What Social Comfort Looks Like

The backs of two people with long hair, leaning up against each other, in front of a forest.
A brief, imaginary dip into what "being reasonably comfortable around people" practically looks like.

The goal

I mentioned in my last post that my goal isn’t, and never will be, to become a social butterfly. At best, I only ever wanted to be reasonably comfortable around people. (Which I have now achieved, at least most of the time.)

But I’m not sure that I could have articulated that before I started this journey. I just knew that being around people was hard and that other people were good at it, not me, and that notwithstanding, I still wanted friends and better relationships in my life.

Maybe you have a clearer vision than I did. Maybe you know exactly what you want out of your people relationships. But if you don’t, this is for you.

It’s much more difficult to work toward a goal when you don’t have a clear idea of what that goal is, so I hope to take a moment to describe what “being reasonably comfortable around people” practically looks like. Are you curious?

Dream with me for a sec…

Try this. Set aside all of your past experiences for a moment and imagine what it would be like to:

  • Go to work, or school, and feel okay.
  • Leave the house even when you aren’t required to, without worrying about running into someone who wants to chit chat, if you’ll greet them appropriately, or say the right thing.
  • Never make eye contact again, and most people never hassle you about it.
  • And if someone does, not to spiral into “the bad place.”
  • Go to a job interview without panicking and messing up the words.
  • Or mess up and be able to recover without crippling shame.
  • Attend family functions, gatherings, and events without hiding the whole time.
  • Or stay home without guilt.
  • Go to the grocery store and ask where to find an item, or interact with the checkout person, without feeling like you’re going to puke or pass out.
  • Look forward to holidays and freely choose which events to attend, how to take care of yourself when you choose to go, and leave before you get overwrought.
  • Pick up the phone. And talk.
  • Attend Zoom meetings with the screen on or off, without fretting about what others will think of you either way.
  • Have deep and meaningful conversations with people you find interesting.

What else? What would this look like in your life? What would you like to do?

This isn’t fantasy; these things are possible. 

With one caveat: you can’t actually control how other people will react to you. But you can help people to accept you the way you are. It’s not that hard, but it’s not something our society teaches, so it takes learning new strategies. More on that soon.

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Heather Cook

Heather Cook

Hi, I’m Heather. I’m an autistic writer, advocate, and life coach, and I'm building a life I love. I help other autistics to build their own autism-positive life. I love reading, jigsaw puzzles, every science ending in -ology, and all things Star Trek!

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