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I really need to get my social skills back


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I am currently 33 years old, and when I was between 13-16 years old I would hang out with lots of friends both at school and outside of school.

This gave me a lot of energy, and made it very easy for me to be spontaneous, relaxed, charismatic and basically overall likeable, and this had a very positive effect on both guys and girls (I got along great with my friends, and I could flirt with girls in a playful and relaxed way and enjoy it a lot on a mutual level).

Back then, I felt like "part of the team" so to speak, because I knew a lot of people my age and a lot of people knew who I was.

 

However, when I started secondary school as a 16-year-old I ended up at a new school where I didn't know that many people, lots of my friends moved to other cities, and a couple years later I had huge problems finding a job, and all of this made me both depressed for a couple years and a bit of a loner.

I recovered from that some time in 2010 I think, although ever since then I have had kind of an uphill battle when it comes to the social part.

I have some sporadic contact with a couple old friends, although they are mostly far away from home.

I do often hang out with my little brother (and my other family members), which definitely means a lot.

 

However, I started studying at a university in 2014, a couple hundred miles away from home, and I kind of became "almost" friends with a couple other students for a while (I could spend time with them outside of classes and do other things than study, although I never visited them or anything), but then I had to retake my second year and lost contact with all of them and ended up in a new class where I don't know anyone.

So basically I have now ended up in a situation where I have absolutely no contact with anyone at my university whatsoever, except maybe a few people during lectures or when I go shopping, but I spend 100% of the rest of the time by myself.

And the fact that I used to be a very social and outgoing person with lots of friends is something that bothers me a whole lot;

it is a kind of very strong nostalgia, and a feeling of having lost a lot of social status that I used to have.

Sometimes this makes me feel angry and frustrated (I have found myself clenching my fists and teeth in public in quick bursts a few times, for example, and mumbled swearwords to myself), and sometimes I just feel gloomy.

 

I don't know where I am supposed to start in order to do something about this;

I have been thinking of visiting some of the parties at my campus some time on the weekends, but I don't know what I should do there - I feel like I will just end up comparing this with the times when I was at those place and had several friends with me, and just feel hopeless because of that.

I have also been thinking of trying to act the way I used to act, but that feels a bit forced, and I always feel very discouraged when I meet someone who has seen me before, because I have this feeling that they have got used to me being silent and careful, and even though this might be wrong, it still makes me feel that way.

I also noticed during a class reunion with my classmates from my early-to-mid-teens that it was extremely quickly for me to get back into that social and outgoing role, so this definitely indicates that people's expectations of me play a huge part.

 

What would you suggest that I should do?

I am really tired of being by myself like this and feeling that there is a large part of me that's missing.

Edited by Markus86
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Are there any clubs at your university of something that interests you? That's how some people I know made friends. As for me, I generally made friends in university through meeting someone who introduced me to others and by participating in on-campus events. Also, I've met plenty of nice people through volunteering (albeit later on in life). What do you generally enjoy doing on your spare time? Ideally, you want to meet people in environments that match your interest. That way you'll meet like-minded people.

 

Some character traits that are generally well received by others: being positive (as in no complaining, gossiping or speaking ill of others), a good active listener, genuine and respectful. As for outward characteristics that help anyone make a great impression: good hygiene, looking presentable (essentially clothes that fit and are clean) and a smile.

 

Ultimately, be the best version of you. That has been and is still my motto. Fitting in may help you find acquaintances, but being your best version will help you find those awesome like-minded friends.

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Are there any clubs at your university of something that interests you? That's how some people I know made friends. As for me, I generally made friends in university through meeting someone who introduced me to others and by participating in on-campus events. Also, I've met plenty of nice people through volunteering (albeit later on in life). What do you generally enjoy doing on your spare time? Ideally, you want to meet people in environments that match your interest. That way you'll meet like-minded people.

 

Some character traits that are generally well received by others: being positive (as in no complaining, gossiping or speaking ill of others), a good active listener, genuine and respectful. As for outward characteristics that help anyone make a great impression: good hygiene, looking presentable (essentially clothes that fit and are clean) and a smile.

 

Ultimately, be the best version of you. That has been and is still my motto. Fitting in may help you find acquaintances, but being your best version will help you find those awesome like-minded friends.

Yeah, there tends to be some activity on the night clubs during the weekends.

