I don't like being me
November 22, 2012 9:57 AM   Subscribe

I have recently realized that I am a selfish person, and I'm afraid my selfishness has been sabatoging my chances at having lasting, fulfilling relationships. I'm also self-loathing, which doesn't help matters, either.

I'm a 22-year-old female struggling with self-esteem and social issues. I had a pretty lonely childhood, and although I've struggled with loneliness all my life for the most part I learned to be comfortable being by myself. I'm starting to suspect my past has made me a little too comfortable with being alone, because I dislike being in many group social settings. For example:

1.) I don't follow conversations closely if I'm not interested in them.
2.) When I go to places where people tend to wander in pairs or groups (like an art museum), I prefer to go off on my own than diddle around in the same room with someone and have to wait until they're done looking around to move on.
3.) I'd rather go to a concert alone than with someone who isn't familiar with the artist because I know they won't be as into the music as I am, which hinders my own enjoyment.
4.) I hate the times when I think I'm supposed to hang out with a friend and they bring along a third person I don't know very well, because it makes our time together less fun.

I always chalked these quirks of mine up to independence/social awkwardness/introversion, but I'm afraid that the reason is more negative than that, and I've realized that perhaps the reason I don't have close friends who remain in contact (I have some people I'm close to, but usually because I'm the one doing the calling), and the reason I've never experienced a romantic relationship, is because I'm too self-involved, and I would like to change that. I fear that if I continue down this road I'll never have a significant other.

But compounding this problem is the fact that I don't value myself at all. Every time I try to think of a good quality that I possess, like being funny or nice, I can't help but qualify it by thinking that the only reason I try to convey these qualities in the first place is to compensate for my less desirable traits, such as my shyness, which I think people might take for aloofness sometimes; so essentially my view is that if I'm nice toward people, my behavior doesn't come from a sincere concern for others, I'm just trying to cover my own ass.

For example, when I was in college, I was having a really hard time with feeling lonely and isolated. I often called my sister to vent and relied on her for emotional support. At one point I feared that it was annoying for her to have to deal with my emotional state time and time again, so I sent her a card saying how much I appreciated her being there for me. She appreciated the gesture, but when I really thought about it, I wondered if it wasn't a little bit conniving of me to send that card, since I was doing it more because I was afraid of annoying her and thus losing my support network than out of showing sincere gratitude.

For this reason, it's hard for me to truly love myself. I don't believe that there's anything actually good about me. All in all, I believe these two issues are preventing me from having solid, strong relationships--the former because I don't focus on other people enough, and the latter because I feel that since I don't fundamentally love myself, it's difficult for me to see how others could, either. So I have two questions: how do I become more invested in other people and enjoy the experience of being with others more when I prefer to do my own thing, and how do I start to like myself more? (And yes, I realize I need therapy of some sort, but because of finances it's not an option that's on the immediate horizon.)
posted by dean_deen to Human Relations (22 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I want to answer all the parts of your question individually, but I'm going to resist that urge because I don't think that is what you need here.

What you need is a completely different angle on this, which is, You At Age 30.

So... say for example you followed conversations much more closely and hung on every word - You@30 might well look back and think, "I wish I had spent more time voicing my own opinions and not always listening"

Say you always stuck to the group at museum/gallery visits. You@30 might well look back and think, "man there were so many chances to go and see awesome stuff that I was interested in. why did I stick with the crowd all the time and see what they wanted to see?"

Say you always went to concerts with other people. You@30 could easily look back and think "I wish I hadn't always waited for other people to be up for seeing bands, I missed so many great gigs that way". In fact, full disclosure, me@28 feels this way :)

Anyway my point is, your actions are just kind of towards one end of a spectrum, the other end of which is being a follow-the-leader lemming-person and you have to go a LONG way further towards that particular end to get near selfish. Your actions are way closer to what I would probably define as "independent", "strong-minded" (I mean this in a nice way as it's a quality I value, in moderation!) and not what I'd call self-centred.

Furthermore, if you moderate this inclination of yours, you may well end up regretting your compromise. Youth is a time to discover, to not stay still for too long, and you're Doing It Right.
posted by greenish at 10:11 AM on November 22, 2012 [9 favorites]

I identify pretty strongly with this, especially when I was younger.

You need to separate your introversion from your negative self-image. It is really, seriously, totally okay to feel better by yourself most of the time. That doesn't mean that you have to be lonely, or that you are a bad person.

