The Older I Get, The More Socially Awkward I’m Becoming — WTF?

I thought I was socially awkward as a teen, but it’s nothing compared to how I am as an adult. I feel like the older I get, the harder it is to know how to behave in public. I should be a pro at the social game by now, but instead, it’s harder than it’s ever been to come off as normal and well-adjusted. WTF?

I say the weirdest things.

When I’m feeling shy, I typically blurt out whatever comes to mind first, and it’s never anything normal. I have a hard time meeting people who intimidate me in any way. I feel like a big dork so I end up acting like one. This leads to awkward silences and strange looks. I’m positive I was better at this a few years ago. What happened?

I don’t know how to approach strangers.

Even when I’m normal and friendly, they look at me like I’m nuts. Maybe they aren’t used to strangers talking to them? I don’t consider myself particularly intimidating, but when I get this reaction, it makes me even more awkward than before the next time around. I used to make friends with strangers all the time.

I feel like I’m annoying people.

If I’m too quiet, I’m afraid I’m boring. If I’m too animated, I feel like I must be repelling everyone. I’m constantly monitoring and judging my own behavior in a way I never did when I was younger. I could act like a drunken jackass then and not care one bit. Now I have half a glass of wine and get super paranoid.

I get shy and run away.

This is the most embarrassing of my recent socially awkward tendencies. If I meet someone who I find smarter or more attractive than myself, I don’t know what to say. Even if that person is friendly towards me, I tend to clam up and avoid them at all costs. It’s not because I don’t like them — exactly the opposite. They assume I hate them, though, and I can’t blame them.

If a guy flirts with me, I don’t know what to do.

I keep to myself most of the time and men hardly pay attention to me anymore. It sucks, but then when a guy finally takes notice, I’m thrown off guard. I usually make a fool of myself right away and keep digging the hole deeper. I’m not good at recovering from my mortification.

I’m quiet when I should try harder.

Rather than put myself out there and risk sounding obnoxious or pushy, I tend to quiet down when I feel self-conscious. I’m very sensitive to how I do or don’t come across in a social setting. I worry constantly instead of just being myself. I don’t remember being like this when I was in my twenties. I thought it’d get better, not worse.

I avoid eye contact.

The best way ever to make people think you’re a jerk is to avoid looking them in the eye. That’s not why I do it — I just get awkward. Unfortunately, that’s what people assume about me when it happens. I seem like I’m either bored or lying about something. It’s a nervous habit that’s becoming more prevalent as I get older.

I’m fidgety.

I’m so awkward when I get nervous in public that I can’t decide how to use my body. I feel like people are scrutinizing my every move, so I stand weirdly and shift around a lot. I can’t just stay calm and still. It’s frustrating because I can’t seem to stop even though I know I’m doing it. I was much more confident physically in my younger days.

I make really dumb jokes.

Because I don’t feel at ease, words that I would never ordinarily say fly out of my mouth. I used to be witty, and now I just sound corny. I become the queen of awkward punchlines and compulsive giggles. It’s super strange, even to me, and I have to will myself to quit and just stop talking. Better to be silent than embarrass myself!

I do fine when I’m working, but I can’t deal in social situations.

The strangest part is that I seem to get more confident talking in my professional environment as I get worse in my social life. I can talk to strangers quite easily at work, but if I’m at a party or a bar, forget it. It’s like my job is armor that I wear, and it’s all gone once I leave. I used to be fine regardless, but I guess I go out less now so I don’t get enough practice being social.

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