Chapter 12: A Seat at Which Table?
Never force anyone to stay in your life.
When I watched mean girls growing up I never anticipated that social groups could perpetrate so much agony. Seriously, all that's missing is the ironic love interest who is surprisingly interested in me. Oh, wait, that happened too. There are so many social nuances that I've yet to understand. I might study psychology passively, but sociology is really where I should have put my academic energy in. The interpersonal communication skills are severely lacking in my life. I'm not sure if I missed out on a side quest, or simply downloaded the wrong lifestyle game but social energy is overwhelming. How would a person like me interact with the world?
Introverted Energy vs. Extroverted Energy
Some of you might be familiar with the terms Introvert and Extrovert. Bonus points if you are familiar with Ambivert. To define these terms, for the purpose of my brief insights:
Introvert: a reserved or shy person who enjoys spending time alone
Extrovert: a gregarious and unreserved person
Ambivert: a person having characteristics of both extrovert and introvert
Here is the thing, the fun of defining your social type usually means you can get a better handle on how to properly navigate social spaces. Absolutely wrong. There are so many factors and random human things that intercede with your social plans. Life is random, and social life is not as planned as it appears. Consider what happens in conversations. You might sit at a cafe and spill some tea (gossip, stories) and never anticipate the wealth of knowledge you receive, or a last minute invitation to an event. Social life and socializing can be as spontaneous and dramatic as a soap opera.
Navigating social spaces is not without its troubles. Our behaviors can adapt and change depending on the environment. Some people flourish in crowds, where others withdraw. It's really a matter of finding a space where it is safe to be yourself. For extroverts, they might find very few spaces where they don't feel comfortable. Introverts might find that social spaces tax their energy, and don't feel comfortable for long or at all. My best friend and I called it extroverted and introverted energy. Sometimes there were moments where I found myself comfortable and had an excessive amount of extroverted energy. At moments like this, it felt like I could make friends and just feel joy in my environment.
Whats important to understand is that social energy can change. At one moment you can carry enough extroverted energy to party in Ibiza, and the next it'll deplete down to you can't even open a door to a bathroom. Your social energy is like a mana bar. It's blue and pretty, supposed to be a calming skill but actually stressful. Like the magical mana bar, it's also the most aggressively used when interacting others. Point is, monitor your mana bar, I mean social energy. Call your healer or your plus one to revive your energy or get you the heck out of dodge.
Let me give you some tips, from my third wheel perspective that isn't always experienced when friends are dating, but rather when hanging with the friends of your friend.
Setting up your place - You're in a new friend group, or social space its going to get awkward cause you know one person, or none. All the conversations are about experiences you did not share or exist in. What you should not do, is insert yourself into the easy-going nicknames and friend dynamics just cause you heard one story. You cannot fake relationship or friendship intimacy. Don't give in to the illusions of false intimacy.
Knowing your place but still in question? - So it might be you're embedded in a new friend group and you have a general understanding of where you are. Perhaps the newness of these interactions still has you in question. Do they like you? Are you really friends with your friends' friend? Are they going to be around when the main connection is missing? There is a big loss of confidence that rises once you start hanging out with people outside your circle. Dabbling with the friends of friends can be risky, but often your friends share you with them because they feel it'll produce a happy social family. Once you're hanging out with friends of friends it can lead to social isolation, because you don't quite fit in. You feel that the weight of experiences shared without you will constantly dismiss your presence or any social growth. All the memories and all those stories constantly reflected on don't include you, so you pull away thinking it might just be better elsewhere. People forget that third-wheeling can create isolation that encourages bad thoughts. It's hard to keep inclusive when socializing with people who aren't all of your circle or even within someone else's circle.
Please remember you're mana bar, and those around you while socializing because everyone's energy fluctuates. Sometimes people need the extra support or to be reminded that they still matter in the social scheme of things.
Why don't I belong? - Empress Jade
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