You should try and pick up a hobby and get really good at something. It doesn't really matter what it is, but this will help you both feel better about yourself and introduce you to people who are into the same hobby. Doesn't matter if it's needlework or a kickball league or learning an instrument or anything else you enjoy doing.

This might be counterintuitive, but often really extroverted people make good matches for introverts. Extroverts can benefit from you being even-keeled and stable, and you can benefit from their ability to maintain relationships and interacting in large groups for you. You might try and just attach yourself to your favorite extrovert for a while.
posted by empath at 10:12 AM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

PS. forgot to mention your sister. I think this point is the one which really gives away that you definitely could do with a little therapy, and more kindness towards yourself. It takes a depressed mind, or something like it, to describe a gesture (giving her a thank you note) which is thoughtful, sweet, and as you say yourself much appreciated, as "conniving".

Stop letting your mind do this to you - get on a CBT waiting list if you can (you can get this on the NHS if you are in a country which has one, although the wait can be long it will be worth it). CBT will teach you how to be a better friend to yourself - it did this for me and turned things around in a big way.
posted by greenish at 10:14 AM on November 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

I wouldn't worry too much about the introversion/independence related things (e.g. your 4 bullet points) or about being "selfish" - nothing is wrong with being an introvert, and nearly everything that everyone does can be argued back to self-interest, if you try hard enough. That only becomes a problem when you care about your self-interest to the detriment of others.

The most concerning thing I see is "that I don't value myself at all", which is pretty much a textbook case for therapy. I'm not sure if there's a great way to consciously improve self-esteem without therapy, since it doesn't tend to be something you can argue yourself into through logic. If therapy is really not an option, you could look into tips for depression, like exercise, developing new hobbies, CBT-like exercises (Feeling Good), etc.
posted by randomnity at 10:15 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

...how do I become more invested in other people and enjoy the experience of being with others more when I prefer to do my own thing...

Well, it would help to recognize that it's not an "either/or" thing. You can enjoy things by yourself and enjoy things with other people and it can be up to you how you enjoy them. In your concert example, for instance, let's assume you don't want to go to a specific show by yourself and you take your friend. How do you know that the other person won't enjoy it? I mean, assuming we're talking about the headliner, who would go to a show they weren't expecting to enjoy? I mean, sure, they might not enjoy it as much as you do, but they wouldn't be there in the first place if they didn't want to be there.

Instead of concentrating at people's (perceived) shortfalls, concentrate on where they're making an effort. Instead of thinking "why would Frank even come see this band, he doesn't even know who they are, ugh" think "man, Frank sure is a cool guy for being open to seeing bands he's not familiar with. There aren't a lot of people like that!" Now, rather than standing next to a person who isn't enjoying a show as much as you are, you are standing next to a person who is open-minded and willing to try to experiences regardless of how they turn out. That sounds like a pretty cool person to me.
posted by griphus at 10:18 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I won't address most of your question, but something about it stood out to me:

I used to fight my desire for solitude. View it as wrong, misanthropic, and pathological. Then I went through a few relationships, in which I was constantly unhappy after a few months. My partners just wanted too much of my time, of my thought-space.

But they didn't want too much. What they really wanted was what they felt was a normal level of those things, the level that felt comfortable to them, but left me feeling very unhappy because my normal level was much lower than theirs. They knew I cared for them, and liked my company, so they wanted more of it, not really a bad thing, but it created a lot of stress for me as sometimes the other person tried to make me feel guilty for not wanting to spend every moment with them. Those relationships never lasted very long.

I started a new relationship about half a year ago. In this one, I was very upfront about my desire for solitude, and communicated the fact that the time I spent alone was what made me the person they enjoyed being with, and that my solitary time wasn't about them, or a desire to punish them for something, it was about me, and was a basic component of how I cared for myself. I usually see her twice each week, more is too much.

If solitude is something you need to care for yourself, trying to deny it will not result in you being a happier person -- that's assuming it's a true desire for solitude, and not a desire to escape an anxiety.
posted by 517 at 10:21 AM on November 22, 2012 [11 favorites]

You're being far too hard on yourself. Most people are nice to others largely because of vested interest. It's why we give up on being nice to people who are consistently awful to us in return and just avoid them. And there's nothing wrong with that. Your needs matter just as much, though not more, than other people's, and you have a responsibility to be good to yourself as well as to them. Ideally, you should be aiming for mutual benefit in almost all your interactions with others.

