Quite a while back while pumping gas a service station worker walked up to me and said, “Ma’am, you’re folding your arms like you want to fight.” Fight? Who me?!?!? I’ve never been in a fight in my life, unless you consider a fight for my life. Honestly, at the time, I was thinking about whether it was more important to keep the raging wind from blowing up my at-the-knee skirt or blowing off my wig, mixed with thoughts about how gas went from $3.27 when I left home at 5:30am to $3.39 at 5:30pm. I was thinking of what I was going to cook for dinner, what a long day it had been, if I was going to unpack my suitcase, what to do about an unexpected debt and how I wish I had someone to fold the clothes from my overflowing clothes basket.
At the time, completely unaware of having a problem with folding my arms, and definitely not aware of how I looked doing it, I’ve come to realize that I do do it more than I know. I recall now, hearing my mother commenting on the folding of my arms. She would often say folding my arms made me seem unapproachable. I can hear her as I type, “unfold your arms and relax your eyebrows”. (Yep, I tend to frown in the brow with no knowledge of the frownage going on.)
Knowing the comment by “Mr. Gas Station” and having a bit of past knowledge about body language I decided to research what arm folding represents. I was shocked! Defensive, closed off, reluctant, and other words were what I found. Yikes! Is that who I am? Is that what I want to portray?
An introvert by nature (and with proof from several tests) I simply don’t thrive or get energy from crowds or interactions. It tends to deplete me. I do it, press through it and truly enjoy interactions with others, but after a full day’s work like the one on the day of my gas station revelation, having dealt with dozens of people, I needed to breathe. Had folded arms become my external signal for my internal need? Working more on recognizing my flaws, I realized that a part of me possibly does want to appear closed off, if only for a moment. (shhhh…don’t tell anyone.) I’m certainly not trying to do it in a negative way, but likely in a manner that indirectly and gently whispers, “Please ma’am, please sir, You have no idea what I’ve dealt with today or will be facing later on. I need just a brief reprieve with some ‘catch my breath for sanity’s sake’ time”. Rather than simply say it, it looks as if I’ve grown to just fold my arms in hopes of people getting the picture. That’s not cool. There’s got to be a better way.
So as I figure this thing out forgive me if I fold my arms. I guess I could just throw my hands up and surrender to the whole situation, but that would require me to instantly unfold my arms and I’m still working on that. Lol!