(smile) Thank you for answering my questions. This helps me place you a bit better. (twinkle) If you happen to have read Agatha Christie's Miss Marple stories, then perhaps you'll remember that Miss Marple finds similarities between new people and people she knows well from her little village, as away of getting insights into their character. (smile) I try to do something similar.
There is nothing “wrong” with you if you are more socially quiet. It's just the way you are. Some of my children are social butterflies (and can flit from person to person) and some are more like flowers (and wait quietly in the sun… for the butterflies!), and that's the way they were born. (smile) So perhaps you are more of a flower? Which is a good thing. We need stabilizing elements in society, too.
One of my children is very shy. She never really made friends herself, but hung out with her older sister's friends. She likes to do things quietly by herself most of the time. She finds crowds of people unnerving and she dislikes bright lights and noise. Because we homeschool, she was able to develop at her own pace and learn in environments that were comfortable for her. But there came a time when she needed to emerge a little from her protective cocoon and go to university. But she was really nervous about interacting with so many people.
She can read people some ways very accurately. But in other ways, she is socially a bit blind. (smile) If you have a flaw, she will see it, but if you admire her, she won't. I have come to wonder if there aren't many
different pieces of information that make up social awareness, and whether some people may be deficient in one or some
of these areas, but not too many, and thus be more socially awkward without being autistic (which would be a deficit in detecting many
of these pieces of information).
Having someone to support you really helps when you are trying to overcome a fear. In this case, perhaps your mother can help you interact with people? You could ask her help, maybe, in finding a wife? (smile) She may be delighted
that you brought it up, and is looking forward to grandchildren! (pensively) However, I have also seen cases where a mother doesn't have a husband's support, and she becomes emotionally dependent on one of her sons. This causes trouble for the son, as he starts to fill a role for which he is not prepared. And having a pseudo-spousal role prevents him from forming this kind of bond with another woman (I have seen this between a father and a daughter, too). I am not
saying that there is any kind of physical incest. Or that the mother is a bad person. But emotionally, there is an inappropriate crossing of boundaries that causes the boy to remain bound to his mother and not grow emotionally independent. Deep down, he may feel like he is betraying or abandoning his mother if he forms this kind of a bond with another woman. And to complicate things, deep down, the mother may also feel this way.
(smile) I'm not
saying this is your
case. But I felt it necessary to suggest. If a person is aware of this possibility, it may help them deal with some barriers more effectively. And also be able to understand where his mother is coming from, if she starts to seem upset or has many conflicts with a possible woman in her son's life. And with understanding comes possible avenues for healing and effectively dealing with problems. And giving your mother the love she may need in ways that are good for both you and her.
(smile) Anyway, to get back to concrete steps you can take. You might consider joining Toastmasters http://www.toastmasters.org
. This organization helps you learn how to speak in public. If you are terrified of walking into one of their meetings, perhaps you could ask your mother or a sibling to go with you the first time? The individual chapters of this organization are composed of not too many people, and they can be very supportive of shy people. If you google them, you may be surprised to find how many chapters may be in your area (I'm guessing you are in the US).
You could also consider working for a community organization. Charities are often delighted to have people who commit, and will try to accommodate you. And knowing you are doing something that helps others (and that you are doing it voluntarily), can give you self-confidence when dealing with people.
You may want to try to form a bond with another person of the same
sex as you before venturing into a marital bond. This is hard, yes. But it is doable. Again, can your mother or a sibling help coach you with this? Perhaps they could suggest tips on how to approach a person you want to try to befriend? And if the results are not what you want, they could commiserate and put the experience into perspective?. And when things worked out, you could all celebrate! And they could perhaps suggest ways to maintain the friendship? If you don't
have this kind of support, (smile) perhaps you can check in with us on the Forum from time to time for some feedback?
Co-workers are often not
the best people for friendship, especially for men, I suspect. There is a certain amount of hierarchical jostling (competition) that goes on. You might try checking out a masjid. Just going is probably not enough. Talk to the imam. Are there any activities (outside of Friday prayers, there are often a lot of things happening)? Tell him you want to connect with the brothers. If one masjid seems unhelpful, try another. Look for a community that you feel comfortable with.
You might try mentoring a child to work on your parental skills http://www.bbbs.org/site/c.9iILI3NGK....BE16/Home.htm
. You didn't have much of a father. I deeply
empathize. But perhaps you can give to another fatherless child what you would have liked? And perhaps, helping a boy with his
problems may help give you insights into your own? (smile) As well as giving you a little practice in the joys of parenting, so that you can be a better father for your own children one day, inshallah. (smile) It is also often easier to be relaxed and connect with children than with adults, I find. And (smile) you may find that children can teach adults many useful things.
