I’ve been at my new job for two full weeks now, and in that time I’ve met so many new people that my social anxiety skyrockets as soon as I open my eyes in the morning.
I thought working retail forced me to interact with strangers, but I’ve discovered that it’s nothing compared to what I’m doing now in human services.
With retail, I had a prescribed set of interactions—greeting people, offering to help them, ringing them out, etc. It was easy to get into a robotic mindset where it wasn’t really me interacting with others, just my role. Now that I’m not able to hide behind a register, I’m reminded of how terrifying it can be to try to carry on a conversation with someone I don’t know (or with dozens of people I don’t know).
If my workplace were a party, I would sneak off after a few hours and go home to hide under covers with a book. Unfortunately, in this instance I don’t have the luxury of deciding my social meter has maxed out and that I need to get away.
Somehow I needed to find a way to make meeting people interesting and exciting rather than terrifying and draining.
And being the imaginative person that I am, I couldn’t go with a typical solution (those never work anyway). I had to try to make it magical, which I discovered was rather easy.
At some point this past Monday, I realized that my social anxiety wouldn’t exist if I were meeting elves and gnomes rather than humans. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time reading Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Maybe this is just an indication of how obsessed I am with fantasy worlds…but I suddenly knew how I needed to approach my own world.
My first week at my new job, I was just meeting people.
The second week at my job, I was meeting mythical creatures! (It’s okay to be jealous)
With each new person I met, I would try to see which race or species they would be if they came from Tolkien’s, Rowling’s, or Pratchett’s worlds. And it actually worked! This past week, I’ve met some really delightful personalities.
So far, I’ve come across a hobgoblin who certainly wouldn’t be someone I’d go hunting to find but who has proven to be adorable in her unconventional way, a troll who is rather gentle and lovable despite the thick skin and somewhat obtuse point of view, and a couple of elves whose artistic souls peak out of their shy, distrustful eyes.
There’s even an orc. I’m equal parts terrified and fascinated by him at the moment, but I comfort myself with the idea that a single orc is probably far more scared of my fairy power than I am of his gnashing teeth.
My game has allowed me to look beyond the human mask that tend to be so terrifying and uncomfortable to see the beauty of their souls. Connecting people with mythical creatures keeps me mindful of the fact that they have a history, a story, a personality, even talents; and being mindful of their histories, stories, personalities, and talents reminds me to look for them rather than getting lost in my own anxieties about whether they will like my history, story, personality, or talents.
It hasn’t taken all of the stress out of my interactions. I cried during week two of my new job only slightly less than I cried during week one. But bringing magic and myth into my workplace with me has helped me find an enthusiasm for meeting new people that I never thought I would experience. Dare I say I’m even looking forward to meeting more creatures from my magical world? I may have to drop the label of “introvert” if I keep having this much fun with humans!
Reblogged this on DIFFERENT, LIKE YOU. and commented:
An inspiring, different way of looking at the world and dealing with fears.
I love your world. This makes me think why I haven’t thought of something like this when I was younger and social anxiety is blocking my way to the world in front of me. I hope you keep us updated on what happened to the hobgoblin, the troll and the orc.
Thanks for the comment! I removed the link though. I try to keep my blog away from promoting other people’s products or books unless I’m specifically doing a review of their work.
I’m obsessed with LOTR and Harry Potter, too. But mostly with LOTR and fantasy novels. I wouldn’t have social anxiety, either, if I were dealing with Elves instead of humans. They’re real. They’re not Tolkien’s Elves, but they do exist. Actually, the Ljósálfar are exactly like Tolkien’s Elves. Wood elves don’t like to be seen and it’s hard to gain their trust. You have to really love the environment. Actually, gnomes exist as well. So do all spirits of the wood. I’ve done what you’ve done and draw comparisons between people I meet and magical beings. It doesn’t always work, because I remember that humans will never be these beings. And I don’t think the Eldar would like being compared to humans.
P.S. I loved your post.
I love this idea!
Thank you for sharing such a lovely post (3 years ago!) It eases my social anxiety a little to know that I’m not alone in a culture where gregariousness and an outgoing nature are preferred over introverts and more quiet people. I currently work in retail and it’s been really difficult for me. Job “hopping” is one of my symptoms – I can’t seem to find anything that I feel comfortable with and that doesn’t leave me wanting to hibernate for a month 😛 Hopefully I will find something soon that is tolerable. Your little strategy is great – I actually have done a similar exercise with people. Those of us with vivid imaginations shouldn’t hesitate to use it for our benefit 🙂