My boyfriend is a weirdo. He’s very proud of this trait as he perceives it in himself, and will proclaim it to others at every opportunity. He also backs up this claim through his actions. This morning, while brushing his teeth, he decided that his toothbrush made him look like a mosquito. I was attacked in my bed by a man in his mid-twenties, humming irritatingly while he mimed draining my blood with his toothbrush, before he rushed away fluttering his hands like wings, still humming. (It is apparently quite difficult to hum through a mouthful of toothbrush and toothpaste)
Scenarios like this one happen frequently around Mr. Weirdo, although more often he limits himself to simply creating the strangest word he can imagine to describe an already existing situation. But although Mr. Weirdo’s behaviour is undeniably quirky, he never acts in a way which might be considered genuinely threatening. In fact it is the opposite: Mr. Weirdo has fostered his own quirky behaviour in order to facilitate and smooth the process of social interaction. In other words, Mr. Weirdo acts weird because he wants other people to like him, and to respond positively to his presence.
As they grow, people develop different ways to try to ease the difficulties presented by social interaction. I myself resorted to shyness from a young age – a trait which actually isn’t very effective if its intent is to ease social difficulties. While a shy person may believe that refraining from getting in people’s faces will minimise clashes of personality and cause people to respond favourably to them (or some such), what is actually more likely to happen is that either their withdrawal is interpreted as anti-social tendencies, or that they end up feeling unnoticed – a wall-flower watching the main action from the sidelines.
Playing the fool, like Mr. Weirdo, however, is one of the more effective strategies one can use to lubricate social situations. Not to say that everyone will like the fool all the time (no matter how careful you are, you cannot please everyone), but as a general rule people like to be entertained, and therefore people like those who are able to entertain. While I am learning how to let loose and be a little crazy, shyness is still the response I fall back on when I feel out of my depth – which goes some way to explaining why I have a cozy little group of 45 facebook friends, and the outgoing and quirky Mr. Weirdo has a massive facebook party of approximately ten times that amount.
So, while on the surface Mr. Weirdo may appear to be weird, in all actuality, he’s not so weird at all. And his motivation is common to virtually every person who has ever been born into an interactive society (i.e. EVERYONE).
And here’s a little tip for all those struggling, socially awkward people out there: While of course even the outgoing people have insecurities, as a general rule they are less controlled by their own perceptions of their shortcomings. As I discovered myself, trying to grow out of my shyness – faking self-confidence, you cannot help but to feel a little bit more confident. If you fake a smile for long enough, eventually you will feel happy. If you stand up straight and tall, rather than curling up and making yourself as small as possible, for some reason you will start to feel less like you need to hide in plain sight. So, if you want to be confident, try to act like the confident people. Change your posture, and your body language – and surprisingly quickly, your mind will follow. Just like any habit, all it takes is practice.