Because I do not speak a lot, I apparently come off as either snotty, arrogant, smug, conceited, or, for lack of a better word, a bitch. In case you are wondering, someone has either said this to me or about me at some point in my life. My coworkers, classmates, and select family members do not understand that the majority of the time I am stunned into silence. I spend too much time overthinking a statement or a joke (or even this very blog post) that I miss my opportunity to contribute to the conversation. So instead of making a delayed statement, that I will just end up obsessing over, I do not say anything.

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Meanwhile, my inner dialogue:

 “How does my face look? Did I just smile weird? It is hot! Try not to leave. Did I miss something? Did they say something funny? Stop moving your feet. You are playing with your necklace too much. Laugh! Oh, they didn’t laugh. Just stay still.”

More often than not,  I do not say things because I cannot control the tone and volume of my voice. I will think to myself “small talk, small talk, small talk” (or sometimes say it out loud) and I will end up yelling at a person.

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“SO, YOU LIVE AROUND HERE!?”

Their reaction, rightfully so, is to be startled. Just when I think the situation could not get any worse, layered on top of my anxiety is a heaping helping of embarrassment.

Sometimes, when I say things like a compliment or a sign of genuine interest, it sounds flat or monotone so people think I am being sarcastic or insincere. Then I have to spend 5-10 minutes convincing them that I meant what I said.

At work, where I have to pretend that I am the most chill, I have developed a series of behaviors to avoid having to socialize for more than what is needed.

To avoid having conversations when people walk past me, I will often stare at the ceiling like I am trying really hard to think of something or pretend I am reading papers in my hand with a confused look on my face.

I will often go to meetings 15 minutes early so I do not have to walk past anyone while they are seated or people do not have to watch me sit down. With my luck, the chair will squeak, I will drop something, or I will bump into someone (or all three).

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If I mispronounce a word during a meeting.

I doodle, write nonsense notes, or shuffle papers to look preoccupied so I do not have to look around the table.

If I am trapped in the break room, I try to chuckle or nod my way out of conversations.What it usually means: What you feel when you're in danger. What it means to a socially anxious person: What you feel every time you talk to a stranger.

A daily struggle is convincing myself to stay at the elevator when someone else walks up. If more than a “good morning” is said, I feel like I am suffocating. I will get off on the wrong floor, if they do not exit first, and take the stairs the rest of the way; which, is actually counterproductive, because I feel like I cannot breathe even more.

With that being said, I really am not snotty, smug, arrogant, or conceited. I know I can be a bitch sometimes, but most of the time I am not trying to be.

I do not mean to come off cold or disinterested. I am really just trying to survive and it has taken a lot to get here.

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Written by MutedMouthful

Native New Yorker, amateur artist, sarcastic social worker, professional people watcher, and alliteration addict.

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