Maybe I could just start out with being there the first couple times, just to get used to those places again, so that I "start out light"?

 

I used to be a member in an ensemble orchestra a few months ago (I would be a guitarist and bass player for a while) but that wasn't quite my thing, and I also felt really awkward there a lot of the time and felt that a lot of those people felt insecure around me because of that (there was one guy who made me extra uncomfortable, because I was a bit awkward and insecure in front of him the first time I talked to him on my very first quick visit there, and then after that his expression was like "I don't like you" every time he saw me), although several of the other people seemed to like me.

But one thing that I decided to try one time, and that is probably a bit unusual and random, was that I actually made myself sleep-deprived on purpose the day before I went there, because I have noticed that I become very "chill" when I am sleep-deprived.

And amazingly enough, it actually worked very well - I found myself being a lot more relaxed there that day, and didn't worry so darn much about what to say, and that was awesome, and I could tell that they really liked that.

My goal is to get back that feeling as a more constant part of myself.

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Join some clubs or groups, take up a hobby that puts you with others. Learn to play a musical instrument and jam with others. Get yourself out there. Uni should be a time of being able to meet a lot of new people and form friendships. Dont be a hermit!

I definitely will.

I would like to start relatively light though, so that I don't do too much at once.

 

Would visiting the school's night club for a little while be a good first step?

I will probably try going there next weekend and just be there for maybe 20-30 minutes without demanding anything more than that from myself, and then attempt to speak to people there a couple weeks later.

 

It should preferably be something that is as simple as possible while still making a bit of a change.

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It doesn't matter whether people have seen you as quiet before. Just be kind, and give them a pleasant surprise.

 

Your tuition covers mental health counseling services on campus. You paid for this already, so why not check it out and see if you might find it helpful?

 

Head high, you can do this.

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It doesn't matter whether people have seen you as quiet before. Just be kind, and give them a pleasant surprise.

 

Your tuition covers mental health counseling services on campus. You paid for this already, so why not check it out and see if you might find it helpful?

 

Head high, you can do this.

Thanks.

That's probably the first thing that I will try next week, on Monday.

 

I just need to find some sort of excuse to talk to them, but I guess the course itself is a good enough conversation starter.

I guess I shouldn't worry too much about "instantly becoming friends" with them right from the beginning (that's probably a slightly unrealistic goal), so I guess that it is best to think of it as a victory if I simply start a conversation.

I sometimes have this annoying uneasy feeling that I "might have to keep doing this over and over and never get any good responses back" and then because of that get the feeling that it is "too late to be social" or something, but that's probably just one of those destructive thoughts.

I have noticed that people seem to react with positive surprise on those few occasions when I get a good excuse to talk (usually when I make an oral presentation), because on those occasions I really open up and become a totally different person, because it's at those moments when I get a good chance to talk and open up.

So the problem seems to mostly be about finding an excuse to say something.

 

I was actually stopped by a security guard at my school last year, and he asked me what was on my mind because I looked "troubled", and then one week later I felt quite good about myself and he was shocked when he saw me that time, because he thought that "it was like night and day".

That was pretty funny, and definitely encouraging.

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Yeah, there tends to be some activity on the night clubs during the weekends.

Maybe I could just start out with being there the first couple times, just to get used to those places again, so that I "start out light"?

 

I used to be a member in an ensemble orchestra a few months ago (I would be a guitarist and bass player for a while) but that wasn't quite my thing, and I also felt really awkward there a lot of the time and felt that a lot of those people felt insecure around me because of that (there was one guy who made me extra uncomfortable, because I was a bit awkward and insecure in front of him the first time I talked to him on my very first quick visit there, and then after that his expression was like "I don't like you" every time he saw me), although several of the other people seemed to like me.

But one thing that I decided to try one time, and that is probably a bit unusual and random, was that I actually made myself sleep-deprived on purpose the day before I went there, because I have noticed that I become very "chill" when I am sleep-deprived.

And amazingly enough, it actually worked very well - I found myself being a lot more relaxed there that day, and didn't worry so darn much about what to say, and that was awesome, and I could tell that they really liked that.

My goal is to get back that feeling as a more constant part of myself.

 

I'll be honest, I find it easier to get to know new people at venues where you can chat without having to yell. As for playing music instruments - nice! Do you enjoy playing the guitar / bass? If so, perhaps you can find another group to play with where you feel more comfortable. You can approach people with "Nice guitar, where did you get it from?" or "How long have you been playing the cello?"

