I have always been a socially awkward person. My sister would talk about the fun activities that she did with our cousins when you were younger, and then I would be like, “We were always together back then. How come you got to do that, and I did not?” The answer would often be, “It’s because you did not want to come.” Then, I would remember that I did not do those things because I was too shy to go with our relatives or cousins with whom I was not close, while my sister found it too easy to get friendly with them.
The impact of my social awkwardness was that my sister became the center of attention wherever we went. People always praised her and did everything so that she could grace the occasion ever since we were kids. If my parents and I were there, they would ask where she was and talk about how the party would have been better if she was there multiple times. Sometimes, people would even prepare gifts for my sister – and only my sister – even if they knew that I would be coming as well.
Experiencing the same situation for as long as I could remember did not help reduce my social awkwardness. If anything, it might have worsened because of the unfair treatment of people when it came to my sister and me. Whenever we would go somewhere, I always found it hard to get close to others because they wanted to see me as my sister. Then, they branded me as that aloof, smart girl who did not want to “mingle with the Muggles” – a reference to the non-magic people in the world of Harry Potter, which I loved.
No one knew about this, but the more attention my sister got from others, the less valuable I found myself. As she blossomed and came out like a pearl from her beautiful shell, I clammed up even more to the extent that I stopped going to gatherings with family and friends. My parents never understood it and assumed that I was mean whenever I would say that I did not want to see people who only wanted to see my sister. However, that was the reality.
Without my parents’ knowledge, I signed up for counseling in college. My sister and I did not go to the same university because of our different fields of interest. I initially thought that I would be able to gain more friends or reinvent myself since she was no longer stepping on my shadow, but six months already passed, and my only friend was still my roommate, so I decided to give counseling a shot.
I would say that it was a smooth procedure. I talked about my issues at length; the counselor listened to me respectfully. However, when I asked the counselor how she could resolve my problem, she was like, “I’m sorry; I can only guide you to resolving it. Our main concern here is that you are looking for affection and validation from others. Both things should come from you – you need to develop your self-worth to get over your social awkwardness.”
The counselor’s words did not make sense to me at the time. The only thing I understood was that she would not step in to fix my issues for me. This was news to me, and it upset me, so I stopped taking counseling.
Winning In Life
I managed to make a few friends over the years. Their number was not as many as I would have wanted, but we were all at least genuine with each other.
When I started working, I immersed myself in the publishing world. I soon realized that I loved writing and editing, so that’s what I did. I worked hard to get into one of the biggest publishing houses in the US, to the point that even my managers felt like they were missing a limb if I was not in the office. In no time, I got my promotion – and raised my confidence level.
The latter become noticeable in the way I dressed and talked to people. Back then, I would wear baggy clothes, keep my hair in a ponytail, or do anything to blend with the crowd. I would not initiate a conversation or at least say hi to anyone first either. However, since I realized that I was important in my industry, I began to dress up better and become more approachable than ever.
I would look back at my socially awkward days, and I could only shake my head and smile. Those were not my happiest memories – there was no doubt about it – but they shaped me to become a better version of myself. Now, I finally know what self-worth means and feels like.