Hung up and perplexed.
July 5, 2008 3:09 PM   Subscribe

How do I get over my hang ups and start to live?

I'm a strange guy, mid-twenties, smart and socially awkward. Here's where I diverge from the half the people here that describes: I was 'home-schooled,' which in my case meant being left to my own devices, often isolated from peers, for many of my formative years. No prom, no wedgies, no Lookout Point. My adolescence helplessly spent under what some would call neglect or abuse, as I tried not to go completely mad. For reasons of parental health, I'm living under the same roof; but I'm rarely ever home, and only to tend to what must be tended to (I'll leave it at that).

I busy myself working for a decent wage, volunteering loads of time in the community, meeting lots of new people, and using whatever's left to fix what's wrong with me. I've got a newish car, I started dressing metro (shut up), eating better, working out a bit, at parties I try to drink until I'm interesting (I tend to be more random when I'm halfway sloshed).

But I'm still an outsider; I can feel it. I'll be invited to a BBQ, a house party, a show, but I've never been invited to a bachelor party. Something about me screams to them I would not be fun in this situation, and it's probably right. My social abilities are inconsistent, at the least. Sometimes things just flow, and I can walk about a crowded room, and make the rounds with everyone; and other times, I'll stop at the door, and this brutal thought just hits me that I'm a weirdo, will always be a weirdo, and will never fit in. All the worse, I'm a total introvert, so just convincing myself to make the effort is often a small battle in itself.

So because the general tone of my self-regard is that I'm this oddball, I'm very passive rather than proactive with and within social gatherings. That is, I've never arranged a party, and only arranged a few meet ups (mainly because I'm afraid to cross the line on inviting casual acquaintances, and of the dejection of people not showing up). Now, most of my friends have huge networks they've relied on since school for most of their social and professional lives -- I don't have that. I think I want something like that, but first I have to figure out how, if possible, to transcend, overcome, or work around either the perception that I'm too weird for the inner circle, or the burdensome fear of the same. I think the main thing is I feel like I'm walking around with something to hide: a shameful past, and unglamorous present. I think it makes me guarded.

There's no question mark in the bulk there because I'm not sure what the question ought to be. I've hit all the standard self-improvement marks I've been capable of so far, but there's something in the way of my taking full advantage of what's in front of me.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Regardless of what fixes there are to the various "social" problems, which I can't give you much advice on, I think seeing a good therapist for your self-esteem issues and to be able to talk about what makes you feel "weird" or "different" would be a major step to making any sort of change in your life.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:21 PM on July 5, 2008

I think the next step on your self-improvement journey should be to throw yourself into lots and lots of social situations, take a lot of chances (invite people to lunch, to dinner, for drinks, etc.) and break down this sense of yourself as a social incompetent.

With regard to your quality that "screams [that] I would not be fun in this situation," which you also describe as "inconsistent" social abilities, I think you should expect less of yourself. I suspect you are looking at people who are always the life of the party, and you're wondering why you're not that person. Look, instead, to the people in every social group who are quieter, who aren't the main attraction, who are content to enjoy the company of others without being the star of the gathering.

Try not to place high expectations on what "social success" means. You can just go out with people and hang out, making occasional comments, having normal conversations. Witty repartee is optional. You don't have to be uproariously funny. You can just be you. An evening where you were "just yourself," hanging out with friends, can be a successful evening.

You say you are an outsider and a misfit. Join the club. Few people, from what I gather, feel like they are "insiders."
posted by jayder at 3:23 PM on July 5, 2008 [5 favorites]

There's a difference between being an introvert and being shy. You to me sound shy because you're not aware of "the rules" of socialising (in any sense).

Just keep practising. Get out there, meet all different kinds of people, and have some fun. Try doing something different, such as a pottery class. See how the people in that environment behave. Compare and contrast with people walking their dogs. Etc. There's a subtly different set of rules for each kind of social engagement. Try to work out what they all are.

I hate to give this advice, but just be yourself. If people like you, well and good. If they don't, find someone else who does. Never change yourself (read: get drunk so that your personality changes) to make someone else happy. You're fine as you are.

