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Usually, when I am by myself, I am a very calm and peaceful person. I can easily just be where I am and enjoy what is happening, maybe the sun shining, the air being especially clear or my room just being cozy. I can easily be content while being with my thoughts and I have found a lot of ways to relieve boredom by now.

But I have noticed that I am nothing like that when I am around people. And it doesn't matter if they are strangers or friends or even my parents. I am fundamentally more conscious of myself and all of my thought is pointed on the interaction between me and those people. I frequently play through various tiny scenarios in my head to decide how to approach the next conversation or what I am going to say next. But of course, as soon as something unexpected happens, my plan does not apply very well anymore and often what I say or how or when I say it turns out awkward or even kind of rude. Or just plain embarassing.

This is always different depending on the people I am with. When I am with strangers (on the bus or at a restaurant) it is easy for me to zone out because there is not really any interaction. Even when I have to ask a stranger about anything I don't hesitate too much because I know exactly what I have to say.

What I am having trouble with is people at my own age. I am 19 years old and I have always been a rather reserved person, but lately I can't even enjoy myself anymore when going out with friends or when I am having friends over or anything. Even with friends I have known for years I am always nervous and extremely conscious of what I do or say. When I am showing my friends a song or a movie or anything it feels like that thing is taking forever and I don´t even like what I have been so enthusiastic about anymore. Often, when I spend more that 2 days with the same people, I end up with a headache because I can never relax.

This is extremely frustrating for me and I am losing contact to most of my friends because of this now, because I simply can't socialize with them. I would like to simply be the way I am when I am alone, when I am relaxed, free thinking and creative. But I have not found a way to do this yet.

I have tried to at least stay with the group and listen what the others are talking about but this was only more frustrating because most of the time they would talk or even fight about irrelevant nonsense. This caused me to go into "isolation mode" where I would not listen anymore and simply sink in depressive thoughts about how I can not relate.

The worst part is probably, that I have avoided a lot of activities that require people to connect and work/talk with each other, which is why my hobbies are few and best done alone(programming, drawing, listening to my style of music, but mostly programming) by now.

So I think what I am looking for is a way to find interest in things that you can do with friends, while having to deal with this anxiety towards people. I would like to connect with people again, but I can never manage to act like myself when interacting with them. I am constantly hung up in "meta-thoughts" about what I should do, how I am doing or why I am doing it like this.

  • Unfortunately I don´t have many friends who are also into programming, though this will probably change when I start studying computer science. The problem is that I am not good at sharing. Whenever I share something I somehow start to make it look like nothing special because I am afraid of bragging. I make it look so mundane that even I myself remain kind of "disenchanted" – stimulate Nov 6 '17 at 14:52
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Development of self-awareness can be quite useful throughout the rest of your adult life. Balancing that awareness with self-criticism can help you to become effective regardless of the social situation. Consider the following thoughts:

  1. Do your best to be calm. You seem to have some self-doubt ("can't enjoy myself", "always nervous"). Perhaps allowing yourself to be uncertain, without being self-critical would help alleviate your nervousness.

  2. You are not alone. Most successful people have experienced some self-doubt. Have some way to mitigate those feelings uncertainty, whether it's deep breathing or internal empathy ("It's okay to be unsure.").

  3. Take breaks if necessary. Sometimes just "stepping out for a moment" will let you clear your head. You said you like fresh air ("the air being clear"); don't hesitate to excuse yourself, get some fresh air and come back refreshed.

  4. Others may judge you less than you suspect them to. If you are shy or self-conscious, that nature may amplify the temptation to believe others wish ill for you. A simple survey of random people (no need to do this, although it may prove enlightening) could show that most persons surrounding you don't pass their time by passing judgement. Choosing to acknowledge this principle may lighten the perceived social burden you place on yourself.

All other things considered though, give yourself grace to take small steps as consistently as you can. You can walk great distances one step at a time - you can make the life change you desire using consistent small steps as well.