 

As for being more relaxed, no need to be sleep deprived. Focus on being the best version of you. By being the best version of you, you'll make others feel good. And how you make others feel, that's what people remember. Also, not everyone you speak to you'll connect with. You might meet someone who you simply cannot relate to / have nothing in common with. Or you might even think that a guy you've just met would make an awesome buddy, but he might not feel the same way. That's okay. That doesn't make you any less interesting to be around. It merely means that you guys aren't suitable friends, so keep looking until you find someone you mesh with.

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The first place to start is a good check up from a doctor and a referral to a therapist. As a 33 year old man you can't live life like a 16 y/o high school kid nor should you try. It seems your mind is ruminating and trying to go back to the last time you were happy. A doctor/therapist can help you rule out any physical or emotional issues that are leading to your isolation and 'gloominess'. Night clubs and bars won't help much with this.

I am currently 33 years old. sometimes I just feel gloomy.I am really tired of being by myself like this and feeling that there is a large part of me that's missing.
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As a 33 year old man you can't live life like a 16 y/o high school kid nor should you try.

That's not what I meant, I meant that I felt a lot more at ease and much more outgoing in general during my teenage years, and that's the part of me that I would like to have back.

Lots of people are very social and outgoing their entire lives and enjoy that a lot, and there is no reason to stop being that way.

And personally, I know that I would feel much better if I got back that part of myself.

Edited by Markus86
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My strong suggestion is to get involved in volunteer work or a hiking type activity that involves interacting with other adults. My strong recommendation for volunteer work is volunteering back stage at a community theater. Perfect for your goals. And given the troubling thoughts and being stopped by security I would seek out mental health counseling too. Good luck!

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Thanks.

That's probably the first thing that I will try next week, on Monday.

 

Good! School counselors are trained in all of this socialization stuff, so consider your discomforts common rather than freakish. (They just 'feel' freakish, but you're in good company.) Ask for help in shifting your self talk into sounding more like an encouraging coach instead of a saboteur.

 

You are already practiced at countering much of your negativity with good responses on your own, so the goal would be to move beyond a need to counter your default voice into a habit of reaching straight for the self encouragement. New habits take about 21 days to anchor, so work on the self talk first and then, from there, any other habits you want to develop will have the best foundation. It's great to use a counsellor to stay accountable to someone else with your progress.

 

I just need to find some sort of excuse to talk to them, but I guess the course itself is a good enough conversation starter.

 

Sure. Just find the humor in any given situation and toss a remark to someone here and there. It doesn't need to spark a full blown conversation, it's just planting seeds around to let people know that you are friendly.

 

Practice smiling at people you pass in hallways and on streets. Say a simple hello as you pass, and notice how it starts to feel natural over time. Smile with your eyes, and your face will signal warmth. This will change your habit of walking around appearing hostile.

 

I guess I shouldn't worry too much about "instantly becoming friends" with them right from the beginning (that's probably a slightly unrealistic goal), so I guess that it is best to think of it as a victory if I simply start a conversation.

 

True, but even a conversation isn't always necessary. Just a kind or funny remark here and there along with a pleasant demeanor can start changing the way people perceive you overall. When people become accustomed to seeing you as a happy and open person, your biggest barrier to future conversations is removed. So address your thinking first, your overall demeanor second, and this will pave the way for people to perceive you as open rather than closed off.

 

Also, consider your audience. Heading straight for people who already appear to have enough friends can be discouraging, because they may be kind but aren't necessarily in the market for new friendships. It just doesn't occur to them because their plate is already full. Observation can lead you to befriend people who, like you, appear to be loners even while their heart may be in the right place for friendship.

 

I sometimes have this annoying uneasy feeling that I "might have to keep doing this over and over and never get any good responses back" and then because of that get the feeling that it is "too late to be social" or something, but that's probably just one of those destructive thoughts.

 

You're right, that's your default voice trying to talk you out of making the effort. Yes, habit changes DO require repeated effort. Just start with baby steps: self talk and demeanor first. Then practice throwing out hellos or gentle remarks--without expectations. Some of your remarks will land on someone who's receptive to remarking back. Over time you'll notice that people will start regarding you as approachable and kind, which will open more doors toward eventual conversations.

 

It's a process, but it all starts with changing habits that block others from regarding you as open.