Finally, work out what the question is. You can't aim for something unless you know what that something is. Maybe you want to be able to go to a party and fit in. Maybe you want to be the one who stands out. Work out what that "thing" is, and then work towards getting it.
posted by Solomon at 3:25 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

But I'm still an outsider; I can feel it.

posted by The corpse in the library at 3:27 PM on July 5, 2008 [29 favorites]

I'm a weirdo, will always be a weirdo, and will never fit in.

Welcome to the club. Now just be grateful for the people who put up with you and who, oddly, seem to enjoy your company.

If you really do feel like your social skills are out of the norm, there are support groups, eg. for people with social anxiety, where you can get supportive feedback.
posted by salvia at 3:45 PM on July 5, 2008

You sound like you're making good efforts. Keep it up and realize that everyone feels like an outsider at some point. (I went to public schools until high school graduation and have yet to be invited to a bachelor/bachelorette party. :) Also, this part made me think: "That is, I've never arranged a party, and only arranged a few meet ups (mainly because I'm afraid to cross the line on inviting casual acquaintances, and of the dejection of people not showing up)." If hosting something seems daunting, try to find a friend/acquaintance who could co-host a casual summer event (BBQ, beach trip, picnic/volleyball game) with you. I think it is ok to cross that line and invite casual acquaintances to those kind of events - it's how people make new friends and keep things interesting at social events.
posted by PY at 3:57 PM on July 5, 2008


Not him.
posted by netbros at 4:22 PM on July 5, 2008

But I'm still an outsider; I can feel it.

And other times, I'll stop at the door, and this brutal thought just hits me that I'm a weirdo, will always be a weirdo, and will never fit in.

Many, many people feel this way. That they are weirdos or odd. They feel that if anybody knew the real us they would bolt. I have felt like an outsider many times. I had no justifiable reason to feel this way, but my irrational thoughts about myself were at times debilitating and caused me to miss out on enjoying myself and my friends.

I sometimes mix with a highly educated, wealthy group that seem to be in a tightly knit "club" that I thought I could never "penetrate". There is no club. There is no penetrating. They are just people that long for human connection and relationships like the rest of us. I felt like an outsider for a long time because I was raised in a trailer by high-school dropouts, went to public schools and a state college and was a nurse, not a doctor or a lawyer. I had an inferiority complex. I'm somewhat interesting, I think. I'm nice. I can hold a conversation. People like me, but I felt like an outsider for a long time. It could be with any group. With my equestrian friends I felt like an outsider. Oh god, I don't know anything about horses. Aren't they lucky? Aren't they better or more interesting? My parents never got me into horses. I never did anything interesting, blah, blah, blah. I felt like an outsider because I felt bad about myself. I was insecure.

It's unlikely that your friends think you are a weirdo. If they did you wouldn't have friends. Yes, people can pick up on insecurities. It's hard to fake confidence. You can fake it only so far. We can pull our shoulders back, look people in the high, hold our head up, smile and try to appear confident. But, humans can pick up on lack of confidence by the way we stand or point or feet or glance. It's very subtle. I think most of us are truly captivated by genuinely confident people because they are so few and far between.

Just because you were home schooled and had less than ideal parenting does not mean you are a weirdo. First, there is nothing wrong with homeschooling. It's not odd. People will stereotype, but it's not odd and nothing to be ashamed of. It's nothing that you have to dwell on or think poorly about. Try not to think: If only I wasn't home schooled I wouldn't be like this. This is not productive thinking.

Many of us have had screwed up parenting and I think that the screwed up parenting is the most damaging and the reason we feel like weirdos. I am the classic Adult Child of an Alcoholic. I feel inferior, I feel like an outsider, I feel like I'm not fun, etc. It doesn't have to be alcohol. A lot of people with dysfunctional parenting without substance abuse have these traits. Once you identify them and try to understand why you have these thoughts and feelings (it's because of your upbringing) you can start working on ways to think differently.

