Please don't let middle school go on forever in my head.
May 19, 2013 8:33 AM   Subscribe

People don’t like me. Somehow, I’m one of those individuals who rub most of the population the wrong way. All right, then. With that knowledge, how do I move ahead and have a decent life?

I’ll attempt a quick summary: from elementary school on I’ve been that person that other people don’t like. I was and am timid, anxious, approval-seeking and oversensitive, with an unfortunate tendency to blurt out inappropriate remarks or non-sequiturs. I’m pretty sure that I have sluggish cognitive tempo, which may explain my difficulty with conversation—any kind of conversation, ranging from small talk to the “big issue” crap that introverts like me are supposed to excel at. As a result, I don’t enjoy social activities at all. This has been a lifelong problem. I'll spare you the description of my childhood experiences.

Now that I’m approaching middle age, I continue to rake myself over the coals for failing at this most basic task of being human: making connections with others. I frequently feel left out by coworkers, I lament my lack of solid friendships, I dread parties and unscripted social interactions, and am kind of a disaster professionally.

I’m perfectly happy when I’m alone and pursuing things that interest me (none of which are remunerative). I have issues I care deeply about, and I pursue them. At the same time, though, I must earn a living. I must go out into the world and face up to my awkwardness every day. And my consistent unpopularity leads me to believe that there is something genuinely off or wrong with me. This thought nags at me like a problem that can't be solved.

My question, then, is how to let all of this go and philosophically approach the fact that most people are not going to like me. I realize that everyone has people who don’t like them, but given my personal characteristics I seem to cast a wider net than most. I want to continue living; I want to have a decent life. I don’t want to drag myself around for the next 30 years all bummed out about my unpopularity. I’ve always thought of acceptance by others as being a prerequisite for having a good life and being a good person, but what if it’s not? Is it possible to hold down a meaningful job and have fulfilling hobbies and a full life while also being an involuntary loner?

(I’m really looking for attitudes about or viewpoints on the topic that I maybe hadn’t considered, and that proceed from the basic assumption that I’m never going to have easy relationships with others. I’ve already spent decades trying the usual stuff to improve my social skills: therapy, drugs, going to work five days a week, volunteering, not avoiding parties and family gatherings and other things that I’d rather stay home from. These are all great suggestions, but not what I’m looking for.)
posted by silly me to Human Relations (24 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
When you find other people who remind you of you, how do you react to them and they to you? Do you both see a kindred spirit? Do you both feel compassion? I'm asking because maybe to only thing that can make you feel better about you is somebody else just like you. I don't mean a relationship per se. I just remember a story about a woman who was infected by someone with AIDS early in the epidemic when people weren't very kind. Eventually, she realized that the only person who she could really relate to and talk with was the person who infected her. It struck me as incredibly sad, but also incredibly poignant, because she figured out what she needed. I hope this doesn't bring you down, but after pulling all the levers we're supposed to pull, have you tried that one? Looking for "your" people if you can admit they're your people? It's less likely there's something "wrong" with you. Even the minority has the rest of their minority. I wish you all the luck in the world, man. Believe me, we're all somebody's person to be avoided somehow.
posted by CollectiveMind at 8:42 AM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Online forums mask an endless array of personality flaws and provide a very convincing simulacrum of a social life for LOTS of people... I've been astonished at how completely online interactions can mimic real ones. Find the fora for your interests and get involved, be nice to folks, and you may even come to feel that it's "the real you" who's participating, freed from the in-person difficulties you've described.

It's also possible that you're way too critical of yourself. It's really hard (for everyone, even completely "normal" people) to make friends once you're out of school. I think most adults find it a challenge at best and an insurmountable one at worst. People are busy, tired, oblivious, not that interested in other people... It's just a fact. I think you should try to grok that many, many people experience this baseline loneliness, without beating themselves up for their personality flaws. I think it may just be the way things often are.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:42 AM on May 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think you may be an introvert who is trying to be an extrovert. Give this a read.
posted by Carol Anne at 8:54 AM on May 19, 2013


Most people are going to be indifferent towards you and to everybody else. This only changes when there is some advantage to them in having any sort of interest. My advice is to find a job you like and pursue interests you enjoy. Forget about ancient history and needing others. I predict that your happiness will increase significantly and you may find you end up with a few friends worth having.
posted by BenPens at 9:13 AM on May 19, 2013


I think CarolAnne might be on to something. If you're perfectly happy being alone in your own pursuits, then there is probably nothing wrong with you at all. In a world full of extroverts, it's not that people "don't like" you, it's that they don't know how to react to you. Humans, on the whole, are social creatures. They like to gather in large groups and talk about nonsensical things. Introverts don't necessarily like to do that, oh, we'll seek out other people upon occasion, because we do live in a world full of people, but chit-chat? Whatever for? We have a purpose when we go out into the world, and it's not to talk about the weather. Still, chit-chat is a must but if you haven't practiced it, you're not going to know the rules, and that leads to social awkwardness, which leads to people moving away from you, hence the perception of people "not liking" you.

