It’s been a couple days since I returned from a leadership conference hosted by Leadershape where I resided in a hotel for 6 days with 58 other people from my school. I unfortunately dived straight in not knowing anyone (even though they’re from my college) and this situation initially placed me under a lot of anxiety.
I consider myself a talkative introvert which is someone who easily uses words to create an atmospheric sense of comfort among friends but dries up remarkably quickly in the midst of strangers. My easily forthcoming statements are nowhere to be heard when I was thrown into this den of lions. (Really, it’s an apt comparison not because they’re vicious but because they’re all leaders and carry strong personalities.) So I know that all I can do in this scenario is meet these people and talk to them. However, when I come across situations where cliques form or I find myself unable to comment or contribute to the conversation at hand, I despair. I, of course, don’t give up that easily and consistently try but I’ve been scarred from a harrowing summer camp experience where all my social efforts bore slow fruition and counselors there had preconceived notions to isolate the sole newcomer which was me.
I have a secret fear of seeming to try too hard and I don’t want to come across as a try-hard or social climber because I’ve never sought acceptance. It turns out that other people had the same fears as I did and it was so much fun learning through implemented simulations, activities, and lectures. Ultimately, I discovered that how others at Leadershape perceived me was more accurate than I thought and they somehow knew me better than I knew myself…in a mere six days. Seriously, it was amazing learning so much in just a week and I completely loved the last discussion I had with each of the members in my group. It featured lots of real talk and at risk of sounding really corny…heart-to-heart talk. I never would have imagined being able to go in-depth to talk about who I am as a person and in turn, get feedback on how my peers saw me. I knew I was funny but I never knew that my inputs and comments were actually significant and important. Aside from my comic relief, these people told me that I was a valuable contribution to the group and they saw me as an innately happy person. I can say that I didn’t think my comments were insightful because I doled them carelessly. When I laughed, one person told me, it was contagious. And this was the first time I heard that and I’ll forever treasure it, not because it was kind but because it was truthful. I truly began to value honesty after this conference and I think it’s become one of the biggest core values that I’m going to carry around with me the rest of my life.
I truly wish to continue keeping in touch with these people instead of steering into ‘casual acquaintances’ territory in which we merely exchange greetings upon sighting. This means I have to exert effort and actually text several of these people and keep a steady stream of contact. Constant connection is one of the worst things and I absolutely excel with casual “Hi and hello” but I want to actually stay with them next time to have a short, but meaningful conversation. I have a lot of trouble with texting because I feel as if they’re not as invested. When the person does not respond, I have difficulty coming up with a conversational piece to jumpstart the communication. In a nutshell, I hate taking initiatives. But this time, I’m definitely trying. I want to talk more about this later but for now, these are what I picked out from the jumbled mess of emotions.
Post-Effects/ What’s Changed:
- I’m craving lots of social interaction but I’ve become selfish in that I want a genuine connection.
- I want a deep discussion with another person.
- I came in with no expectations to make friends (because I’m terrible at keeping in contact with the ones I already have) and I now want to continue the friends I made in Leadershape.
- I’m still afraid to make the first call/contact with those said friends but I’m now more determined to at least check up on them occasionally.
- I want to talk about something I’m passionate about.
- I value communication that goes beyond simple greetings, formalities, and brief conversations.
- I want to have friends who have visions and ambitious goals.
- Social Entrepreneurship has become tangible for me.
- I want to continue to talk to people from Leadershape. I plan to contact them to hang out. (I still, however, retain the idea that I might be bothering them. My goals may have changed but my fears stayed the same: I don’t want them to get the wrong idea if they’re guy friends but I do want to stay in contact without straining relationships.)
- I’m more aware of how bad I am at texting.
- I plan to contribute more in class.
- I plan to contribute more in friend discussions.
- I plan to initiate the conversation and see awkwardness as an opportunity to introduce new topics.
Thanks for taking the time to read whatever bits and pieces, and I promise to write something more uplifting next!
Happy Mental Health Awareness and Martin Luther King Jr. Day!!