What is wrong with me? It’s okay, that’s a rhetorical question so you don’t have to provide answers in your comments below. Although you are more than welcome to if you’ve a spare half hour, I can peruse your list of faults at a later date for another blog, perhaps. I sure do need the blog-fodder. But really, what’s wrong with me? I’m a sensible, for-the-most-part-educated, adult with an acceptable command of the English language, but I‘ve always been vaguely uncomfortable when speaking to people. Face-to-face, anyway. I suppose it’s all going to boil down to some inferiority complex (doesn’t it always?), but I just want to explore the minutiae of why I have such an issue with…well…talking.
The technological age couldn’t come fast enough for me. I am lucky enough to be living in a time where I’ve been able to successfully disguise my actual persona behind the wonders of text messages and emails. Man, can you image a life without texts and emails? I can’t. I’d have to go live under a rock if you took those away from me. I’m frikkin’ awesome on cyberspace. No really, I am the cat’s pyjamas. The dog’s b*llocks. I’m the shizzle. I challenge anyone to write a better email than me. No need for spontaneity; everything can be prepped, pre-planned, edited and revised. I can converse at my leisure because nothing can be accidentally said without due thought until you press the ‘send’ button. My husband despairs of me sometimes; the countless texts that go back and forward just to make an ordinary arrangement. ‘Just bloody ring them!’ he’ll growl. Ring them? What, actually SPEAK to them? Why would I do that when I can hide behind the written word? D’uh! But physical, in the flesh, no gadgets required life – that poses the problem for me. My daughter, who is a keen Vlogger, insists that I ought to start one, but she doesn’t understand how monumental a mistake that would be for me…
You see, I’m awkward in real life. I have this vaguely grating cockney accent, veneered over with a decent vocabulary (but said vocabulary also lets me down when I am nervous and the only words in my armoury are ‘right’ and ‘yeah’ and ‘um’ and ‘err’). What’s more, if I don’t know you or I’m uncomfortable in what I’m talking about, that voice comes out as a strangulated, nasal whine. I’m alright over the phone; there I can hide behind the cloak of distance and invisibility. It’s when life gets ‘corporal’ that things go awry. If I were to start a vlog (and I have thought about it, people really do tend to respond to visuals better than words), you’d be sorely disappointed. Really, if I’ve in any way managed to build up an image of esteem in your eyes, that would be speedily demolished by the diffident and uncomfortable person that is me.
I’ve said on a number of occasions that I work in healthcare, it’s a subject that I don’t really like to talk about here because that’s another me – a me you don’t need to know. But my job (obviously) demands that I have contact with patients. And I’ve learned over the last 20 years to compensate for my failings. Put me in a uniform talking about a subject that I’m familiar with to a singular client, then I’m good-to-go. I could win a BAFTA. It’s when you take me out of my comfort zone that the problems start. I was once asked to speak in front of a room-full of strangers (a patient focus group, if you will), and explain my role in my place of work. Well, you’d have thought I’d been asked to sing at the opening ceremony of the Olympics (in fact, I honestly would far rather have done that. I have a decent singing voice and I’d rather sing a recited tune than talk ad-lib). I put in weeks of preparation into what should have been a five minute spiel. I wrote out exactly what I intended to say, made cue-cards so the speech didn’t look forced or, well, scripted. After the ordeal was over, my colleagues assured me of how well I’d spoken and how informative my talk was. But I’m quite certain they were trying to make me feel better. I’m almost positive I came across as some kind of simpleton. I forgot everything I was supposed to say, my accent was at its MOST pronounced (I sounded like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins) and my throat seemed to be swelling up so that words were coming out in fits and starts. Seriously, I hope never to be asked to do that again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a gibbering wreck on social occasions. I can talk to friends, talk to clients, converse in shops and even direct strangers or tell someone the time in the street – all the things that you other grown-ups can do. But don’t push me beyond my rehearsed limits and expect me to function adequately. Of course, you and I know what the problem is; I’m insecure just like everybody else. Perhaps I’m ashamed of my background or my accent or my limited education or my appearance, perhaps all of those things rolled into one. Am I confident and happy within my own skin? No, not entirely – but I’m getting better at faking it.
Anyway, tell me about your experiences or your inferiorities. Are you super-confident and at ease with yourself? Or are you a little bit of an introvert like me? Seriously, do tell. But put it down there in the comments, or send me an email or text it to me. And if you’re dead set on telling me in person, alright, but I’ll need a couple of weeks to prep and psyche myself up for your visit.
PS: I was joking in that last line. I’m not that bad. Well, y’know, err….um…yeah…right…