Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I am TOTALLY Self-Aware, Seriously

I'll admit it.  I'm a total loser in social situations.  When Justin says "There's a party at so and so's house," I can feel myself go into a total body cringe.  I never know what to say to people or how to make small talk.  I'm so hyper-aware of myself at any social event that I completely sabotage any chance at success I might have had in the first place to have a good time.  I see other people enjoying themselves and actually agonize about what I'm doing wrong.  Justin says I'm just shy.  Maybe.  When we go to parties that have invited children, I use my poor, unsuspecting son, Joey, as an excuse to be the first one out of there.  Joey might not even be ready to leave, but his autism is a great excuse for my social awkwardness.  I admit it.  I'm a social geek.  But, understanding as much about myself as I do, I know that I shouldn't use my child as a way to get out of an uncomfortable social situation for me.  I've really got to stop doing that.

It's a total oxymoron.  I'm a people person who doesn't know how to be around people.  Justin, on the other hand, is the life of the party.  He's completely content to work 60 hours a week from home with no one but me and the dog for company.  And he prefers it if I stay in the other room while he works, since I can't seem to shut up.  But when we go to a party, he turns into a person I never met before.  He's the life of the party.  He'll stay long after I've left and he's really, truly having a good time.  People love him.  And really, I have met that Justin before, because I love watching him at those parties making people laugh and enjoying himself to the utmost.  It's an ability I totally covet.

I'm convinced that to be likeable, you have to honestly not care whether people like you.  I'm never going to have that ability.  But what I am is totally aware of the fact that I have this need to be liked.  Among other maybe not so glowing personality traits and some, well, pretty good ones.  So, I try to tone the neediness down and pretend I don't care.  One of my shrinks once told me "fake it till you make it."  It's good advice.

If you've ever watched The Office on NBC or in reruns, you're familiar with Michael, the idiot boss who has no idea why he can't get people to socialize with him.  In one episode, when Kelly has changed the sales scores (and not in a good way) for Jim and Dwight because they hurt her feelings when they didn't show up at her party, Michael says something to her along the lines of "I also have trouble getting people to come to my house and I just don't know why.  I always make too much guacamole."  The show will make you cringe with Michael's lack of self-awareness, which is, really, what makes it so funny. 

There's a scene where Andy, the new guy, is trying desperately to ingratiate himself as second in command and Michael says to the cameras, "How can someone have so little self-awareness?"  Which is a riot, because he never sees it in himself.  My guess is that 99% of the population are Michaels - they have no idea how they actually come across to other people.

The point is that I think I do see myself for who I am, faults and all.  Self-awareness is, I think, one of my stronger character traits, which is why I try so hard in everything I do.  Even now, in the utter gluttony of freedom to write every day, I am super vigilant about grammar, spelling, punctuation...I proofread my blog as if it was going to be a speech delivered by the President, because I can't stand the thought of someone finding an error.  Again, self-aware.

I am constantly amazed at how people do not see themselves for who they are and, when their glaring social blunders are pointed out to them, how they turn it around and make it about somebody else.  The majority of the population has no ability to look at themselves honestly and try to make changes that would help them get through life in a more pleasing manner.  On the other hand, I am constantly apologizing for mistakes I made (or didn't make) and trying to correct wrongs I might have inflicted.  I think it's just the nice thing to do.

I was recently presented with an ethical dilemma.  On the same day I lost my job, the cookie dough two of the people in my office had ordered from my kids' school arrived.  I got a call from the school, about an hour after I got home and was sobbing into my husband's kindly offered shoulder, that the cookie dough was in and wasn't I coming to get it?  After explaining that I wasn't going anywhere that night, the woman from the PTSO was kind enough to drop it by the house.  Now I had a major problem.  I was not, under any circumstances, going back to that office.  But these people had paid for their cookie dough.

I toyed with the idea of ex-lax and delivery, but I just couldn't be that cruel.  Besides, what if someone I actually liked got one of the laced cookies?  I'd feel awful.  I could just bake the cookies myself and eat them.  That would show them.  (Seriously, Chelle?  How?)  And then I had a thought.  What do I want my kids to be like when they grow up?

I've lived my life hoping my kids will end up as adults with morals, ethics, and values and I've tried their entire lives to set a good example in the hopes it would take.  My oldest son is well on his way to being a very fine young man, so I asked him what he would do.  He said, "Well, Mom, how petty were they?"  I said, "Ben, you tell me."  He said, "They were horribly petty, but did they pay for the cookie dough?"  Good point.

In the end, I did the right thing.  I was self-aware enough to know that the right thing to do was give them the cookie dough, even though my preference would be to never see any of them again.  I called the girl I was still on good terms with and told her she could come pick it up if she wanted.  She swung by and got it and it was one of those supremely uncomfortable moments you don't ever want to live through.  She didn't stay and I didn't ask her to, because I know she's caught somewhere in the middle of all of this drama.  Again, self-awareness.  But I don't know if I'd do anything I did any differently.  I think I posted up before how hard I tried at that job and I believe there wasn't anything I could have done differently, so I really need to stop obsessing about it.

If it seems as if I've wandered away from my point, I really haven't.  The self-awareness comes in being able to look long and hard at who you are, who you want to be, and maybe, most importantly, who do you want other people to think you are?  Most people don't have that ability.  I like to think I do.  Then, this morning, I put the dog in his crate and forgot him while I went to take a shower.  Luckily, Justin was here to let him out.  I'm self-aware.  Sort of.

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