By Nicole Bates Instagram: @nicolebates_
When I was a freshman in high school, I remember looking up to the seniors and thinking they were so cool. I thought they had their lives together, they knew who they were, and they knew what they wanted. At the time, I was just a small 14-year-old who hadn’t experienced anything yet. I was shocked to learn people actually drank, smoked weed, and had sex!
As high school went on, I kept waiting to get to that point where I was the “cool” senior who knew who I was and what I wanted.
But when senior year came around; this feeling did not.
I thought back to how I revered those seniors as a naive freshman, and I did not think I could ever be in a position to be viewed that way.
I used to agonize over how I came across to other people even though I knew that was something I couldn’t control. However, how I felt I was being perceived always provoked anxiety. I felt that people saw me as the weird, quiet girl standing in the corner. I felt I rambled on to the point where my words made no sense. I felt like a nerd, like a freak, and I even felt boring. I was nervous that because of how I acted, another person would not want to be my friend.
Now I would say that my natural inclination is to be shy and quiet.
If you know me well- you may see my chatty and outgoing side. But in large groups or around strangers, I tend to be timid.
I’ve always hated this about myself.
For years, I would look up to my extremely extroverted friends and try to be more like them. However, in this quest to find my inner extrovert; I always felt I was failing. My friends would overshadow me with their loud antics and unabashed personalities. I was so jealous of them because they could talk to whoever, whenever, and they were so comfortable doing so.
My freshman year of college was a lot like my freshman year of high school.
I would look around at people and think they were so “cool.” But it wasn’t just the seniors, it was everyone. People doing their thing and living their independent lives as college students!
I continued to try to level up with the loud, outgoing people who I thought had it better than me but it was exhausting. Then, I started to awaken to the reality of things. I looked more critically at these friends and saw they too expressed some of the same social anxieties I felt.
This hardened “cool” front people seem to have is usually just that- a “front.” And as you get to know these “cool” people; you discover everyone has their own anxieties.
Cool means something different to everyone, and in my lifetime, its meaning has changed immensely.
In high school, “cool” was literally the “popular” kids who had parties and big houses and were for some inexplicable reason deemed better than everyone else.
I’ve also seen “Cool” as people who go through life seeming like they don’t give a fuck.
Like the people who listen to underground music acting like you could never possibly know all the music they know. Or people who are just so interesting because they walk around barefoot or know everything there is to know about astrology.
I have decided that being “cool” really just means doing what you find interesting and what you are passionate about. Yes, here I am whipping out some more clichés, but really when you are able to just be yourself- I think you will start to attract the people that are “cool” to you.
I have come a long way in squashing these all-consuming social anxieties since the days of shutting myself off alone in my freshman year dorm. Rather than trying so hard to be like the outgoing friends I had always been jealous of, I’ve settled into myself, and I’ve allowed myself to be a little more introverted without beating myself up about it.
Once I allowed myself to be myself, I found that I was much more comfortable in most social situations. I have become attune to if I am going to vibe with someone or if that connection will just never really happen.
Now I know who I want to surround myself with.
When I was trying to project someone else’s personality onto my own, I always seemed to be around people who I didn’t have much in common with. But at the time, I couldn’t recognize that was the root of my unease.
I have since realized I need to relinquish some of the control I desire to have over how people perceive me and let myself be free of worry. This means I may not get along with everyone; but that’s ok.
Because the relationships I do form feel more genuine.
Although I still experience social anxiety (it doesn’t ever completely go away), I have learned to try and push myself to get past it. If I think someone is “cool” and I want to hang out with them, then it can’t hurt to ask! What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t like me and don’t want to hang out.
I’m ok with that now.
I’d rather feel free to ask then to let my anxiety stop me from even trying to hang out with someone who I may be able to develop an honest relationship with.
Most of the time I have found that I am able to tell whether or not I am going to vibe with someone pretty early on. If I feel a connection, they rarely turn me away if I try to hang out.
Because most people are feeling a little nervous about how you perceive them too, they might even be just as excited to find out that you want to hang out with them!
So, tell the people you appreciate how much you appreciate them and that you think they are “cool” more often- because I think that is something everyone can benefit from hearing.
First and foremost; great piece by Nicole.
Just wanted to add that I always found it fascinating how those who deemed themselves the most popular tended to be the most despised by those around them.
Just a little #FoodForThought