Read up on introverts and see if you see yourself in this niche. It (like everything else) is a wide spectrum and is much more than being "shy and awkward" as some people think. If you know where you fall, you might be able to accept the fact that popularity is not for everyone (and really, who needs all those people around?) and many people get along quite well with a handful of friends and acquaintances, and some (like my husband) with even fewer.
posted by patheral at 9:27 AM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Going by your previous posts, I wonder if you might benefit from going to a 12 step program, even if you're not drinking now. I think that the camaraderie that many people get from this participation might be helpful to you. I really doubt that you're as shunned as you think you are.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:31 AM on May 19, 2013


Google How to be liked, and read up, but don't do the personality tests. You can learn traits that will make it easier for you to connect with people. Take a Dale Carnegie course, seriously, lots of people do, and benefit from it. Don't accept the fact that most people are not going to like me, accept the fact that most people are not going to care about you, or pay much attention to you. I'd interview therapists and find one who can coach you on life skills.

Develop really good manners, and be courteous as a habit. When you go to a family event, ask other people about themselves. Ask about their kids and their pets, if they have them. Take notes later, and the next time you see Aunty Teri, ask her about her dachshund by name. Now you have a connection. Do the same at work; find 1 connection, then build on it. They may be loose connections, but they open the way to deeper connections with people you really like.

You don't mention who you like. You may not feel confident enough to have your own likes and dislikes. Start paying attention to the traits you like in others, and seek connections with people who have those traits, not just the obvious popular people. I have never been one of the cool kids, especially in school, but I always had a group of friends who I genuinely liked. Genuinely liking someone shows, and helps build friendships. Of obviously popular people, there are plenty I like, and probably even more who I don't; plenty of individuals are jerks. Feeling able to like or dislike people may help you have a little more confidence.

You do sound like an introvert, but even introverts like to have some friends. You are probably a much nicer and more interesting person than you give your self credit for, and you deserve a happier life than you have.
posted by theora55 at 9:37 AM on May 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Speaking from personal experience, things become a lot easier when you find even one person who accepts you for who you are. I imagine that might seem like the least helpful suggestion when you're wondering how to connect with people in the first place, but it's true. I am calmer, more thoughtful, more "together," more able to deal with my family's crazy shit. My partner is my haven. I can pass some of my social burden on to him because he knows me and what I need, and that makes other things easier to deal with.

My only tip for finding someone like this is the maddening "be yourself." I have met my last several partners in situations when my filter was turned completely off. If someone doesn't like you for it, no loss. But if they do, they know the real and comfortable you.

Something else that has given me a bit of inner happiness is this personal rule I have. I'm terrible with normal social conventions and rarely get/got invited to birthdays. People outside my family rarely give ME presents -- and my family's presents are legendarily bad. Nevertheless, when I am in a position to help someone, or to make someone feel good, I drop everything and DO IT. My rationale is that I know I don't always have the ability to do so, and I forget at other times, but maybe this will help me get in the habit of doing good for people in my personal orbit. To some degree, because I have a lot of trust issues, it's my way of reaching out and knowing I have an impact for good. (I don't get a lot of recognition for the way I do things I'm supposed to do in life, and that has been an ongoing struggle for me.)

So I love Secret Quonsar time, and I give $25 to the friend-of-a-friend (whom I'll never meet) who is raising money for FTM top surgery, and when I heard that a colleague in another department had had a stroke, I made his kids some mix CDs. And I got zizzle some diapers. I never expect to get anything out of it (although, yes, I dearly hope that I get a thanks that says, "Geez, you really know how to pep me up!") but it makes me feel more connected to people: like I have a place that nobody else has.

In some ways, too, it can be freeing to just accept these things about yourself. It's TIRING to try and keep up with social inanities that aren't really your thing! But if you concentrate on the things that make YOU feel happy and fulfilled, you'll feel more comfortable in your own skin... and more likely to have others recognize the good things about who you are. In my experience, again, I find desperation way more off-putting than just plain weirdness :)

I empathize with you way more than you'd imagine. You're not alone.
posted by Madamina at 9:37 AM on May 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


It's also possible that you're way too critical of yourself.