If you only called your sister and chatted her up and wanted to spend time with her when you wanted a loan or some other favour, that would be selfish and she'd know it. Sending her a card thanking for her support and promising to make things more reciprocal in the future will benefit you both and therefore is not selfish.

So go on being kind and thoughtful to others for your own sake as well as theirs. Honestly, human motivations are a very complex thing and people won't care very much about why you're nice to them as long as you are nice to them.

Do try to be more open to others, to be less exacting in the conditions you set for your social interactions. But be less hard on yourself too. You don't have to love yourself, but you shouldn't be expecting yourself to be utterly selfless and totally disregarding of your own needs and preferences, because no one is or should be.
posted by orange swan at 10:26 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

You don't sound selfish to me, it sounds like you're looking for a reason that your personality is "wrong." I identify with your listed examples, and I am definitely not a selfish person. Let me just point out another way to phrase this:

I'd rather go to a concert alone than with someone who isn't familiar with the artist because I know they won't be as into the music as I am, which hinders my own enjoyment.

Can be framed as: "At concerts I worry that my friend isn't enjoying the music as much as I am, thus diminishing my own enjoyment."

That doesn't sound like a selfish person.
posted by cmoj at 10:29 AM on November 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

When I was your age I was just like you, including the worries. Right now, fifteen years on, I am able to be more emotionally present, spontaneously grateful, caring, etc, although I still need lots and lots of alone time.

Here is the thing: right now, a lot of your emotional energy is probably going into your anxieties and into learning to live life as an adult. That means that you have less energy for all the other spontaneous feelings. What happened with me was as I became more at home in the world and less anxious, all those other feelings - generosity, care, etc - started bubbling up on their own. It was not a flaw in me, even though I thought I was a big old selfish monster. It was simply that I had to become emotionally competent enough to take care of myself before I could recognize and act on those other feelings.

Some of your situation is, I bet, just being young - you are learning new adult stuff all the time. As you get older, you'll have more headspace.

Some of it is probably anxieties - I've found that when I am anxious, I use up all my energy just getting through the day without running screaming down the corridors. Working on your anxieties via therapy, meditation, diet, exercise, etc will probably free up a lot more emotional space.

Also, did your family instill in you a lot of anxiety in general or anxiety about being selfish in particular? How did you learn to recognize and express your needs? I suspect that if you're a loner and anxious then you may not have learned all that stuff about balancing your needs with others and you may actually have an exaggerated sense of others' claims on you. Think of it this way: who are you hurting if you spend time alone? Usually no one!

And another thing: these new concerns may actually be your way of processing a desire for company and closeness. I know that for myself, it's hard for me to say "huh, I feel like I'd enjoy learning to spend time with other people". Because I grew up in an anxiety and guilt-inducing setting, I can't think that. I can only think "I must be doing something wrong, better change". Like, I experience "I want to do a new thing" as "I am bad and I should do a new thing" - I have trouble recognizing needs and desires but no trouble at all recognizing guilt or moral imperatives, so I create guilt for myself because it is familiar.
posted by Frowner at 10:53 AM on November 22, 2012 [27 favorites]

Uh, all the details you give beneath the fold make it sound like you basically have an accurate grasp of what a mixed bag human beings and social interactions really are. You qualify your esteem for your personality traits because, yeah, probably they're not perfect. You see some selfish angle even in fairly thoughtful social acts because, yeah, stuff like that typically yields some sort of return: ego rewards, some improvement in how others see us, etc.

Congratulations on being realistic when you're looking at particulars.

The problem is you're making that total up to something terrible, when it really isn't. Turn your steely-eyed realism toward others, and you'll find everyone else has similar issues, and yet they're still essentially kind and lovable, and they eventually find partners and muddle their way through pretty well. You should be totaling up all this stuff and seeing it as basically average, normal features of the human condition--ordinary, forgivable, and definitely worth it in spite of imperfection.

And if you can't see ordinary facts like that in a positive light, I'd guess you're simply suffering from depression. Maybe it's just enough to make you pensive and exaggerate how bad things are a little when you're in a mood. Or maybe it's bad enough that you need medical help--it's hard to say from what you've written here.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:01 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your 1 - 4 list sounds perfectly fine and normal to me. Additionally, civilization is a social contract. We "pay into" friendships knowing we can call upon that investment; that is what friendship is. None of what you describe is selfish beyond the part where all human relationships are basically self-interested. The ones that are not we call charity or patronage or mentoring or other things.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:21 AM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

From the time we're toddlers, people ask us to define ourselves. Favorite toys, colors, what we want to be when we grow up, what we're good at, what movies we like, what foods we like, etc etc. By the time you're 20 or so, you think you're a big ball of THAT. But you're not. "You" are the presence reading this right now. And all that history and all those factoids are just big trash bags of nothing you've been carrying around with you.

