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Tackling the Feeling that You Can’t Get Social Interaction Right

talking-1239092I took my car in to have it’s oil changed today, I also went to the usual coffee shop I go to to do my work. In both instances I felt off.

Let me preface this by saying that for the last nine and a half years I’ve been working pretty hard to get back to normalcy. There was a time shortly after my diagnosis when the thought of even saying one word to another human being made me so nervous and worried I’d feel sick.

I’ve been practicing though, every little interaction I have with someone else is a little exercise in interacting with the world. I’ve gotten pretty good at it too.

There’s a feeling that sticks around though, even when things seem to go ok, when the performance goes without any stuttered words or missteps in speech or eye contact, where I just feel like it wasn’t quite right, like I could do better.

It’s the feeling like you’re being put on the spot and have to perform a certain way or else your whole life, the world and the universe will fall apart and that’s some serious pressure. Actually, it’s just the lingering feeling that if you don’t get it right the person you’ve interacted with will think you’re weird or off in someway. That goes back to what I was saying on Saturday about paranoia.

The thing is, I never get it quite right no matter how hard I try and that makes me feel like a defect.

The feeling of never being able to get things right can be applied to work situations and relationship situations as well. In each case, it’s this lingering feeling that you could’ve done better.

I don’t know if this stems from some childhood insecurity or what but I know it’s there.

It’s what’s driven me to every success I’ve ever had though, so in that case, it’s not all bad, and I think that’s what you have to remember. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if it gives you the motivation to constantly get better. It is stressful though and it does put a good amount of pressure on you in the moment though and that can hurt.

There are things I do though that may help if you’re in the same boat.

First, just remember that it’s just practice and it’s not a huge deal if you screw up once. Life is a mess and to screw up is to be human, tomorrow this little circumstance won’t make a bit of difference.

The next thing to remember is that it could be worse, who’s to say that next guy won’t start cursing or take off his clothes or smell so bad that it causes a scene, in that case, your little stutter over the words you’ve been practicing all morning will be small change, they’ll be nothing. No matter what you feel like you screwed up there’s always going to be worse and cashiers, service people and anyone you interact with, I guarantee has seen it.

The third thing to remember is that even if you don’t get a conversation right and you screw up so bad with your performance that you feel like you want to die because you embarrassed yourself so bad, it’s not a big deal, anyone you interact with certainly understands that people screw up and will be quick to forgive any mistake you feel like you may have made.

In reality, people make mistakes all the time, nobody is absolutely perfect and interacting with the world is fraught with little opportunities to screw up, you will do it and I will do it and anybody who’s ever been a human being will do it. You’re not alone.

The point is, everybody makes mistakes, it’s probably not as big a deal as you think it is. I know it’s hard to realize that in the moment but it’s true.

If my words fall flat just know that I’m right there with you.

Tackling the Feeling that You Can’t Get Social Interaction Right

Michael Hedrick

Michael Hedrick is a writer and photographer who has lived with schizophrenia since he was 20. His work has been featured in Salon, The Week, Scientific American and The New York Times. You can purchase his book 'Connections' here or Follow his blog on Living with Schizophrenia here.

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2015). Tackling the Feeling that You Can’t Get Social Interaction Right. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Jul 2015
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