Just to follow up on this... a lot of times if you are feeling too critical of yourself, you're also feeling too critical of others. People tend sometimes to have the same level of goodwill for everyone, even though they don't realize it consciously. Experiment with being easy on yourself AND thinking the best of others, since often you can't really know what they are thinking anyhow. Try to cultivate an attitude of goodwill towards the people around you... it's not easy, but it will make you feel better, and it may also make you more comfortable around them, which will help socially.

In general, try considering your mental outlook independent of your sociability. Sometimes it's natural to be extremely introverted, and sometimes it ends up being a result of something else, rather than a cause.
posted by selfnoise at 9:41 AM on May 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Are you by any chance a judgemental or critical person? Like, when you encounter new people, is your default mode of interaction to be friendly and welcoming or cold and reserved? Could some of this be a self-fulfilling prophecy wherein you've affirmed to yourself over and over that you aren't likable, and in doing so you presume defensively that everyone you meet finds you repulsive, thereby modifying your demeanor so much that you actually become abrasive and unlikable?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:16 AM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


How do you know that people don't like you? Have people directly told you that they don't like you? It's possible that you could be engaging in mind reading (the cognitive distortion). That can lead to something like a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, you interpret a coworker's facial expression during a conversation to mean that they dislike you. You begin treating the coworker as if they dislike you by avoiding them and giving brief one-word answer when they ask you questions. The coworker picks up on this and thinks you dislike them so they avoid talking to you too. Voila! Now the coworker is behaving consistently with your (incorrect) belief that everyone dislikes you.

Also, just because you haven't formed any strong connections with others doesn't necessarily make you unlikable. I consider myself a pretty likable person but I am having trouble forming new friendship right now. Forming real, solid connections is difficult for everyone (as fingersandtoes pointed out).
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 11:53 AM on May 19, 2013


For the record, I do not grant your premise that you are inherently unlikable, but you specifically asked us to grant your premise, so as a compromise I am just going to list some things that you can do to have a meaningful life that don't involve or center around personal interaction with others.

-Plant trees. We need a fuckload more trees.
-Similarly, trail maintenance, whatever people do to preserve the wetlands, I'm not into that so I don't really know but I think they need people to like help the turtles mate and stuff.
-Become a foster dog or cat parent; adopt a rescue animal.
-Fund a scholarship for disadvantaged students, especially if there is some characteristic of student that you connect with (like they share an interest or hobby or biographical detail with you). This can be a years-long project if you like instead of just a one-off donation.
-Do the boring crap that non-profits need- filing, data entry, that shit. Some people want to tutor homeless moms whose first language is Klingon, some of us are good at filing.
-Learn how to fix bikes for kids (and adults who need bikes).
-Sign petitions.
-Write letters to your representatives.
-Write letters to old people at a nursing home.
-Join the cake-making grief committee at church. Or start it and then join it. When my uncle died, a woman showed up at my aunt's house with a cake and said, "Hi, I'm from the grief ministry. I'm very sorry for your loss. I lost my husband a year ago and I can't really do any of the person-to-person ministry, but I can bake cakes. So that's what I do."

Sometimes connecting with people doesn't require interacting with them.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:06 PM on May 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


You don't really know what people are or are not thinking about you.

I'll tell you a story about me to illustrate. When I was in high school I had almost no friends. I walked around with a closed, inward focused face. I was bookish, quiet, and not well-groomed. Nobody seemed to care anything about me. A year after graduation, I was back in town and ran into a former classmate who greeted me enthusiastically. I asked her straight out why she was so glad to see me when she never talked to me in high school. She said in amazement, "there was a whole lot of us that admired you and thought you were the the coolest person in school. We didn't dare try to talk to you. You were so smart, so together, so COOL that we thought you wouldn't be interested in us."

Try not to guess what other people think of you. They may dislike you, they may admire you, or they may not ever think of you at all. So be kind, be polite, and practice making small talk that lets people see that you are interested in what they have to say.

They advice given above by theora55, Madamina, and Snarl Furillo all resonates with my experience.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:21 PM on May 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


People really seem to like me and speak well of me but I never get asked to go anywhere. I have trouble with making intimate, personal connections. I rarely date anyone longer than a few months. I'm telling you this because sometimes, we are lonely because we are lonely and not because we are unlikable. Everyone is alone most of the time. You may be comparing yourself to the wrong people.

