A foreign feeling

This week is Strategic Investment Days for all students taking Strategic Management. We were mixed and spat out into 25 tables of 8 (4 from the English section and 4 from the French section). I was put with a great group of people, really. I hardly knew any of them, which is always fun. This is a chance to make some new non-Asian friends (I should really stop saying this)! Unfortunately though, we were there to work together and not play a game of “let’s get to know each other!”

When it was time to do our first case study, I realized that my confidence level has dropped down to a big fat goose egg.

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This blows.

I don’t think I have ever felt this unsure of myself before in a working environment. Usually, I am the one who pulls my group. Then again, that is with people I know. With people I don’t know, though- I turn into a sheep. While all 7 of them are yapping away at comparing occupancy rate, ADR, supply and demand, I’m sitting there… occasionally nodding in agreement with that person who is making a point, or listening intently by making intense eye-contact to he who is explaining something.

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I don’t know what it is, though. This is such a foreign feeling for me and I am trying to learn how to deal with it. The only downside is (if you would call it a downside)- the feeling doesn’t stay because the second day (which was today) was better. I began to feel more at ease with the lot, and I think I will gradually begin to feel more comfortable speaking up as the week goes by. But the initial feeling… This is why I need to write about it pronto so that I can deal with yesterday’s feelings.

You know- put me somewhere, anywhere- and tell me to make myself at home. If they speak English or Mandarin, I will feel completely comfortable in my own skin. In fact, my dad brought me to a social playground event this March in Shanghai. I hardly knew what they were talking about (sustainability and then some), hardly knew anybody (except my dad- everybody knew him though), and as awkward as it felt in the beginning, it got much better at the end of the day.

I wasn't this crazy though, otherwise nobody would wanna be friends with me...
I wasn’t this crazy… or was I?

Yesterday though, I literally wanted the ground to open and swallow me up or just open up so I could fall through it or have an eagle swoop in and grab me with its claws. Anything to just get out of feeling like a complete imbecile. It was a complete shock when I realized this (another side-effect of conscious living). I was staring at my laptop and thinking to myself: God these people must think I’m an absolute dumbfuck. Even then, I couldn’t bring myself to speak up. Simply because I didn’t know what to say and had no idea what was going on in the case study.

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First impressions mean everything to me. I was trying to act all cool and nonchalant when I first reached the table. But then this guy goes around introducing himself and asking our names. First big mistake there. I really don’t think it’s that hard (I said it what, at least 5 times?) and they still couldn’t get my name right. Why do I always feel like the freak at the lunch table who doesn’t have a proper name? No. I should not feel that way. I should be proud of where I come from! (I also got asked the horrid question- do you not have an English name? Why?) I wanted to be funny about it and said “call me whatever you want”. I should have just said “call my YX” and at least I’ll be someone to them. Second, I think I gave off the vibe that I wasn’t very outgoing as I like to cross my arms when I sit. I think that is an act of self-defense; I actually do it quite often. And I don’t mean to! I really don’t. I really think it’s a subconscious thing or a self-defense mechanism for me to do that. Naturally, I was completely freaking out on the inside (God my armpits were soaked) at what everybody thought of me.

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I still can’t figure out what the hell happened. I think when I realized that I did not know anybody at the table, I froze. I became numb. Most people would jump at the idea of meeting new people (and I usually do too), but I think with the pressure of keeping up appearances and having to work at the same time really stumped me. I think it was the working part that I was most uncomfortable about. See- I don’t think I’m a very smart person. So when I was put into this situation and listening to these people analyzing everything, I felt dumb. First, nothing came to my head when the teacher let us go about working on the assignment. Other people had a million ideas whizzing around in their minds and they were vocalizing it. Mine? Complete blank. Second, I felt like I had nothing smart to contribute. I didn’t feel like my opinions mattered at all, especially if I were at a table where people were so much smarter than me. Third, I felt useless. I sound like I’m bashing myself on purpose, but to me, this is completely normal.

So I guess that concludes my post. I wish I could end it with a “here’s the answer to why you are socially awkward” paragraph, but I really have no fucking clue what happened. I know this much: it’s all to do with self-confidence, something I obviously don’t have. But how do I build it up, especially when I have to work with strangers so that they don’t think they have an idiot on their team?

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P.S. All GIFs from whatshouldwecallmetumblr

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33 thoughts on “A foreign feeling

  1. You are a smart girl. You have a lot of ideas and you’re filled with creativity. I know you may not be as confident, but it’ll take time. Just remember that you’re good at what you do. Don’t give up! You’ll gain that confidence soon :)

  2. Oh man, I am a BIG fan of “fake it till you make it.” When I started my job, I had NO IDEA what I was doing and kept talking my way into all sorts of situations where I had no clue what to do or how to proceed. But no one needs to know this, haha. They are paying less attention to you than you would really think– and they don’t need to know what’s going on in your head (anxiety wise). Good luck!

  3. Oh, I know what you mean about the feeling that your opinions aren’t worth voicing in certain group situations. I tend to play the quiet card too, and then someone will say the exact point I’d thought of three minutes ago and they’ll get praise. But of course if I open my mouth I’ll manage to say the wrong thing. So we stay quiet. You may have encountered that too, yeah? I say just play it cool, do a lot of nodding as if you agree and already assumed that point and voice your opinion when prompted. And trust yourself. You’re a smart cookie. Dafter people before us have found the right answers to these things, so there’s no reason we can’t prevail. And dafter people after us will succeed as well. You can do it. I have faith in you and I’ve only read a handful of your blog posts. You know you, and you know you’re capable. :)

    1. Exactly!!!
      Thank you for your faith. It means a lot:) I’m just hoping the more we are put into situations like this, the more we learn from them, and the more we learn to speak up.

  4. It’s funny how we can spout out advice for others, but then never really take it ourselves. I was going to type “you just go out there, be yourself, and over time it gets easier.” But, knowing that, and trusting in it are two very different things. I wish I had the answer for you. I wish I had the answer for myself.

    I’ve often wondered if we are all socially awkward to some degree, and we just can’t see the fear that everyone else is battling… And perhaps that is the key. If everyone else is just as self-doubting, and just as terrified of meeting new people, we just need to get out there and do it anyway. Rise above.

    Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s being afraid and choosing to move forward anyway. Or, something like that. ;-) I may, or may not have stolen that from a movie. :-P

    1. I do go out there, try and be myself, but things don’t always get easier. I think we wish we all had the answers, but how boring would that be?? (No really though, sometimes having the answers would be great).

      It is possible that we don’t see the fear that everyone is battling, but there are some of those people who are just always so confident, charming and outgoing that it’s preposterous to think they can have any kind of awkwardness in them at all! At least you and I are acknowledging the fact that we are awkward- I guess that’s the first step.

      Are you talking about the Nelson Mandela’s quote? “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

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