I went to therapy for about eight months, once a week. It was a tremendous help and life changing. I no longer feel inferior. I think a combination of growing older and therapy have helped me tremendously. I am more confident and self-assured at this point in my life than I have ever been. I'm no where near perfect but I'm okay with myself. I don't feel like I need to apologize for anything.

I have this friend. She's has a bit of an anger problem. She shows little vulnerability. She is kind of dumb as rocks at times. She thinks Africa is a country and Boston is a state. She drinks too much. She spends a lot of money she doesn't have. She can't maintain a romantic relationship. She was raised by racist pig farmers. But, people love her. She has tons of friends. She's not afraid to put herself out there. She has kept the same friends for years. She invites people out and over to her place all of the time and has this air about her that she should be invited too. And she is. People flock to her because she never acts like she's a bother or an obligation; she's part of the group. She doesn't think she's dumb. She's quite proud of her accomplishments. It's all about attitude and what you think of yourself. With my personality if I were her I would think: "oh god, I'm dumb. I make a fool out of myself with my drinking and spending. I'm going to go hide. There is no way I'm calling up Joe to check out this new bar. " But she does and people love her for it.

It's okay to be yourself. We all have baggage and flaws. People are not judging you. You're not strange. They are more forgiving than you would ever believe. If you have a set of friends that are inviting you out to everything but bachelor parties you might need to reassess your group. You know your friends and the situation best, but I wonder why you are being excluded. If you are good friends with the groom and weren't invited I would reassess this group. That's the least of your problems, though. You need to know that you're OK. You're normal, you're not a weirdo. Start telling yourself this. Know that more than half the people your are associating with feel the same way you do. We're all fucked up and trying to get by. Try to be happy and enjoy yourself and your friends and tell yourself that you're OK. It's ok to be an introvert. You don't have to change yourself or try to fake extroversion. My husband is an introvert. I swear more people like him because he is himself and isn't trying to impress anybody, blow smoke, or work a room. He's real and people like that.

Good luck.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:26 PM on July 5, 2008 [20 favorites]

I busy myself working for a decent wage, volunteering loads of time in the community, meeting lots of new people, and using whatever's left to fix what's wrong with me.
I'm a total introvert

These are not the actions of a total introvert.

I'm dealing with some of this kind of stuff at the moment (along with lots of other stuff). I think the people who are suggesting that you just keep on trying to expose yourself to social situations are way off the mark. That sense of being an outsider isn't to do with lack of exposure to social situations. Like me (although for different reasons), you had a limited social life when you were growing up. But, also like me, it sounds you've made up for it since then. You've exposed yourself to social situations, got invited to BBQ's and house parties and such, are comfortable meeting people, etc.

Your problem is that you are unable to, convert casual relationships into closer friendships or even into ongoing friendships. You have to work out why this is before you can address it. Is it just that you don't know how? Or do you keep people at a distance? To me, this idea of being weird sounds like it's a justification for keeping people away. I did this for years.

I don't have any real recommendations. A therapist, perhaps? Or maybe you can just slowly build up to closer or more durable relationships with people. I don't know yet.
posted by xchmp at 4:32 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

What you're missing is confidence. Therapy is probably not a bad idea. There are also hints of melodrama -- you really shouldn't take yourself too seriously, but that relaxation will come with time and confidence.

One of the things you should bear in mind is that there are tons of people who attended public school, but didn't have the stereotypical experiences at all. There were lots of quiet people on the outskirts of any social group, who maybe weren't kissed or invited to prom but who also weren't teased or wedgied. High school isn't a John Hughes movie anymore, if it ever was.
posted by booksandlibretti at 4:44 PM on July 5, 2008

Well, I like ya just fine, anonymous.

You can't have a party with all extroverts. It turns loud and awful.

Sometimes, there are expectations that you have to fulfill: covered dish, case of beer, bring your own chainsaw. That kind of thing. If they want you to do 20 minutes of stand up, they'll pay you.

Once you're invited and bring your green bean casserole, the party is just as much yours as it is the next guy's. If it's your party, have your fun; do what you want. (Don't follow Leslie Gore's advice, though).