If your anxiety is very high about social interactions, realize that avoiding people is making the problem worse. A good way to get over a fear is, as you have probably heard, to face it. (smile) However, this doesn't
mean that you have to become Mr Life of the Party. I would suggest breaking down your barriers gradually. Perhaps start by going into a store when you feel nervous. Just that. No more. Then, over time, perhaps you could try smiling and saying hello to the cashier. (smile) Cashiers are human, too. It really is
when you give someone a friendly smile. (twinkle) You could even smile at strangers on the street. It can make someone's day, you know. If you force yourself to do it for the sake of Allah, then you can have the pleasure of knowing that you have done a good deed, even if the person doesn't smile back.
(smile) You could break down your efforts into little steps. Plan them like a campaign. Keep a record of what you've tried. Note the successes. Small successes will give you the confidence you need to tackle bigger efforts.
Let me give you an example. For various reasons, I was too terrified to drive a car until about 3 years ago. But I felt I had to get over this fear. So when I signed up one of my children for driving lessons... I took the plunge and signed up, too. I told myself that I was supporting and helping her (and I was). But I was helping myself, too. Doing the theory lessons gave me a little self-confidence. Acing the written tests gave me more. Unfortunately, I got a nasty and verbally abusive instructor when it came to the practical lessons. But after the second lesson, I gathered up the tatters of my courage, and requested the driving school give me another instructor. And they did. And that
boosted my confidence. Unfortunately, the next instructor was rather sarcastic about my fears. So I changed again. And this time, I got a really nice elderly man, who, when I berated myself for my mistakes, would point out all the things I did well
. So I finally started to learn to drive. And rather than doing the minimum amount of lessons required by law, I took extra driving lessons, until I felt more confident. And then
I took my driving test. And passed! That
gave me a boost. But was I still scared? Yes. So I forced myself to drive nearly every day, because if I stopped for a few days, I'd get paralyzed with fear again. I also took my eldest daughter with me. She is a confident driver, and I felt more secure with someone else keeping an eye out. And the more I drove, the more confident I felt. At first, I only drove in the day, outside of rush hour. Then I slowly started adding other elements, like night-driving and driving in traffic, till I finally went on the highway where there wasn't much traffic (something I never
thought I'd be able to do). Each little victory gave me the confidence for the next step. Trust me, I'd have NEVER thought myself capable of ever
going on the highway. And now... I drive all over the place, anytime, and... enjoy it!
If you break your problems down into smaller pieces, they are much easier to deal with. And each small victory paves the way for an attempt on the next step.
You mentioned that your community is relatively small, but closed. Hmm. This is a big problem these days. I've been discussing steps that you
as an individual can take to connect with people, but the sad reality is that in the modern industrial corporate monoculture world we increasingly have today, human relations are under attack from the structures we have set up to organize our society. It is hard to form bonds when we are constantly changing jobs and/or where we live. In schools, we are shuffled every year with larger and larger numbers of strangers. We are all so busy, we have little time for each other... You know, you are not the only lonely person out there. I heard recently that in North America, there are more single people than couples, now. Some of that is elderly people who have lost their spouses... but it's also many younger people, too. The way our lives are structured is destroying our connections with one other.
So it's not just you. Our constantly changing co-workers (or school mates), our constantly changing neighbours, the scattering of our lives over large geographic areas (necessitating cars to get to and from), megastores with large flows of people, the anonymity and superficiality of the relations with the people we spend time online with, the flattening of true individuality into a mass-produced illusion of variety…these structural influences have a great effect on our lives. It is just so hard to define ourselves an identity, and a feeling of place, and to make deep connections with people.
(smile) So don't think there is something terribly wrong with you
. (smile) Sure, you can make some changes. But realize that our modern “society” has some serious flaws that are making it hard for you to define yourself and find people to deeply connect with.
(smile) And finally, while it is easier for you to share your problems anonymously, it would be better for you
if you shared them with people more personally, I think. Take some strength from this Forum, sure. But don't let it substitute for closer connections in the world around you. You've reached out to us here, but you need to reach out to people around you. (smile) For their
sake as well as yours.
(laugh) But to be a little inconsistent, I'd appreciate it if you let us know how you're doing. (smile) If we are going to have these online communities, let's make them
stronger ones, too!
May Allah, the One Who Gathers, Help us to build strong ties with one another.