I don't like being touched.
I don't really remember why or when my irritation with affection began, but I do recall holidays and other family gatherings where I would be forced to give hugs and kisses to my extended family and I would cringe.
Most people who know me know that, as a general rule, I like to keep the physical displays of affection at a minimum. You won't catch me walking around the mall with my BFF, arms linked together as we shop. My boyfriend and I (we're talking my hypothetical, fictional boyfriend, by the way) won't be found walking down the street holding hands.
And nothing gives me more anxiety than having someone get emotional in front of me to the point where she starts crying, and clearly all she wants is a hug and physical consoling.
I'm just not that kind of gal.
Some people may describe my aversion to affection as bitchy or cold-hearted, but honestly, displaying affection just makes me socially awkward and self-conscious. I'm better at showing my affection through words and actions than being the best hugger, hand-holder, or physical bonder.
In romantic relationships, I'm not into PDA at all, but in private moments, I can manage to be affectionate, though I do have to mentally prepare myself for things like cuddling and holding hands. In one relationship, my disinterest in physical contact made my guy self-conscious, as he thought that I specifically did not want to touch him.
With friends, I'm not the kind of person who is always reaching for a hug or wanting to be all touchy-feely. One of my girlfriends is super emotional and gets her positive reinforcement through things like hugs and touch, and in a heart-to-heart, she actually started crying because she felt that because I didn't always want to hug her, I actually didn't like her.
While I don't particularly expect, or even need, physical affection in my relationships, I'm learning that not everyone is like me, and that my indifference can be perceived as harsh or even uninterested. I know some people respond best to physical touch and embrace, and I'm working on sharing physical displays of love through hugs and touch.
Sometimes I wish I were different and not so socially awkward when it comes to physical affection. But at the same time, I think I display my love and interest in others in different ways. My loyalty, comforting words, and open mind and ears are ways in which I try to show those around me that I value, love, and care for them.
Through past relationships and experiences, I've realized that if I want to preserve and maintain the relationships with those I truly care about, I need to step outside my comfort zone. I need to respond to the emotional needs of those close to me, and if that means challenging myself to face my own social discomfort, then so be it.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.