Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's the use of wondering?

If I could make one wish for myself, it would be to no longer care what anyone thinks. Correction, it would be to no longer care what anyone other than the people who care about me thinks.

A lot of my most obnoxious qualms are borne of a deep-rooted belief that it is somehow my duty to please and appeal to others. Sometimes it's a positive push, like that moment when I'm deciding whether to do my job and write an article that I could get away with not doing, or risk the consequences of disappointing my editor. Other times it's a terrible burden, like when I'm standing around at work waiting to talk to my supervisor and I'm afraid to approach them because I don't want to bother anyone.

For those who aren't timid, maybe this isn't as much of a problem. But for me, and I suspect for a lot of other people, awkward situations lead to anxiety attacks because I become so bothered by the idea that someone might think I look stupid.

There are a few things, though, that have gotten me through these moments. They've become the basis of my relative self-confidence and why I no longer give much thought to doing tasks that make me look stupid.

Before I used to think people remembered my foibles.

But they didn't care enough to remember. At least, that's what I figured out.

Every day we live our lives we make dumb mistakes and look stupid probably around a dozen times. Maybe some more if you're a klutz like I am. Definitely more if you wear high heels.

I used to think that if I tripped in front of someone that they'd remember a week later that I was "that one who tripped in front of them." My awkwardness would make me feel uncomfortable at every future interaction with my witness. I would blush or avoid eye contact, maybe even pretend they weren't in the room so that I didn't have to acknowledge that they'd seen me look stupid.

The other day I was at work. One of my favorite routines while there is to file away papers whilst listening to my iPod, lip syncing and dancing like an imbecile (actually, like a Princess, but I probably look like an imbecile). As per usual, I started playing the soundtrack to The Princess and the Frog. When I heard "Almost There" come on, I started pretending I was opening up my own restaurant. I pranced around the room pretending to put plates down at tables, tasting soup from a pot and instructing my waiters to adjust their lapels.

As I rounded a corner, one of the other employees at my work came into sight and she was visibly asking me a question. I was deaf and dumbfounded from the loudness of my music, so after I finished twirling and shimmying, I looked at her with doe eyes and felt all the blood rush out of my face. Or maybe it was into my face. Either way, my blood was not evenly distributed throughout my body.

She apologized for interrupting me then asked me to do something for her. I agreed and after a few minutes thought about how uncomfortable I would be when I'd finished the job she'd given me and I had to report back to her.

Then I remembered that she didn't care. It's not exactly rocket science to realize that even when you find yourself acting unbelievably oddly, the people around you will appreciate the humor for a second and then brush it off. Maybe it's because we have short attention spans, maybe it's because we are concerned with our own foibles. Either way, most of the time I don't remember when people have danced to their iPod in front of me. It's just not a big enough deal.

Before I believed my acquaintances minded when I was weird.

A day later, I was walking into my dorm and listening to the Tangled soundtrack (there's something about listening to Disney music and being in awkward situations, isn't there? Not that that'll stop me from listening) when I did my signature twirl upon scanning my key to enter the front door.

But I wasn't alone.

I reached out to open the door and a friend of mine was on the other side. "Is that your Disney Princess twirl?" he asked.

"Yes, and usually no one's around when I'm doing it," I said uncomfortably. He smiled and we both walked in the same direction, but I refused to address the issue anymore.

About a year ago, a similar event happened when I was walking through another door in my dorm. After I opened the door, I pushed down the handle and let myself walk through, but not without having my foot pop à la Princess Diaries.

"You're so adorable," said someone who I really can't remember the identity of right now.

At that moment I felt a twinge of awkwardness for having someone see me pop my foot as I opened a door. Another one of my weird quirks that no one is supposed to see, and suddenly someone is privy to it. After a second thought, I realized that there was nothing to be ashamed of.

The person who commented had said it was cute. They didn't laugh. They didn't chortle. They didn't scowl or look at me with one eye bigger than the other. They had basically complimented me on my weirdness.

Even when I feel I'm doing something strange, the reaction from others is likely going to be in the way of amusement rather than disdain. That's fine.

Before I hoped people would accept me for who I was.

With the foot-popping and Princess twirling incidents, I realized that I'm more often me when I'm amongst the filing cabinets at work, in my room or in a door frame in my dorm (I don't know why). The facade I put on to impress people and make them perceive me as normal isn't me.

I'm not normal. I'm weird.

I don't know why I ever worried about people thinking I was something other than myself when they saw me in my element being ditzy. Because sometimes that is me. The real me.

It's not that difficult to reconcile pleasing others and being happy with yourself. In fact, the two go more hand-in-hand than I ever realized before being revealed as the weirdo that I am.

There's no use in wondering whether someone thinks you look dumb, because most judgment of you is based on how you perceive and present yourself. Timidity is where a lot of us go horribly wrong.

Feeling unsafe in my own skin always made me act like a less interesting person, and more than anything that skews the public's perspective more.

Moral of the story is to be yourself - foot-popping, lipsyncing, dancing, twirling and all. Is this a cliché? Yes. But is it true? Also yes.

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