Fitting in (although I've only observed it from afar) doesn't seem so great. Lotta work, little reward. Stick with the green bean casserole.
posted by stubby phillips at 4:52 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am guessing you are late teens or early twenties? Don't worry, we are all freaks and we are all howling inside as the existential angst tries to eat us from within and spit us into the void.

Relax. Love will come soon, and time will take the edge off. After sufficient oxidization you'll start to belong slightly more, and chewing off your face will seem like a silly youthful extravagence.

Good luck!
posted by Meatbomb at 5:33 PM on July 5, 2008

You don't sound extremely introverted or shameful, based on your degree of participation in the world--after all you have a job, volunteer, organize meetups, and attend parties.
What you do sound like is someone who lacks confidence, and probably lacks some social skills due to lack of knowledge and practice.

Confidence makes a BIG difference. If you change how you perceive yourself (and learn the rules of socializing) you will get better results. Being socially awkward is not something to be ashamed of, it's just another skill you're not yet good at for want of practice. It's no more shameful than, say, not knowing how to invest money, repair an automobile, or paint a picture. Are you expert at these? Are you ashamed and feel like a weirdo for not being an expert investor, auto repairman, or painter? Same goes for socializing. It's just another skill. As far as your 'unglamorous present', most people don't care how glamorous you are, they care how you make them feel when they are around you and how you relate toward them. You can be the most unglamorous, average schmoe who sits in a cubicle and files TPS reports all day and still have a huge network of friends.

As for your lack of experience, I'd recommend that you 1) learn the rules of socializing, whether from books, talking to coaches/therapists/friends, observation, or practice, preferably all of these. 2) try out many different kinds of events - parties, meetups, small groups, large groups, with many different kinds of people. 3) organize things yourself. This gives everyone a reason to talk to you and makes you one of the centers of attention. You can organize a party, an outing, or an event related to some shared area of interest -- i.e. if your friends like photography, organize a trip somewhere to take pictures. 4) Give yourself lots of time and lots of leeway to screw up. All of your friends have bigger networks because they got the chance, whether incidentally or deliberately, to learn social skills and build up friendships and networks, and this happened over time. You need to start doing this too, and it will take time for you, too, so don't expect change right away, but don't give up, either. Realize that socializing can be really inconsistent. Everytime you meet someone new, it's a hit-or-miss situation. Sometimes you will click with a person, and sometimes you won't, for no rational reason. Same with parties and social events. Sometimes you go in and can fire up conversations with everyone, and it really flows well. Sometimes you go to a party and don't connect with anyone. If you are introverted, you probably will enjoy spending most time with a smaller group of closer friends, and it will take a while to find these people and build up relationships with them. So give yourself a break, and keep pushing forward until you too have the same level of social skills and networks as other people you know.
posted by lsemel at 5:47 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe not everyone, but really a ton of people do. The more I told people that I felt like this crazy weirdo and didn't fit in anywhere, the more they tended to tell me "oh, like I don't?" The more I heard that same thing from people that seemed to fit in, that seemed to have a group, that seemed to know all the right moves, the more I realized that I made up more of my world in my head than I was maybe aware of. And that the world in my head was less nice and wonderful than the very real world that was happening outside of it. It's hard to be a cerebral person and step outside your own head, but it can be really worthwhile.

There is no club. There is no penetrating. They are just people that long for human connection and relationships like the rest of us.

Also this. There may be people you get along with better and people you get along with less well, but generally speaking, there is no club. I tend to say that to people but I also go around trying to make it true. I invite people over, groups of people, even people that may not know each other or get along well. I go to events that I'm invited to even if I'm not sure I'd really like them. I try to stay away from things I'm CERTAIN I don't want to go to because that's just a self-fulfilling prophecy that would make me feel out of place (for me this is baby showers, for some people this is going out drinking at the bar, for you it might be something else). I try to let people know I'm happy to be with them, and happy when I'm invited out and I try to offer the same opportunities that I'm happy for when possible. I act agreeable and friendly with people unless I get strong messages from them that they do not like this, or that they do not want to be friendly with me. You seem to like yourself, why wouldn't other people like you?

