Strangers

by Bob Vonderau

I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. Because how do you meet a new person? I was very stumped by this for many years. And then I realized, you just say “Hi.” They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word.

The other day I read this quote by Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors, and I could not get over how powerful these words are, “They may ignore you. Or you may marry them.” Isn’t it interesting how much people seek acceptance and avoid ridicule? With regards to saying hi to a stranger, it’s so easy to say that we’ll never see that stranger again anyways, so why not try? The concept is very simple and if you take into account the potential to gain a lifelong relationship, romantic or otherwise, doesn’t it seem worth it? So why do we not try? Why is fear so strong that it can freeze us? Fear of a large animal is an animal instinct; but where does fear of social rejection come from?

When I think about how many times I didn’t try something because I was afraid of failure or rejection, it’s a pretty extensive list. I will probably never know how much I had to gain, but I can certainly name more than one instance where I know fear was my only obstacle from embracing the possibility. Then I think of all the things I did try and ended up loving… This list is also extensive, but much more transparent.

I think the biggest social fears revolve around the fear of rejection. This past year, I’ve taken a number of initiatives to grow as a leader and thus as a person. My first big initiative was to overcome my fear of speaking in front of groups of people. I overcame this in the most direct method possible: I applied for a job looking for people with public speaking skill, and I got it. Having no proper experience in any sort speech communication, I was thoroughly shocked and terrified when I saw the job offer in my email almost eight months ago. Apparently I really made up for my lack of experience during my interview, where I presented a five-minute speech on ‘how to engage an audience.’ I must have looked like I knew what I was doing.

Alas, this Sunday will be my last day of work. I cannot even comprehend how so much time has passed. On the other hand, if there is One thing I do understand it’s that I have grown in both experience and skill. Do i still get nervous when I approach a crowd to speak? Definitely. The fear hasn’t disappeared, but I don’t think that was the point of taking on this job. Fear will always be there in every aspect of my life. The important thing is to learn how to deal with that fear and turn it into motivation to reach a better result.

After all, when you ride a rollercoaster, it’s the fear of anticipation while ascending that steep climb that makes the descent truly exhilarating.

Just how much does fear control your life?

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2 thoughts on “Strangers

  1. […] Strangers (turnthrice.wordpress.com) […]

  2. honestlyali says:

    Fear of rejection is definitely a big issue for most people. I am extremely shy and find it hard to go up to a stranger and attempt to make conversation. Funny thing is, I was president of the debating society in high school and also a member of youth parliament. I am very good at public speaking, but still every time I’m about to make a speech, I get this flood of butterflies in my stomach. By the time i stand and get those first few words out though, that all disappears and I feel good about what I’m saying. It’s not about losing the fear, it’s about learning how to look it in the face and deal with it. This post definitely inspired me to step out of my comfort zone even more! Thanks!

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