It is admirable that you have tried so many different things. Have you tried church? God may like you. He did create you, after all. And churches have to be nice to you, it's kind of a rule.

What happened to you as a child is awful. You were around terrible children and you didn't have a strong adult voice to keep their awful at bay. Have you written a letter to your young self, commending you on making it to adulthood? Forgiveness for the past is an important part of enjoying the present. You are here now. Tomorrow is brand new. Love yourself, forgive yourself, and stop comparing yourself to others. That's my advice. From one solitary person to another.
posted by myselfasme at 1:31 PM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


To answer your question, here's the thing: What you can do since you're an adult is whatever you want. There's no scorekeeper at the end (unless some religions are right, of course) who's going to scold you for skipping out on that party to stay home and read about the Napoleonic War. There's no one going to scold you for not going to Little Timmy's Birthday Party because ALL the kids went except you, you weirdo! Doesn't happen. If you want to go to work, come home, and sit in front of the TV until you go to bed, no one in authority is going to show up and go "Now, see here, you are going to go out and have a socially-enriching time!" Nobody cares what you do unless it affects them. The reason people care about crazy cat ladies is because cat urine smells awful, especially on a hot day, not because they're concerned about said cat lady's personal development. If all you're looking for is absolution: I absolve you of this aching need to work on social ties. Mazel tov.

To move on to the unasked-for advice: I think you're trying to make yourself something you're not. I think you're trying to convince yourself that you're a loner, Dottie, a rebel...but you're not. You still want to be around people (you wouldn't be looking to us to justify it if you didn't!), you just don't have the tools to make yourself the person you want to be and the fighting it is wearing you down.

Like you talk about how you just blurt things and seek approval. Maybe you're just trying to jump in the conversation and show participation and not quite sure how to do that, but you desperately want to be included, right? I get the impression you think socializing is about a lot of witty banter and having all these remarks that are perfectly timed and commanding the room, but that's not your skillset. So maybe you can be a good listener. Seriously, do you know how many people just desperately want someone who will actually listen to them? Look up active listening and work on those skills. It solves a lot of the problems from your post: Focus on what they are saying and restate it to them, then work on a few prompts to get them to talk more. Now you no longer have to blurt what comes in your head. Now you're the quiet type that really listens to people. You don't have to be searching for that perfect remark. You just have to listen.

Think about a heist movie like Ocean's 11. Or something like The A-Team. Or anything that broadly fits the "team of people each who has one thing they're really really good at." Maybe you've spent your whole life trying to be The Faceman that's really good being social and bantering, only that's not who you are, probably because of your desperate need for approval. People can smell that desperation and it perversely makes them dislike you, then you sense that dislike and try harder, which they notice and it makes them dislike you more.

So here's what I want you to consider: Maybe that's not your role in the group (for this instance, "the group" may be all of humanity) to be The Socialite. Maybe it's something more solitary. Maybe you're the one who's really knowledgable about your field--people will put up with a lot more awkwardness if you're useful to them. Maybe you're the one who's really good with animals (without being a crazy cat lady) and foster the ones that have been abused. Maybe you're the one who helps people without an expectation of return. Maybe you're the neighbor who doesn't host parties but can tell someone how to fix that pesky plumbing problem when they hurry over to borrow a plunger. Maybe you knit scarves and hats in kid sizes and drop them off anonymously at women's shelters during the winter. Maybe you're less Faceman and more Mr. T, the metaphorical guy who can make a tank using only the supplies found in this hardware store. Maybe you're the listener.

Like among my "group", I'm not the one you go to for sincere comfort or, I dunno, feeling things. I'm the one you go to when you need to know how to hide a body or what kind of retirement account you should invest in or what drugs you don't mix or how to deal with it when it's too late and you've already mixed those drugs.

But the biggest thing you need to do is make peace with yourself because I suspect the bigger problem is you don't like yourself, thus expect that everyone else doesn't like you.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:29 PM on May 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think you should try going to a place where you are likely to find kind people who will be a little tolerant of someone who is socially awkward. Churches are an excellent place for this (go Unitarian if you are not religious) Volunteering is an excellent option too. I'm a manager with the volunteer organization One Brick and we get a lot of socially awkward folks. We try our best to bring them into the fold.

