I am a good faker. When kids in my class mess up, I give them my best disappointed speech. I have made a few kids cry over the years. It isn’t that I am not disappointed but, realistically, I know they are just kids. They are going to make mistakes. My job is to help them learn from them. So I lay it on a little thick sometimes.
My biggest fake job comes from everyday living. I am generally perceived as a very outgoing person. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am terrified in groups. Meeting new people makes my head feel like it is going to explode. I am most comfortable when I am alone typing at a keyboard writing fiction or sharing my strange view of the world.
This isn’t a new problem. I have always been this way. For as long as I can remember I have felt shy. I never asked one girl out in high school. I wanted to but every time I tried to work up the nerve I nearly died from embarrassment. It took a month of visiting a book store chatting up the woman who would eventually become my first girlfriend. Even then she basically asked me out.
Eventually, I got tired of all the missed opportunities. I got tired of not meeting people. Not getting to know people I really wanted to know. For a while I started using alcohol as a way to loosen me up. Without sounding too full of myself, I am a funny man. It was amazing to hear people laugh at my stories. It didn’t take too long though for me to realize the alcohol was a mistake. I didn’t know when to stop. It was a crutch which I was afraid would eventually destroy me. So I stopped drinking.
This led to some very heart wrenching times for me. Trying to bring out the person I wanted to be. Over time I just started forcing myself into situations which made me uncomfortable. I worked hard at presenting myself to the world as confident. I worked at talking, at telling stories. At being myself. After a while I started to get good at it. It doesn’t change the fact that inside I feel off. I feel like I don’t belong. Like at any minute the shoe will drop and I will be exposed to the world as a phony. The self-doubt is constantly picking at me. My emotional battle scars run deep.
Interestingly, when I tell this to people I am often met with looks of confusion. As if they doubt the validity of what I am feeling. Like I said, I fake it well. I should have been an actor. If you look real close you can see it though. Sometimes I try too hard. I talk too much and too fast. Some sort of verbal diarrhea. Trying to get out everything in my head before the person I am talking to decides I am not worth talking to. I hate when this happens. It makes me feel worse. Like the emperor with no clothes.
Or there was the time at this last WonderCon where a group of people decided to go to lunch. Many of the group I consider friends but no one actually asked me. I am sure I was invited. No one would have thought twice about me being there but suddenly the voices in my head were telling me no. Don’t be that guy who forces himself into other people’s social situations. I convinced myself I was tagging on like some awkward freak. I watched the group walk away and fled back to my hotel where I absolutely melted down. Later, when I met back up with them and I saw the pictures of their lunch I was so mad at myself. I had let myself miss out.
This last ComicCon I was much better. I tried to make sure I was involved. I didn’t go back to my hotel room and kick myself for not going out with friends. I had a great time but I can still remember the feelings of panic everywhere I went. Luckily, I am much better once I feel truly comfortable around someone. I open up and I don’t mind asking, “Hey, what’s everyone doing tonight.” I am also truly lucky to be funny. It makes it easier to let loose sometimes. Making people laugh is never a bad thing.
I have gotten so much better over the years but it is still there hanging on. It helps to know so many of my friends often are going through the same thing. Probably a bunch I don’t even know about. I am thankful for all the great friends I have met over the last few years. Many of them through my blog or Twitter. It has made my life so much better. Someday, maybe, I will rid myself of this self-doubt. Until then at least I have a bunch of geeky friends to kick me in the ass.