincere disagreement isn’t worth keeping either.
By gradually showing up for events and happenings, I slowly changed my personality. I became someone else.
Little by little, as time went by, people started approaching me before I’d made any contact with them. It seemed like it was something about me, something appealing that I didn’t know what was. I almost functioned like some sort of glue that mysteriously attracted people to me.
Whenever I was out socializing, people would almost by default flock to me because I had a certain appeal about me. Almost like an aura.
I think that’s what they call charisma.
I’ll be 100 percent sincere here. Perhaps I’m ruining the magic for you, but that’s just how things are. The only reason I had this mysterious aura about me that seemed to attract people out of nowhere, was due to my increased self-confidence.
Pure and simple.
I was brimming with self-confidence. After having sustained so much rejection, things now were a little easier. After having finally cracked the social code that mysteriously kept people from being around me, I could now start reaping the fruits of my hard labor.
When we start interacting with people on a regular basis, this is what happens. There is some sort of magnetic field being broadcasted. Other people pick up on it and naturally start gravitating toward us.
There’s nothing magic about this. It’s called human interaction. When applied correctly though, it almost feels like we’re casting spells. In reality, we’re just inviting someone else into our presence.
If we combine making our cases with self-confidence, that’s so attractive to anyone who interacts with us. It’s the most beautiful and important thing we can do to anyone. It is ultimately what will bring us inner peace.
The one that got away
Three years later, after I’d gotten some valuable experience under my skin, something happened. Right there and then, it seemed insignificant.
But in hindsight, I realized just how important this lesson was.
It was a summer afternoon. I was waiting at a bus stop to meet some friends of mine. Beside me, a girl was sitting.
I thought she was cute, so I wanted to talk to her. Just listen to her voice. So, I asked her a little bit about what she was doing and where she was going.
She said she was working in town as a teacher. But she didn’t want to live there. She wanted to go away. I told her that I was about to graduate and that I was due to move soon. She seemed so envious of me. But more than that, she was just so pleasant to me. She smiled. Had a really open and inviting body language.
Still inexperienced, I didn’t pay attention to her subtle smiles. Nor the way she made eye contact with me, nor her willingness to continue the conversation despite all the awkward pauses that surfaced.
Perhaps she was looking for someone in her life and that could have been me.
The conversation lasted for just five minutes or so before it abruptly ended. My friends came, and I had to go. It didn’t occur to me that I could have asked for her number so we could stay in touch.
One of my friends asked me why I was flirting with that brunette. “I wasn’t flirting,” I said. “We were just talking!”
“Come on, now! I saw how you smiled and looked at her.”
My body language had revealed it all.
I never saw her again. I don’t know what she’s doing right now. Maybe she’s still in the same town, working as a teacher?
What I do know is that I’ll always curse myself for not jumping at the opportunity while I had the chance. I guess it’s one of those lessons that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
No matter how experienced we think we are, we cannot get them all. Sometimes there just isn’t a connection. The store might be closed for business. Or we may be projecting the wrong signals.
We need to lift our shield and realize that most people are not dangerous. A friendly look, a smile, and inviting body language can be all it takes. The minute we start dismissing people who want to socially interact with us is the minute we’ve lost.
We should always be on the look for the smiley eyes. The willingness to continue a conversation. And inviting body language.
Little by little, this is how we build our own personal armies.