Also, this the kind of thing that a good psychiatrist or psychologist can really help with. I have a friend who is a psychologist who teaches social skills. It's something that with patience can be learned.
posted by bananafish at 4:02 PM on May 19, 2013


Hm. I found this a bit Eeyore-ish. People who "rub people the wrong way" usually do so because they make people feel bad about themselves or are offensive or pessimistic. Being awkward and not knowing what to talk about may be a subjectively unpleasant experience for you, but people are mostly not going to hold it against you. Going through my mental rolodex of people I find difficult to be around, I can't think of any that I dislike because of social awkwardness or random blurt-y behaviors. Those qualities can be occasionally endearing. To be honest, most people you'll come across in your daily life are way too wrapped up in themselves to spend energy actively disliking you on such tenuous grounds.

It sounds like what you really need is a confidence boost so you can get out of your "I am unlikeable; people dislike me" feedback loop because I imagine most of this is in your head. And anyway, feeling that you are or are not likeable is one of those things that can easily become a self fulfilling prophecy - Projecting confidence does wonders. Maybe you can volunteer at a homeless shelter, or take up jogging, or make a gratitude list, or really just anything that will add to your self-worth bank.
posted by mermily at 4:30 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you might want to consider that people throw the word "friend" around with varying degrees of sincerity. One person's friend is another person's aquaintence. Not many people have a pile of besties. Relationships can take a lot of different shapes. I have one friend I see about once a year. She connects with a piece of me. I have a friend I see twice a week who connects with different peices of me. I know a lot of people and get enough social interaction not to be a recluse, but I don't have or want many close friends. Friends are a lot to maintain.

Something else to consider is that a lot of people start families so that they'll have people to love them. I'm not saying it's a good reason to have kids, but it happens more than you realise.


There are very few people that I really connect with. Those are the people that I spend most of my time on. I spend a lot of time with God, a lot of time with my pet and plants and books and movies. I make chit chat with the neighbours or people on the street. I attend a church group with very kind and accepting people. I talk to my honey a lot. I'm sort of distant from most of this, (except my honey), but I'm usually fairly content this way.
posted by windykites at 6:20 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have felt at least some of what you describe, too. I think what helped me most was accepting myself. I felt so much better the more I accepted myself. I wished I had worked on it years earlier. I try to accept my body and love it. I try to accept my quiet, reserved, somewhat passive self and love it. I try to forgive myself for my screw-ups. I'm not popular but some people like me. Or they think I am nice. That's fine. I only care that certain people like me, anyway. I want the people that I really like to like me back. Some people might think I'm a bit goofy. That's okay!

I never assume what other people are thinking. I give them the benefit of the doubt because I know that everyone suffers doubts and some kind of hardship in this life. I try to appreciate them and what they have to contribute. I try to do the same for myself.

As long as I'm not hurting any one I take the title of Richard Feynman's book, "What Do You Care What Other People Think?", as my mantra. I try to smile at people often. (Especially middle-aged women! I feel that we are frequently ignored or overlooked!) I try to give others sincere compliments every now and then. Sometimes I make myself a 'Way to Go' list of things I have accomplished lately. Makes me feel better.

I am lousy at small talk and social gatherings. I am envious of people who seem to strike up an instant rapport. I could work on getting a little better at social stuff and maybe someday I will. For now I might just hang back and observe. If I am in the mood, I try to join in. If not, that's okay.

I definitely think you can have a meaningful and fulfilling life without being a social genius. Be kind to yourself. Accept who you are. It is part of evolving and growing.
posted by goodsearch at 7:11 PM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


All day I have looked at your question and wanted to tell you to forgive yourself. But that seems so assuming -- as if I, an internet stranger, would know. Especially as you have not presented evidence of needing forgiveness for something.
There is much good advice in this thread.
I think you should mentally put yourself in the position of someone else for a moment. Listen to your story. Receive the hug from the person there; they are you.
The kernel of self-love you need is there in your question. You deserve a life that gives you happiness, and you are the engineer of your life. Listen to your self-talk and correct it to the positive, and most forgiving, every single time. You are human, just like the rest of us.
So, after all, be kind to yourself, forgive yourself.
posted by bebrave! at 9:47 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree with a lot of what's been said above. The things that stand out for me are that people tend to find you likeable if they think that you like them. Find people that you like and instead of trying really hard to impress them with how awesome you are, just listen to them and ask them questions. If they ask you something, answer briefly and then ask them a follow-up question. For example, they ask you "What are you doing this weekend?" and you can say "Doing some gardening" (or whatever), "what about you, are you up to anything?" When they tell you, say "that sounds interesting, tell me more about that." Talk less, listen more. Many people really like it when someone listens to them and is interested in what they have to say.