Once you're invited and bring your green bean casserole, the party is just as much yours as it is the next guy's.

This is worth restating for two points: one, you have as much a right to be there as anyone else; two you should make as much of an effort to help other people feel less like weirdos as you can. My strategy when I'm in over my head at a social situation is either 1) aim for the kids, there are often a ton of bored children at adult events and I'm good at hanging out with them and you can be pretty sure they're not going to insult your wardrobe and if they do, they're still six years old, or 2) make it my personal goal to try to find the most awkward twitchy weirdo looking spaz at the party and figure out what makes them tick. It's good practice to be able to walk up to anyone and start talking to them to try to draw THEM out, it definitely makes you seem like less of a spaz and I think of it as a social kindness for people like me. People at social situations would generally like someone to find them interesting and worth talking to, you can be that person. Pay it forward, whatever.

If I am the weirdest spazziest person then I just pack it in and go home, but that almost never happens. It's probably not going ot happen to you either.
posted by jessamyn at 7:13 PM on July 5, 2008 [9 favorites]

Wow. Talk about interesting, if you walked up to me at a party, said "Hi" and after a few minutes launched into your question as you posed it, we'd talk all night. Bystanders would join in.

I'd quit worrying about fitting in, as it's overrated, and start working on realizing how interesting you sound.

You've got a handle on why you are the way you are, you are making actual moves in life, you've got a questioning and introspective attitude, an interesting story, and you aren't locking your odd ass in a room somewhere and avoiding people. Sounds like a good mix that will get better as you practice.

You also might want to keep in mind that everyone has a bad night now and then, and for that matter, a good one. We're not perfectly consistent. Success at a given social event can be a matter of the ambient chemistry, your mood, what you wore, being preoccupied, drunk, tired, energized... all the things that can asynchronously appear in your life. Deal with it. Have fun when it works, and don't beat yourself up when it doesn't.

Johnny Carson used to be funniest when he bombed, mostly because he recognized he was bombing and said, "Hey, I'm bombing here". Maybe when you are having an unsuccessful time, you can blurt out, "Wow, I feel like a total dork! I wonder why?" and see what people say. Aren't you curious?

Good luck!
posted by FauxScot at 8:14 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Are you on Facebook? Or another social networking site? Setting up a profile will help people who don't know you well understand what you're into. And it'll also keep you in people's minds when they see your name on FB and in their friends' lists to invite you to gatherings. (I'm in a medium-sized grad program and I missed out on a lot of events at the beginning of my first year, before I got Facebook.) I'm not saying it'll fix everything but it's something. It sounds like you're doing a lot already and I agree what all of the people above have said: everyone does feel like an outsider, even the cool kids. But FauxScot has it: don't worry about trying to fit in, just be yourself as you seem to be learning to do.
posted by pised at 9:49 PM on July 5, 2008

You are in your mid-twenties - cut yourself some slack!

We are ALL weirdos. Every single one of us. In fact, the only people that I think are weird are the ones who DON'T think that they are weirdos.

Be patient with yourself. You will throw parties, you will be invited to bachelor parties (although I haven't met anyone who's ever thrown one or been to one, I think they're a bit outmoded) - you just need to wait. I felt like a complete and utter alien freak until I hit 40. Now I just feel a bit odd. That's progress! What you need to realize is that you are your own worst critic - no one is paying even 80% of the attention that you are paying to yourself. They're all busy worrying about what loser freaks they are. Every single one.

So, take heart - it's very hard to convince yourself that you are not some sort of freak of nature - but realize that everyone feels the same way. Have some compassion for the freaked out person at the party, and you will forget how weird you feel yourself. Step out of your head and into the world and relax!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:48 AM on July 6, 2008

I think a lot of former homeschoolers feel this way when they grow up: this sense of missing some common experience that EVERYONE had. I don't think you're weird for feeling this way, but I do think it's a harmful way to look at your life's timeline. (And for the record, there is no common experience that everyone had.)