 

I have noticed that people seem to react with positive surprise on those few occasions when I get a good excuse to talk (usually when I make an oral presentation), because on those occasions I really open up and become a totally different person, because it's at those moments when I get a good chance to talk and open up.

So the problem seems to mostly be about finding an excuse to say something.

 

YES. When your habitual state appears hostile, people will avoid eye contact and operate 'beyond' you rather than engage with you. So changing your overall approachability is the ground work for all else. From there, people will be receptive to your remarks rather than startled by them. That's the ground work for eventual conversations.

 

You know that you already have the skills, they're just rusty. Trust that getting yourself past being perceived as closed will start opening doors to minor engagement. Over time, this can lead to a friendship or two--but you're already clear that it's never a failure when it's not instant--it's all ground work.

 

I was actually stopped by a security guard at my school last year, and he asked me what was on my mind because I looked "troubled", and then one week later I felt quite good about myself and he was shocked when he saw me that time, because he thought that "it was like night and day".

That was pretty funny, and definitely encouraging.

 

Great example. This feedback is telling you that you've been walking around looking mean and possible dangerous. That happens when your demeanor is driven by a preoccupation with negative thinking. So switch your self talk, and your demeanor will reflect this--and people will start responding to you more positively.

 

Good observations, and good work!

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My strong suggestion is to get involved in volunteer work or a hiking type activity that involves interacting with other adults. My strong recommendation for volunteer work is volunteering back stage at a community theater. Perfect for your goals. And given the troubling thoughts and being stopped by security I would seek out mental health counseling too. Good luck!

Thanks.

Yeah I have actually considered asking the receptionists at my school if they know of any volunteer work like that, and even explicitly tell them that one of my goals is to become more comfortable with talking to people, just to make everything about that very clear.

I will have to try out these things when school opens on Monday.

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Thanks.

Yeah I have actually considered asking the receptionists at my school if they know of any volunteer work like that, and even explicitly tell them that one of my goals is to become more comfortable with talking to people, just to make everything about that very clear.

I will have to try out these things when school opens on Monday.

 

Glad to hear you are considering it! Why ask receptionists -is this their job? I would search on line.

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See a doctor and get a referral to a therapist if isolation, withdrawing, ruminating and generally being chronically down are causing problems in your life. It's that simple, why suffer?

I know that I would feel much better if I got back that part of myself.
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Glad to hear you are considering it! Why ask receptionists -is this their job? I would search on line.

I figured that I might as well try asking them if they know about something if I haven't found anything myself until Monday.

If they don't know anything about it, then they can probably still tell me which part of the university that I should go to.

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See a doctor and get a referral to a therapist if isolation, withdrawing, ruminating and generally being chronically down are causing problems in your life. It's that simple, why suffer?

Yeah, I asked for a reservation yesterday via mail, and they sent an automatic response where they said that they would keep contact with me next week.

 

It's not necessarily the feeling of being alone in itself that bothers me the most, the most annoying thing about this is to have those nostalgic memories of my teenage years when I was this cool and interesting guy who both guys and girls found interesting and wanted to hang out with, and where there was this relaxed and open attitude both from me and from them that escalated back and forth between us - I would feel relaxed right from the start, and then they would feel relaxed around me, which then made me feel validated right there and gave me an extra confidence boost, and so on.

It's a rather sinking feeling to go from very popular and as a "part of the group" where a lot of people knew who I was to someone who is alone almost all the time (and literally all the time at university) and feel dull and uninteresting, and it definitely stings a bit every time I think about it.

But I will start working on my interactions with my classmates and visiting the school's night club during the weekend next week - it's about time.

Edited by Markus86
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But everyone goes through stages of social lives - people move, leave school, leave jobs, get married or become parents or both and often social lives change.

Yes, but I don't enjoy being alone like this - it feels wrong and almost always bothers me to some degree, even though I can usually ignore it enough to not get too frustrated - and I always feel a million times better when I get good chances to have conversations with people and express myself, so that's something that I should change.

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Yes, but I don't enjoy being alone like this - it feels wrong and almost always bothers me to some degree, even though I can usually ignore it enough to not get too frustrated - and I always feel a million times better when I get good chances to have conversations with people and express myself, so that's something that I should change.

