I am increasingly becoming a social recluse. I often wish I could make myself disappear to avoid painful interactions. My old social care-free self seems like a lifetime ago.
And perhaps I was never really that social, but just going along with what everyone else wanted. Till I realized, some people take advantage of your kindness. And when you’re someone who find it torturous to say no, it’s a lethal combination.
Apart from people really close to me, I shy away from any other contact. Perhaps because I have been hurt before. Not just once. To the point that I find it hard to trust people. To me, trust is a very big thing. Once it’s broken, it’s devastating.
I have retreated into a shell to protect myself. Other people may not understand it or sympathize and it would take weeks for me to explain, but at some point in my life, I have to start thinking of my own mental health. If some interactions make me spiral into a downward state of intense anxiety and depression, I fight to avoid them.
I need to stay away from conversations that only flame my anxieties. Intrusive questions that make my insecurities flare up. I try not to be insecure, but it’s hard, especially in Singapore where you are expected to be a certain way. Where status is everything and where you have to fit into the norm or be considered a wierdo. They don’t have to say anything, their facial expressions give it away. I really don’t need that kind of pressure. Just to explain, in Singapore it seems normal, to ask:
Where are you working?
What’s your position?
How much are you earning?
When are you getting married?
How many children do you have?
Why didn’t I see you at the last function?
Why are you so anti-social?
There may seem like normal questions but they are intrusive to me. Maybe I have a fragile state of mind? If I had all the ideal answers perhaps I wouldn’t be as insecure? The ideal answers? A manager or professional in a respectable company, married with at least two kids. I sometimes feel that I would not face the same kind of pressure in another less money and status obsessed society.
Sometimes I feel sorry for the acquaintances who may know me because I just want to avoid the question “How are you?” Just lying and saying “I’m fine” feels like a charade to me. I’m most uncomfortable when I can’t be my true self and have to put on a mask of happiness. I’m usually unsuccessful in wearing a mask and all my emotions are plain to see on my face. On the refreshing side, when B asks me how I am, I can say, awful and we can both laugh about it. And he can tell me his day was horrible too. Sometimes he jokes around just to make me laugh and I think that’s so sweet. Or plays my favourite songs.
Perhaps people are not even judging me as harshly as I think, but I have this intense feeling that they are. I know that a big part of it is my own self doubt, but on the other hand there are a few individuals who are totally insensitive. But it is tiring to be made of glass, ready to shatter into a million pieces. It’s tiring to be fearful of people and what they will ask or think of me.
Perhaps it’s why I can’t survive in a workplace where people shamelessly suck up to the boss and then bitch about her behind her back. I was actually shocked to find out they didn’t actually like the boss. You couldn’t tell the way they behaved. Or throw their colleagues under a bus to get ahead. I find this behaviour at work despicable. It’s why I hate shows like Survivor which promotes all these bad values and survival of the fittest (more like meanest). Maybe I’m the stupid one without the Corporate world survival skills. But if that’s the case, I never want to learn. I gravitate towards the people at work who still have morals. Thank goodness that some of these nice people still exist. Few and far between though.
But my life is not all gloom. There are interactions which raise me up and I am thankful to my family and B who always lift me out of the doldrums. Whom I don’t really need to explain anything in detail to, because they just know.
And in a strange way, there are some people whom I have never met and just know through sentences typed online that give me comfort as well. I hope they don’t mind that the companionship is just at this online level, but I do appreciate their kindness. They may be just words typed online, but they do have an impact. You actually make me feel a lot less misunderstood and a lot more normal.
Just had to get this off me. The weight of it has been crushing me, and writing helps.
Dont worry, you are not alone here. Life is too short and precious to spend time to answer those silly questions. I used to work full time and have recently started to work for my own aka freelancer. I am a much happier and contended person now…
Thank you so much. I was really feeling alone and some people made me feel ashamed about what I am now. This was truly a boost. I just want to be worry free and happy too.
Big hugs to you, just be true to yourself, those who love and really care for you understand. By sharing how you feel I’m sure you are helping many others even if you never know it.
Thanks so much Laura….you’re one of the kind people who keep me writing 🙂 Really appreciate it. Was feeling very self conscious and whiny writing that but in the middle of the night I just felt compelled to get it off my chest. Was also hoping that someone out there might be feeling a similar anxiety and maybe it would help. I like reading posts which are a cry for help too. Sometimes just venting helps to get a bit of the weight off.
Hi Bookjunkie, it’s funny cause I have been contemplating about this same issue the past few weeks. Like yourself, I’ve realized I am getting more and more reclusive and I find the workplace not only an encumbrance but a repression , this post couldn’t have come at a right time. I share the exact frustration and sentiments as you, thank you for voicing it out 🙂
Oh gosh…thank you so much Lola. I just had one mean comment that I deleted, so I am so glad it was worthwhile to post this.
I sometimes can’t help but wonder if our rules at the top are fueling very bad workplaces where there is no room for morality or compassion. It seems to be all about the money and people seem to get away with the most vile behaviour depending on how much the company thinks they are worth.
I love working, the actual work itself, to see a project to completion etc. It’s a pity there is so much office politics and demotivation going on. Sometimes I wish telecommuting which catch on already. I would relish zero interaction so that I can avoid the bullies and have more time for productive matters.