Your tastes, your abilities, your fears, and your desires have changed myriad times, and will continue to change. Who you are will continue to change, sometimes even moment by moment. It's all in play!! I see so many 20 year olds who feel absolutely crushed and hog-tied by this big lumpy pile of stories they've been telling themselves about themselves for their entire lives. It's the aggregated detritus of societal narcissism. It makes kids feel fossilized when their adult lives are just beginning!

All that stuff is empty baggage. Drop it! It'll feel cathartic! Be fresh, stop self-defining, just enjoy action. The past does not exist, and in the present moment anything's possible. Stop telling yourself stories about who you are, what you like, what you dislike, what you're good at, what your'e bad at, mistakes you've made, etc. Resist the urge to keep building that lumpy pile, popular though it is to do so.

Just act, with your heart, from a position of perpetually renewed freshness. Acknowledge mistakes as you go, but keep moving forward. You are a zillion trillion times freer than you've ever imagined. Just stop weighing yourself down with fictional, arbitrary, outdated, heavy, complicated notions of who you are and what you want.
posted by Quisp Lover at 11:59 AM on November 22, 2012 [13 favorites]

Hi, I'm like you. My family always gave me a hard time about being too quiet, or too sensitive, or too serious. I can't remember the last time I've ever been proud of anything I've done, even though objectively I should feel better about myself. I really sympathize :( Frowner's comment above really spoke to me. It's okay to have needs and wants of your own, even if they don't always align with everyone elses!
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 12:16 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

1.) I don't follow conversations closely if I'm not interested in them.
2.) When I go to places where people tend to wander in pairs or groups (like an art museum), I prefer to go off on my own than diddle around in the same room with someone and have to wait until they're done looking around to move on.
3.) I'd rather go to a concert alone than with someone who isn't familiar with the artist because I know they won't be as into the music as I am, which hinders my own enjoyment.
4.) I hate the times when I think I'm supposed to hang out with a friend and they bring along a third person I don't know very well, because it makes our time together less fun.

I always chalked these quirks of mine up to independence/social awkwardness/introversion, but I'm afraid that the reason is more negative than that, and I've realized that perhaps the reason I don't have close friends who remain in contact (I have some people I'm close to, but usually because I'm the one doing the calling), and the reason I've never experienced a romantic relationship, is because I'm too self-involved, and I would like to change that. I fear that if I continue down this road I'll never have a significant other.

I was like that at your age. Lots of other people were. Raising your head above water and saying "perhaps I have to deal with things I don't like instead of hiding from them" is part of becoming an adult and moving past this part of your life, so don't beat yourself up about this or overthink this; just embrace those parts of this that you feel serve you well (ie don't do things you don't want to do, don't be afraid to cater to your own desires, and so on) but move past those things that aren't helping (ie avoiding people who aren't perfect matches for your activities, avoiding meeting new people because of the initial curve of getting to know them, and so on.)

Incidentally, when I was your age, a lot of people told me (after they got to know me) that they thought I was aloof and stuck-up (or, memorably, "when I met you I thought you were such an asshole!") but eventually figured out that I was just shy. Since being shy was making people think I was an ass, I pushed myself past my shyness, and since then (around two decades ago) things have been hunky-dory on that front. Although I'm still shy at times, but aren't we all? So perhaps that's why people don't remain in contact with you; I know some people in my life at the time thought I would consider it a bother, and felt I wasn't that interested in them as a friend, when it was really just me being too shy to "impose" my company on them. Which, in retrospect, seems pretty silly, hm?
posted by davejay at 12:41 PM on November 22, 2012

I guess it's possible that you're "selfish", but all the examples that you've given here just show that you're an introvert and that you're independent. Nothing wrong with walking around to look at other exhibits if you're more interested in them. Selfish would be expecting the person you're with to stop looking at what they're interested in because you're not. An extrovert would want to invite a friend who is not familiar with their favorite artist just because they would rather their company in that particular situation would be more enjoyable than enjoying the music alone. The introvert just *prefers* to be alone. I think you just need to become more comfortable in your own skin, and it's possible you may need to consider the needs of others more when you interact with them, but you definitely do not strike me as a narcissist or self-absorbed.