 

Lots of things can feel wrong and you get to choose how to react -including self talk that it might feel wrong but you know it's a typical part of life, or choosing to make a positive change, etc. Choosing to act in a frustrated way seems to be counterproductive. I wonder-if what you most like about conversations is expressing yourself you might want to consider how you feel when you are simply listening or being an active listener. How do you feel about being in a situation where others get to express themselves? Do you feel like you're approachable in that regard.

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I think you're stuck in your own head... meet more people, not just new people. You'll have to get over that fear of whatever fear you seem to have of yourself and your own outward image. It sounds like you're terrified of your own reflection. Some form of guidance/counselling will probably help.

 

You also seem to have some kind of fear of failure.

 

Stop hanging around the wrong people too... those people will be bound to bring out the worst in you or make you feel awkward. Trust your gut instincts. Check in with any unrealistic expectations you may have. Take it easy!

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I think you're stuck in your own head... meet more people, not just new people. You'll have to get over that fear of whatever fear you seem to have of yourself and your own outward image. It sounds like you're terrified of your own reflection. Some form of guidance/counselling will probably help.

 

You also seem to have some kind of fear of failure.

 

Stop hanging around the wrong people too... those people will be bound to bring out the worst in you or make you feel awkward. Trust your gut instincts. Check in with any unrealistic expectations you may have. Take it easy!

Yeah, I do sometimes get chances to "break out" of my shell and act more like my ideal self in those situations where I have a good excuse to say something, and those moments feel incredibly good.

It is like a huge burst of energy where I feel "fulfilled" and like I can finally be myself for a moment, and where my whole body language basically says "yeah, this is what I am like when I am actually relaxed", and it is always fun to see people's astonished reactions when that happens.

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Yeah, I do sometimes get chances to "break out" of my shell and act more like my ideal self in those situations where I have a good excuse to say something, and those moments feel incredibly good.

It is like a huge burst of energy where I feel "fulfilled" and like I can finally be myself for a moment, and where my whole body language basically says "yeah, this is what I am like when I am actually relaxed", and it is always fun to see people's astonished reactions when that happens.

 

You have an unusual ability to perceive yourself outside of your own body. At first I thought you were afraid of your own reflection but I think the more you describe yourself you're just ultra aware of how you're perceived. You know there are a lot of uses for that type of ability. Start using that inborn ability of yours as a strength. If you're aware of yourself and others around you, you may be very analytical by nature and much better at certain tasks or jobs than others. Your sensitivity and perception with others can also be used in leadership roles. I don't think you're maximizing your strengths. If you are able to find an outlet for these I think you'd feel more fulfilled. You'd probably do very well multi-tasking or taking on a fast-paced role in some on-campus clubs or business associations. Volunteering or working in the community can also be very rewarding and adds to a sense of purpose.

 

Create a purpose and use your abilities in the periphery to stay on target. I think you just need purpose and direction. You'll see more rewards in your work and other interests. You're a lot more intelligent than you let on and I think it's not nearly being used enough.

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Yeah, I do sometimes get chances to "break out" of my shell and act more like my ideal self in those situations where I have a good excuse to say something, and those moments feel incredibly good.

It is like a huge burst of energy where I feel "fulfilled" and like I can finally be myself for a moment, and where my whole body language basically says "yeah, this is what I am like when I am actually relaxed", and it is always fun to see people's astonished reactions when that happens.

 

I don't think this has to do with socializing or social skills or wanting friends. It's simply you like being the center of attention and being able to have others see you feeling comfortable and react in a way that validates it. That's only one small part of being a friend and if it's a focus then I can imagine it would be hard to be a good friend since it's a very self-absorbed focus. How much of your focus is on wanting other people to be comfortable in their own skin around you whether they're interacting with you or paying attention to you at that moment or not. Sounds like you miss others noticing you, paying attention to you, being "astonished" at you or some big reaction - not that you are curious about what makes people tick, want to get to know people in depth potentially if a good friend, want to be supportive to someone who is also supportive to you, etc.

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Unfortunately you are stuck in an idealized past from 20 Years ago. And keep repeating how it was, what you were, etc. That in itself warrants a visit to a doctor. Who are "they"? Now you are middle aged man, not a teen. Are there any students in your age group?

I asked for a reservation yesterday via mail, and they sent an automatic response where they said that they would keep contact with me next week.I will start working on my interactions with my classmates and visiting the school's night club during the weekend next week.
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