Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This is a messy list of social issues I want to fix.  It’s not complete but it’s been floating around in my drafts in various forms for a long time.  I might make minor edits to the formatting later. 

-I’m very focused on other people, to the point where their opinions influence me too much.  I’ve got a lot of bullshit in my head that’s tagged “credible” because it came from someone I wanted to impress.

-I tend to mimic when I’m around people I admire.  Mimicry is a lifesaver when you have no idea what’s going on, but it’s starting to lose its effectiveness as a tool. 

-I especially tend to mimic when I’m nervous.

-People I admire make me nervous.

-I tend to get obsessive over people for short periods of time (<6 months or so).  I consume everything they’ve written, and try to talk to them as much as is socially acceptable.  (what I see as) a socially acceptable amount of unprompted interaction is lower than the amount I want to have, so I find myself inventing pretenses to talk to them until they’re firmly in the “friend” category.

-I’m very unsure that people want to reciprocate interest, so it takes a while for me to be that comfortable.

-I’m so poorly calibrated about how I’m perceived that, even though I’m pretty sure I could be described as an extravert in the colloquial sense, I second-guess myself constantly and miss out on potentially high-value interactions.

-The second-guessing leads to things like not being very funny (thinking too long about saying things = screwing up the timing).  Also: missing opportunities for compliments, invitations, questions.  Sometimes I second guess, but decide to go ahead anyways, and then my timing goes from “eh, fine” to egregiously bad.  Potential solution there?  Maybe just killing the second-guessing habit would result in fewer moments like that.  On the other hand, having a classically autistic, encyclopedic memory and stereotypical “nerd” interests means I do moderately well in the con/anime/scifi geek scene.  That crowd’s humor is largely referential, and less dependent on delivery.   I still wouldn’t call myself hilarious but I feel more fluent there. 

-I get tunnel vision when I’m talking to people irl.  Don’t know what to do with my body.  Mindfulness meditation seems to help a bit, but I’m still 23 and just figured out how to exert instantaneous control over my facial expressions on a more regular basis. 

-I’m a bit faceblind, but that seems to be because I don’t look people in the eyes as much as I should.  I’ve been working on that and, surprise, suddenly I can recognize more people.

None of this is that severe (I’m functional, I have friends, I’m slowly approaching my Dunbar number for reciprocating friendships), but I want more control over what’s going on in my head.  A full 80% of why I’m writing this right now is because my current person-of-interest was talking about it.  My excuse is “well, I’m just better able to articulate it now,” but it really is that social motivation at work. 

What I want:

-To get the level of comfort I have with good friends more quickly

-Alternatively, to get to the level of comfort I have with strangers I don’t care about more quickly
-to catch myself when I start inventing reasons to talk to someone.  I’m a goddamn adult, I know what obnoxious people look like.  I am able to assess my own behavior if I pay attention.  I can look at a situation as a third party and know that one of the participants is annoyed or trying to blow someone off.  If I assess my own social situations while pretending to be a neutral third party, I should be able to do that for myself. 

-To be a bit funnier.  I would be happy if I could just get over my second-guessing.  Even if I suck for a while, I have to actually try if I want any kind of valuable feedback.

-To adopt valuable habits and knowledge that other people have without resorting to mimicry because I want them to like me.  It’s not a bad thing to mimic a little bit, depending on the situation I’m in.  It’s also not a problem if I adopt the genuinely good and useful traits of people I like.  But I need to be way, way more careful about tagging that information accurately and vetting knowledge independently. 

-To have high-value sources of social attention.  High-value meaning: I want the kind of attention I’m inclined to give to people. 

-To have more control over my actions in-person, in the moment.  I can achieve this when I’m very relaxed.  It’s probably not a coincidence that my social life has gotten better along with my anxiety disappearing. 

Things I can do:

-Notice when I start feeling inclined to listen to somebody more often than baseline interest. This is the start of a special-interest episode and those people have undue influence over me.

-Catch myself before inventing a pretense for interaction

-Behave like I would around “normal” friends, as much as possible.  That means: adjust down when evaluating how much someone’s social disapproval can hurt me.  I’m not in second grade and I have plenty of friends; I’m not going to get ostracized on the playground. 

-Make sure that people know that I’m open to criticism and expressions of annoyance or discomfort.  Reinforce this by not getting defensive when criticized.

-Kill defensiveness in general.  What do I have to protect that’s so sacred?  I am functional and moderately successful.  I will likely be quite successful and happy if my mental and physical health stay in check.  I’m pretty resilient overall, so getting stung in the ego should be no big deal.  Helpful analogy: getting my blood drawn.  It’s hardly ever as bad as I expect, regardless of all those good evolutionary reasons for avoiding things that pierce the skin. 

-Work on the two big projects that really do come from me (as much as anything can be said to be original).  They’re serious and interesting and I don’t really care what other people think about them.  It’s my fault if I can’t explain why they matter, eventually.

-Kill insecurity over becoming really invested in things that my people-of-interest do for hobbies.  Oh no, I like things my friends like, how awful and embarrassing.  What if they find out you like them?

-Get less invested in the autism diagnosis.  It’s useful when explaining my sensory issues, but at this point, I have enough social skills that crying “autism” is just a crutch.  I’ve already proved to myself that I can improve in this area.  The only excuse I have for not doing it has to do with my goals and how much time I’m willing to invest.  Anything else is a copout.