Also, you're only 22. You are really not that old. Assuming that you are living in a western culture, the university hook-up culture does not really lend itself to serious relationships. The reason you haven't been in one yet isn't because you're selfish. I have an extremely narcissistic friend who had boyfriend after boyfriend while we were in university and she got married relatively young too. It's just the way the cookie crumbles.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 12:54 PM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

1) is a place where you might be able to use some improvement in a key social skill. Not being adept in a particular social skill doesn't make you a bad person!

2) and 3) are matters of preference. I feel exactly the same, and so does my husband, which is one of the reasons we're a great fit as a couple. We go to a museum and we each explore at our own pace and meet up every so often to chat and compare opinions. We rarely go to concerts together and enjoy talking with each other later about the concerts we've enjoyed alone.

4) seems to me like a combo platter of "preference" and "social skill that might improve with practice". Preferring one-on-one socializing to group socializing is just fine. It doesn't make you selfish! However, since you can't always arrange for every social event to be one-on-one, working on your skills at enjoying group outings more is probably worthwhile.

Adding my sympathy and concern to that of everyone who's worried that you're way, WAY too hard on yourself. May I recommend the work of Alice Miller, particularly The Drama of the Gifted Child? I think you might find it helpful.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:08 PM on November 22, 2012

I think that humans have evolved to be selfish. Being nice to each other and doing things to be liked and get something in return are almost never altruistic, so I think you are in the norm if you wrote a thank you note with some agenda in the back of your mind. Perhaps you are just a lot more honest with yourself than most people. It's exceptional for people to do selfless acts. People may not admit it, but they do generally expect *something* in return for sending that thank you note--they want to be considered nice, and that is something they are getting back. It would be pretty upsetting to send a thank you note and not get a positive nod out of it.
For example, my friend is very "generous" because she does a lot of nice things for people without having been asked: for example she is a librarian and will drop movies off at my door. If I return them late, she wipes off my fines. She does this for several of her friends and neighbors. It's nice right, except, she often comments that so and so didn't acknowledge her generosity in just the right way, and it was very upsetting for her. Also, she has mentioned that another friend of ours didn't offer to help her fix something even though she always drops off movies for him. So, yeah, she is nice but those favors she does for people are not gifts, they're business transactions, although she maintains the belief she is doing it without expectation. But I think she is normal, almost everyone does this on some level.
posted by waving at 3:44 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

None of your examples illustrate selfishness. You think that because you loathe yourself. Your lack of a partner is not because of selfishness, but because it's difficult to like those who don't like themselves.

If you do things you don't want to do, and pay attention to things that don't interest you,

(1) you'll miss the actual cause of your problem, and
(2) your obvious boredom will draw attention to the fact that you don't respect yourself.

Then you'll wonder why it's not working, and double-down the straightjacket you are putting on yourself, compounding the actual cause of your problem. Don't start that path.

To get a partner: Keep putting yourself in social situations. Keep getting out of the house, more if possible. Get to know a man at such activities. After you've spent time in his company on multiple occasions, and you seem to be comfortable together, ask him if you can get coffee or something. If he indicates that he is favorable toward you, believe he is sincere. It is normal, for everyone, for any given attempt to fizzle out and bear no results. All such attempts fail, until one succeeds. Good luck.
posted by matt_arnold at 8:48 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Feelings point to needs within you. When you receive emotional support—say, from your sister—learn to practice relaxing into it. Sending cards is thoughtful and comes from a true place within you that wants to sustain connection. Trust that.

What if we started with the idea of self-esteem, how to water it inside of you. I once read about self-esteem and, in the opening chapter, there is a line:
"Learning to meet your needs—to care for and nurture yourself—is the most fundamental and important thing you can do to build your self-esteem."
Start by asking yourself questions, gently. The process of self-inquiry requires gentleness and a softer approach. Think about how you learn: do you learn best with someone who raises wooden rulers and is constantly in your face, goading you with sneers of, "You're such a miserable, selfish x, y, and z. You cannot ever learn."

It's okay to have needs. It's also okay to not always know how to meet them, but to try and figure out how. Find friends who can laugh and bring out the lighter side in you, people you might not consider friends, more acquaintances. Also, find people who are older than you, who may have more patience than age-close peers who are going through the same developmental turbulence. It's like a resting place, sometimes.