Hi Bookjunkie, no worries, please don’t let that one mean person influence or undermine your entry, I feel it’s brilliant and I know I’m not the only one 🙂
Sigh, sadly, it’s probably the corporate culture that manifests itself unto others and henceforth, it infiltrates into any workplace top down bottom up. Don’t you think this not only applies to worklife but to life itself as well? haha. Well, as much as I despise it too, I reckon the most important thing for us is to remain unfazed in any given situation that tests our values and principles. I can totally relate to what you mean cause it’s these petty politics and bitchiness that really wears people out, both mentally and physically, it’s very toxic in fact. I wish I had the luxury to telecommute but at my position at the moment, it’s most unfortunate 🙂
Thank you Lola 🙂 You really, really made my day with your very kind words.
I am glad not to be in those toxic workplaces any more. I truly applaud people like you who stick to their values no matter what 🙂
Life is too short to spend with people who don’t make you feel good about yourself. If what makes you happy is spending time with B or relaxing at home then you should just go for it. Make yourself feel good, and don’t waste time on those who knock you down. You know there are people out there who take a lot from your honesty about your feelings (including myself in that!) so don’t ever stop being yourself 🙂
Clarie, you’re a dear. Thank you so much.
I donno why but I often feel guilty towards even those people who knock me down. I often forget as time passes and it happens repeatedly to me till I totally cut myself off.
I suggest that you join some hobby/interest groups (e.g. photography) or volunteer groups. You will find people who are more outgoing and friendly than the general population. Good luck!
Thanks so much for the suggestion 🙂
I send you love. I’ve been wanting to comment on this post for a while, but I often find it hard to get to a keyboard and focus with the girls, so most of my blog reading is on my phone (which is not really comment friendly). I’ve been thinking of you.
I think that one of the most profound lessons of the last few years of my life is that it isn’t my job to fit into the box that will make other people happy. My responsibility to myself is to be who I am–neuroses and all. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life hiding or denying things (that I’m bisexual, that I have struggled with mental health, that I’m an erotica author) out of fear of rejection. I feel like each year I am getting better at being my more authentic self, and at ignoring the voices of my detractors (including myself, at times).
I’m so glad you have a partner who suits you. I think in many ways it’s been my relationship with Ravi that has allowed me to let go of my fear and be more authentically me. I never would have submitted a story (and can now call myself a published author) without him supporting and pushing me. I can test limits I’ve imposed on myself because he has created a safe and supportive space in which to do it.
The world has changed profoundly in the past 20 or so years. When I was 13 or so, I had a penpal, and it seemed so strange that I could have a friend that I communicated with across the country (she lived on the west coast in California). We wrote letters, and on very rare occasions called each other (because long distance calls were expensive).
Since the advent of the internet, relationships of all sorts have changed. There was a point where if you met your spouse online, you were a freak. Today I’m shocked when a friend says they met their significant other in person first. I have friends on 4 continents, some of whom I’ve never met, others whom I’ve met only once or twice. With facebook, twitter, and skype, the very definition of what makes a friend has changed as well as the way we interact with our friends. The world seems so much more accessible and smaller now.
I really love how you put it Crystal….becoming more and more of your authentic self…I feel like I was far away from that when I was in my teens and twenties..always wanting to fit in and please.. that’s the most liberating part about being in my 40’s now. Perhaps when I’m 80 I’ll be closest to my most authentic self and the self I’m most comfortable with….minus all the guilt.
Ravi sounds awesome….what an incredibly supportive partner….I think you guys are just a wonderful team together 🙂
I feel like I truly have a friend in you on the internet and it’s not like what people used to say about the internet. In a strange way I trust you and like you tons more than some people I’ve known in person. People who were supposed to be friends but left me feeling so lousy and low. Pretty much the catalyst for how depressed I became. This may sound a bit whiny on my part but thank you for always raising me up when they only brought me down and made me feel terrible about myself. And thank you for understanding my comfort level (being reluctant to do any meet ups) and just wanted to connect online. Thank you for making me feel a lot less misunderstood and lonely and accepting me the way I am.
Hi, I know this is a really old post but did you get any help for social anxiety?
I ask because I’m in a similar state. Like you, I withdrew from others.Family/friend gatherings make me anxious and it’s become a problem at work too.
There’s very little information about social anxiety in Singapore, yours was one of the top Google search results.
Thanks for reaching out…it helps to just know you’re not alone in this. I guess just start with the people you trust and spend time with them one on one. As I get older I feel there is no need for big parties and gatherings and the people who count the most, you can count on one hand.
Hi bookjunkie, I came across your blog while researching about Ann Siang Hill. Love your writing. And this piece especially stood out because I can so relate to it. I feel the same way about social interactions in Singapore. Mindless questions asked out of habit or insecurity. It is copiously stressful and unsettling in a social setting. (How do people interact like that?). Eventually, I find my inner circle transformed to mostly foreigners or ex-Singaporeans.
I also reckon a tendency to draw away from the madding crowd and come to terms with ourselves lock, stock and barrel comes with maturity of the mind. It is not a gradual recluse with age, but a choice to look beyond transient social status to things that are more eternal. Like this blog, sharing your discoveries and enriching others. 🙂
You’re doing good. Please keep sharing your discoveries of soulful Singapore.
I haven’t been checking my blog for a while…happily busy playing with my nieces (remembering that they will be only young for a short window of time)…but it was so worthwhile to read your comment. Totally made my day…thank you Shazza 🙂