  • You are right, I very often criticize myself and doubt my abilities which often leads to nervousness, especially when I am worried I will "get caught"(by other people), which in turn leads to me making more mistakes. I will try to be more gracious with myself from now on and I will see what that changes. Thanks you for your answer :) – stimulate Nov 6 '17 at 15:25
  • @stimulate Glad to help. Please mark this as the answer if you feel it is the most appropriate answer presented. – user3.1415927 Nov 7 '17 at 18:32
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    This really helped me i think. The past days I was able to be more relaxed around people even though I have not had the chance to meet friends yet. but simply writing this question already helped me and being less self critical made it easier to relax. – stimulate Nov 7 '17 at 19:11
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I used to be a lot like you, and still am sometimes. Here's what helped me with these thoughts and behaviours.

Forgive yourself, almost everybody is way more insecure that it appears to be. First and foremost, remember that all the people surrounding you struggle with similar nervousness. Maybe it's not exactly the same issue, maybe they are insecure of talking about their passions or showing up in tight clothes or dancing or whatever. The point is that appearances are never so deceptive as when comparing one's life to the others.

Take your time and personal space, if you need to: many introverted people find other people's presence energy-draining. It's useful to get to know when the energy limit is approaching to take a step back and spend some time by oneself, for instance by taking a walk alone during a trip with other people. This way you can "recharge" and not find yourself already tired in socially intense endeavours.

It can be difficult to find discussion topics when doing nothing besides drinking around a table. Instead, you could try engaging in activities that are "self-sustaining", like sports, boardgames or themed parties. One of my most enjoyable evenings was on a Christmas dinner... in July, 35 °C outside. We even decorated the tree :)

I came to realize that I felt especially nervous around people with whom I didn't share a lot. It took me a while, but in the end I understood that with this specific set of people I was just bored. Being very insecure made me think I was the one being wrong, but in hindsight it was just a matter of incompatibility. You mentioned some friends talking about "irrelevant nonsense", might it be that you are bored as well? This is an important point: if you don't actually care about what they have to share, it will be difficult to have a natural conversation. Also, you can't be friends with everybody, it's ok not to feel connected with every person you meet.

This brings us to an important point: listening actively to what other people have to say. This means being interested about what the other person has to share and react consequently ("Oh, so what's like to have a dog? Did you ask for it or would you rather have a cat? Do you have to look after it?" etc).

Finally, my last and most important suggestion, which was really beneficial to me in the long term: engage in theatre classes. Everybody is clearly and openly insecure, nobody is expected to be an expert, and you get to experiment around with social interactions in a safe environment. It's like a social sandbox. It also helps with a number of apparently unrelated issues, like being conscient of one's body and voice or accepting the possibility of making mistakes.

  • Thank you for your ideas, engaging in theater classes would probably really help me get more confident about myself. But dont believe I will build up the energy for this step anytime soon, I will keep it as an option though :) – stimulate Nov 7 '17 at 19:19
  • It took me years to build up the energy for that :D but in hindsight it really helped me. Sometimes, even if it's scary as hell, it's really useful to put another person (a theater teacher for instance, or a sport trainer or whatever) in the position to deal with our insecurities and stiffnesses. Whatever you choose, good luck, you can do it! – LinuxBlanket Nov 8 '17 at 10:29
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I also read into this a low self-image and a possibility of depression. If you have things you don't enjoy any more, low energy, and struggle with interaction, I'd suggest a visit to your physician and get that checked out. (This is not medical advice). If it isn't clinical depression, at least you know it's not and can proceed with some activities that build up your confidence, like meeting people with similar interests. OTOH, if it is, catching it early can be a huge step towards controlling it. We as Americans seem to struggle with the idea that a chemical imbalance in the brain is a sign of weakness, which is hogwash.

Building self-image isn't easy, especially with people who don't share your interests. Add to that your age and it's really hard. You're done with high school, and now find yourself no longer surrounded by people all of the same age and at the same place in life. It's confusing, and no one really prepared you for it. But you can do it. Reaching out for help, even if it's from strangers on the internet, is a good positive step. @user3.1415927 has a good answer that is full of grace and compassion and I hope to be able to emulate that in the future.

  • I have already had psychotherapy because some family issues and kept going there after that to support me during a difficult phase, but it never really helped that much because we only ever came to the conclusion that I can´t do much and that I have to accept most of the things that were troubling me. I am glad that I will soon leave my family´s house which will allow me to move on more easily. – stimulate Nov 8 '17 at 18:04

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