I vibrate wariness at the approach of strangers, and have a face within my Janus repertoire that is labeled: "off-putting." An approaching stranger, having passed by those cues, will -- at some point -- realize something is off, as if I'm holding my breath 'til the conversation's end - but not that, precisely At any rate, they will yield to whatever it is, in due time. [Maybe, I seem contagiously itchy.] Remarkably, I went decades without realizing any of this. To be fair, I never get a good look at myself at the moment I'm meeting a stranger. [And, if I did, I wouldn't have the brainpan bandwidth to do anything with the information.] Now, I'm training myself to behave elsewise, but the score is still 50 years to 1.
Reading about Audie Murphy vaccinated me with perspective.
Maybe you heard of him as a star of silver screen cowboy cinema.
He also received the Medal of Honor for single-handedly taking on a unit of Nazis from atop a burning tank after sending his men to the concealment of a forest.
But he was also known for stage fright and intense shyness. Once, asked to give a speech, he said he’d rather storm a Nazi machinegun position, and he should know.
That seems like a strange mix of fearlessness and fearfulness, but isn’t everyone’s?
I’m less afraid of giving a speech than I am of having to mingle with strangers at a cocktail party.
I’m less afraid of being punched in the face than I am of misspeaking. (Sadly, I have enough experience with both to say as much.)
I’m less afraid of dying than I am of being so incapacitated that I don’t have the option to wheel, crawl, or hobble my failing body off a cliff.
I’ve been found fearless by people mortified by hand-standing or petting a strange dog.
I’ve been considered cowardly by masters of cocktail party mingling.
And they are both correct.
And they are both so wrong.