And, consider this:
"The basis for your self-worth is internal. As such, it is much more lasting and stable."
If you are fundamentally selfish, or whatever other critique of yourself you may hold, know you can always change. And, anyway, if you are selfish, then you are also equally generous and giving. Remember all that is within you, and that you are not one story, or one way of being, but many. Remember to let love in. When you let love in, you learn to give it, too.

NOTE: quotes by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD
posted by simulacra at 9:18 AM on November 23, 2012

When I was ten or eleven, my mom told me that there is no such thing as altruism because every action can be traced back to a selfish motive. This blew my tiny mind. I spent a long time feeling like I was a bad or selfish person because I could always find the selfish motive tangled up with my seemingly good action. Comforting a friend? Selfish desire to be liked! Giving a gift? Selfish desire for gratitude! Caring for a sick relative? Selfish desire to be seen by others as a kind person!

I got past this by deciding that I don't give a shit and it does not matter. When someone gives me a present, I don't think "you just want me to like you, selfish mcselferson!" I think, "wow, you took the time to get me a present! yaaaaaay let me reward you with gratitude! now we both feel great!"

When you do something good or kind, you benefit, even if it's only from the feeling that you're doing a good thing. So what? Lots of people still don't do nice things. What matters is how you behave. Are you acting like a good person? That can be enough. Even if (HORROR MUSIC) you selfishly feel good when you do good things. That doesn't make you bad. It's human.

Everything else you describe sounds normal to me and is pretty much the way I feel about things. I have lots of close friends and I like to see them in one on one settings - they're happy, I'm happy, everyone is happy!

Stop looking for reasons you're terrible and start looking for reasons you're enough.
posted by prefpara at 9:48 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thank you for the replies, everyone. You've given me some food for thought. To address your question about family life and anxiety, Frowner, I did grow up with a parent who wanted me to be a high-achieving student, so I did develop some anxiety from the pressure. I've never thought about my situation in terms of my emotional headspace clearing up and having room to experience other feelings, so I appreciate your perspective.
posted by dean_deen at 11:38 AM on November 23, 2012

I do not think you are selfish. I think you are most likely introverted, shy, and possibly depressed, and in a world where extraverts rule the room and encourage us all to network at every opportunity and seize the day, you feel like your natural inclinations are wrong or bad.

So, a few things. I'm like you in that in certain settings, like the museum situation you describe, I enjoy being alone so that I can go at my own pace and not be distracted by conversation. I don't usually enjoy shopping with others or partaking in other similar activities, so I don't do those things. I am naturally shy, and most comfortable in small groups of close friends (which I take a long time to cultivate), but I have learned a few tools to compensate. If you find yourself in the company of a friend's friend, or in a conversation you're not particularly interested in, try asking questions. Sooner or later you'll find some common ground, possibly an interesting nugget, and if you don't, well...it's not the end of the world. Try your best to remember bits and pieces of these conversations, so you can reference them in the future. "Oh, how did your big test go?" That sort of thing lets people know you were really engaged in the conversation, and although you may not have been, it might help to reduce your aloof demeanor. Give people compliments. Ask where friend-of-a-friend got her shoes. Keep making compassionate gestures like the note you wrote to your sister, and stop thinking of those things as conniving, and instead as as a reflection of the gracious, self-aware person you seem to be from your post.

How do you start liking yourself? For one, stop telling yourself that your shyness is undesirable. It's just another aspect of your personality, and plenty of shy people are in fulfilling relationships and have strong friendships. If being shy is something that really bothers you, know you can practice being more assertive or a better conversationalist. Second, you appreciate yourself for who are. So you like going to museums alone. Lots of people probably feel the same way! And in the right relationship, your significant other will respect your desires, not chastise you for them. Third, you become invested in other people by investing in yourself first: are you happy? Are you telling yourself negative, harmful thoughts? Are you imgaining that everyone hates you and thinks you're a freak? Then you need to at least entertain the idea of therapy and/or antidepressants. Once you're in a better place mentally, you'll realize that you're a unqiue interesting person with depth who has a lot to offer someone. Once you see the good in yourself, it will most likely be a lot easier to see the good in others, and consequently easier to feel at ease with them.

Good luck to you. You deserve to love yourself.
posted by thank you silence at 6:55 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

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