You do have to either be interested in what they have to say or very very good at seeming to be interested.

Along the same kind of lines, finding ways to help people or do things for other people. Not only do you get the altruistic buzz of doing something nice and making the world a better place, people will think well of you even if you're not having deep-and-meaningfuls or dazzling them with your verbal wit. Somehow, others thinking well of you can help you feel better about yourself.

Non-real time interaction (like this) which gives you a chance to pick your moment, consider your words and hone what you communicate can also be very helpful to build your confidence.

And yes, forgive yourself. Accept yourself. Like yourself, just as you are. Recognise that even though you may not have lucked out in the charisma department, you are still a worthwhile human being who can make worthwhile connections with other humans. You've just done it here.

How do you let go? You may find meditation helpful. Somehow just sitting with yourself, with who you are in a particular moment, feeling whatever you're feeling... I don't know quite how to explain it. But it helps a lot of people, it may help you. One of my favourite anecdotes is about two monks, one young, one old who are travelling and come across an old lady who is trying to get across a flooded stream. The monks are forbidden to touch women, but the old monk picks her up and carries her across on his back, much to the consternation of the young monk. They continue on their journey and an hour or so later, the young monk finally asks the old monk why he carried the old lady when it meant breaking his vows. The old monk looks at him, surprised, and says "Are you still carrying her?" Only you can figure out how to let go of what you are carrying, we all have to do it for ourselves. But recognising what you carry can help.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:00 AM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I found the book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell to be interesting because it showed that people end up thriving or being stunted because of so many coincidences (temporal, geographical, resource, etc.) I think he says something like you don't have to be super smart/talented, you have to be smart/talented enough AND be in the right place/time. Eight foot basketball players aren't necessarily the best, but four foot basketball players probably aren't going to go far. By reading so many case studies of people you start to understand that, for the most part, you are who you are based on all those factors, and you probably did not screw up your life by some set of mistakes. Just like the popular/successful people are who they are pretty much because of those factors, not because they are somehow awesome or infallible. I (at least) found it to be a freeing message. I am unique, not perfect, not a fool. Most other people are probably the same (not to be polyannish, there certainly are some egregiously dishonest or dangerous folks). And if I had to live my life over again I would probably not need to change myself so much as I would need to change my date/place of birth, access to education suitable to my talents, a diverse and supportive family and environment, etc. I would then still be me, but a fulfilled and self-confident me. But wait, I still can be, huh (maybe not as successful or popular, but still fulfilled and self-confident)? My 2 cents FWIW.
posted by forthright at 6:57 PM on May 20, 2013


Coming back in way late to thank everyone so much for your answers. This has meant a lot to me. I've taken a little bit to heart from most of the answers here.
posted by silly me at 6:15 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I felt like you for a good chunk of my life. I wasn't good at hanging out, and I definitely could not have non-dense conversations with casual acquaintances (so they could eventually become friends). I was blunt and pretty uptight about politics, etc. And even though I *knew* I had good inside me, I just could not make people notice. I was many times misunderstood in a non favorable way. So...I can tell you what I did.

First, I embraced my eccentricities. I stopped thinking that I was a potentially smooth, charming, cool, happy go lucky person who somehow had troubles letting it all shine. I embraced my quirkiness, my wit and my personality in general.

Second, seeing myself for who I really am did show me a couple of things that I thought would be convenient for me to change. I became a little less outspoken, I learned to give my opinions in a less confrontational way, and I learned to not always give my opinions, period. Even when I was 100% sure the person I was talking to was wrong. That one was a hard one to learn. My personality is a work in progress.

Third, I stopped trying to hang out with the people I considered "ideal" and went looking for kindred spirits in alternative places. I met people who were active in politics, good people with quirks, very good friends who were into social activism, and also met some "cool" people who are sweet and tolerant. Only I was able to see their sweetness for the first time because I was at last not fretting about me or how others perceived me.

Fourth is a consequence of three: in a level I really just got over myself. I had done most of the legwork of polishing a couple of things about my personality, so now I was sure I was likely to not offend reasonable people (although you always run the risk of rubbing some people the wrong way, maybe because they were having a bad day when they met you or your face reminds them of someone they don't like or you said something they didn't like). So, I gave myself permission to let people think whatever they wanted to think about me. Right now, I know some people like me, some don't, and most don't really think about me that much. I find that liberating.
posted by Tarumba at 8:13 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


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