Hi, I’m Michiel
I'm at a party. It's another one of those family things that you don't want to go to, but since the whole family is there you don't really have a choice.
I'm looking around and everybody seems to be talking to each other.
How the fuck are they doing that?
How do all these people know what to talk about? How do they keep the conversation going?
Why are they not as awkward and as nervous about talking as I am?
I feel lonely, isolated and entirely out of place. It's like everybody knows how to do this, but I don't. Did I miss something growing up?
What I really want to do is just disappear. Go home, back to my comfort zone. Back to my PC or my books.
Peace and quiet.
But I can't, so I just sit here and wait for it to be over and for my parents to go back home (since they are my ride).
That is what my social life used to be.
Isolated, feeling out of place and very socially awkward.
It sucked, a lot.
Throughout primary school and highschool I was bullied, quite a lot. I never felt like I fit in with any particular group. You start to feel like that’ll always be the case and like you will never find people you like.
Giving presentations at school was terrible. I hated being the center of attention so being in front of a group is something I very much dreaded.
I wanted to be invisible.
After highschool I was hoping to join the Dutch Navy. Unfortunately they wouldn’t have me: not social enough. Years after I understood: you wouldn’t want a total introvert to be stuck on a ship with 50-200 others for weeks on end.
So, I had to pick something else. As I had focused entirely on the Navy I had little backup-choices. In the end I decided on a bachelor’s degree on Law. They always say college/university will be better. That you will find people you can get along with and that you’ll make friends for life.
That didn’t quite turn out to be the case. My year started with 1.000 students. You feel like you’re just a number, and that’s how they treat you. In fact, at one of the first lectures a professor said: “Please take a moment to look to your right. In about 6 months time that person won’t be there because they will have dropped out”. Quite the warm welcome. Turned out he wasn’t wrong though…
At all times I felt comfortable at my PC. You’re completely in control. No obligatory meetings, no calls and you can postpone responding to emails as long as you want. Excellent.
Eventually I started working at a callcenter for a large recruitment firm. I had to make calls, hour after hour, to update people’s information in a database. Entirely the wrong job for an introvert who is socially awkward.
Fortunately I found something else: online marketing. I threw myself into it and quite quickly became the tech-guy for an online marketer.
Online marketing is nice and safe: most communication with clients goes through email and IM. And since I was the tech guy I was mostly “talking” to computers and back-ends of websites. I had always been good at that part.
At some point I was at the umpteenth party with family. Once again I was tucked away in a corner, being timid. I was waiting for the moment when we would go home. In the meanwhile I saw all these people chatting away.
Especially my mom and grandfather were excellent. I once remarked wryly to my mom that my grandfather could make smalltalk to a streetlight. THAT is how good he is at talking to people.
I made a decision: I'm done with this frustration. I am 25 and I probably still have to be communicating with people for the next 70 years! Improving social skills was a logical course of action.
I started looking into how I could improve my social skills and how to make contact with other people easier. I read books on small talk and started practicing these skills at parties and with fellow students. It worked!
Through just following the techniques and battling fears of rejection I was actually carrying a conversation. It turned out that social skills, like skills in games, could be leveled up. You could get better at them. And you would see the results!
Fast forward a few years (and a lot of social learnings and fuckups).
It's 2015 and I'm not a body language trainer. I train lawyers and sales reps how they can use body language to communicate easier with other people.
It was ok, but it never quite clicked with these people.
After several sessions with a business coach it dawned on me: I want to help people like me.
Be the person you needed when you were younger, was the quote.
And then it struck me: I want to help other people beat social anxiety and social awkwardness.
I want to be the person who could have helped me when I was younger and when I was still very much struggling with social anxiety.
That's when I set up this website: Social Nerd Coaching.
And that's why you're reading this now.
I hope that my story and my experiences can inspire you to tackle social anxiety.
Because I know how much it sucks, and I know you can beat it, and I can tell you that it's worth the struggle.