It’s a familiar story here at the moment. That job interview I attended yesterday? I felt it went well. I was as open and relaxed as I’ve ever been in that environment. The interviewer talked about what specific role of those on offer was best suited to my talents, the hours, my availability to start.
A promise was made to call early this morning, and that he would do so because he thinks it’s so rude of other companies not to ring back after interviews whether the news is good or bad, that they as a company has common courtesy. If a betting shop had been next door at that time I’d have put my entire 23p on what has happened. Yes, afternoon turning to evening and no call, no e-mail, nothing. I’m used to it by now.
As I walked back for the bus home in the rain, I pondered on why my self confidence, my social anxiety, veers as wildly as the weather. If only I could carry off into everyday life how I felt sat in that chair, fighting for that paid employment, so confident and self assured without straddling the line of cockiness or arrogance, even if my quest seems to have been in vain.
The proof of how my self confidence dissipates into silence and anxiety was amplified later that evening. This time, the weather was gorgeously sunny in a beautiful setting, picturesquely green outside a historic village hall, in a quiet, sumptuously well off residential area.
A friend of mine was launching their first ever book. Apart from them, though, I knew just one other person. Before I even set foot in the place, I could feel a nervous silence descend on me. The same uneasiness I get if I go into an unfamiliar pub or go to any party.
The other friend I knew, I stuck to almost limpet-like. I don’t smoke but I went out of the hall for smoke breaks when they did. All around me, and indeed right by me, people were networking, making new friendships and acquaintances, getting contact numbers and business cards. I felt so awkward, I just stood there with an empty glass, saying nothing, looking right through rather than at a mosaic on the wall.
Eventually, someone I can guess has had a wealth of experience of someone in my state of mind, was introduced to me. As soon as I said I was unemployed, she said confidently “Right, we’ll have to find you a job”, and gave me details of a monthly meet-up of people in business locally. Something other people out of work have attended and got back on their feet through. I felt my confidence soar in her presence.
As it was a book launch, the subject of writing came up, and, inevitably how I pour my heart and soul into written word for all to see here. Immediately she invited me to a group where writers, publishers, and agents meet up to discuss their work. Somehow, she was saying and doing the right things to get rid of all that anxiousness and timidity.
Feeling a little more brave, I then fell into conversation with someone who turned out to be a hypnotherapist. We casually talked about why I fell so deeply into depression and I mentioned the break-up of my relationship four months ago. She smiled and said it took her five years to get over the love of her life. It was somehow comforting yet disheartening at the same time.
They, of course, had to circulate, and then immediately the shutters came down, especially after my friend left soon after the books were bought and signed. All the wonderful encouragement I received earlier kept me there though. I needed a contact number and e-mail address so that I could follow up on the opportunities to attend the business and writing groups.
I saw who I needed to see – except they were, rightly, enjoying themselves with other friends. Why on earth did they need to spend any more time with someone they barely knew, after they gave me all that time, care and attention before? That was what I was thinking.
So I stood there for ages, like part of the hall’s furniture, until finally, I nervously walked over and asked for her details. Why did I worry so much? I was given phone numbers, web and e-mail addresses as soon as I asked. I still felt I was imposing, so I gave my thanks as best I could and quietly slipped out.
The day had turned to night as I began to make my way home, which was something I took as a metaphor for how I engage in different situations. The confident self was evident for all to see at my job interview in the daytime. For which their was an audience of one.
The shrivelled, anxious, distant self couldn’t be missed, however, even at night, in a room of dozens with the focus of attention a great person having their first book published. Funny, in a peculiar way, what the mind can do to you.
Still, therapy tomorrow. And, even in spite of my social anxiety, despite my cripplingly low self confidence, a writing group meeting on Saturday. Whether I get a call back for that job or not, my life has made a small step forward, in the teeth of my own mind trying to stop me. The war of internal nerves isn’t won by any stretch of the imagination.
But last night was a battle won.