I was homeschooled 5th - 9th grade, and when I got to high school I lamented my inexperience. Everyone else had already been in relationships and knew how to navigate themselves in a society I knew nothing about. I felt clueless and it took me some time before I truly began feeling comfortable with initiating my own events. What helped me the most was making one really good friend, and together building off of our combined social networks and mutual trust in each other. YMMV.

I think that part of my difficulty arose because I had a more fully-developed vision of myself and the person I wanted to be than my public-schooled peers. For me, it wasn't just about learning how to act in social situations, it was also learning how to stay true to myself in a social situation. It seemed like others were more comfortable with a more fluid identity.

Today, I've come to realize that homeschooling allowed me to stay free of the constant social pressures (terrors) of public schools long enough for me to recognize what values are most critical to me, apart from the influences of hormonal/bratty middle schoolers. Your writing seems to indicate that you view your less-than-social upbringing as a negative, but honestly, you've had a better chance than most to develop your own distinct, recognizable personality. Revel in it! Social graces are a skill that comes with practice, so keep doing what you're doing and remember that your childhood came with its own advantages.
posted by samthemander at 4:08 AM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

You sound like me and I wasn't homeschooled (but I homeschool my kids because I thought it was school that effed me up). Really, I think a lot of it is temperament. Study the temperaments. I'm guessing that what you idealize as "social" is a sanguine personality type--which you don't have. Relax and be yourself. Not everyone can play a starring role in Friends. Look around. You'll find, lurking in the background, some less perfect yourself.
posted by keith0718 at 7:33 AM on July 6, 2008

You are definately not alone.

Think on this for a minute... how do you think thousands of immigrants who were raised in non-North American cultures feel....? exactly the same.

Heck... my wife arrived when she was 8, but her mother had no clue how to integrate her into the norms of Canadian society... to this day, she simply doesn't understand how north americans interact... but, then... she considers us weird... ;-)
posted by jkaczor at 12:14 PM on July 6, 2008

Plenty of people went to public school and didn´t go to the prom or get wedgies or park and make out with people.

Look, it´s ok to be a bit weird. People probably notice, the trick is to carry yourself confidently so that you seem to have an interesting sort of weird about you. Some people just like sameness, and you probably won´t fit in with them, but there are plenty of people who are tired of sameness, tired of hearing the same stories about that time of the wedgie at the prom or whatever.

Keep on with socializing and getting to know people. Eventually, you will start to find people you get on with a bit better, and a bit better, and a bit better.

Don´t worry about not going to bachelor parties, that´s a pretty high bar, some people only want to do that sort of thing with people they´ve known for 10+ years or something like that, so you just can´t get there in a short period of time. Rest assured that you have a much better chance of eventually going to a bachelor party than I do.
posted by yohko at 3:00 PM on July 6, 2008

Hi, former homeschooler here. I was probably less isolated, since I did sports and ended up going to high school and college, but I have had issues with being an outsider too.

When I first entered the "real world" I was incredibly confused. High school was absolutely 100% miserable for me. I never got invited to a party or asked to a dance. Nobody hated me, but everyone seemed to view me as an outsider.

But things have gotten better since. I read a few self help books like Andrew Carnegie, took ballroom dance and business etiquette classes. I did CBT. I made a few friends here and there. Two years into college, I started writing about craft beers for a local rag and then started getting invited to my first parties. Hey, if you are getting invited to things...that's good progress.

I finally got invited to a wedding, which was kind of like my dream for awhile. For me this whole social thing doesn't come naturally. I need to remind myself to go out and do things, to meet people, to call that nice girl I met volunteering so I don't lose that contact, to maintain my friendships. I have to work on it.

I still have an inkling that my social life is pretty different from normal people's. Do other people have reminders on their calendar to call people they know? I don't know, but it works for me.

And honestly, once I had a boyfriend, I realized their were people who went to "real school" and were worse off. My boyfriend was shyer and more awkward then me and yet....he had all those experiences I thought I missed out on, like prom. He did have more social networks to draw on, like childhood friends, but I've realized those can be created by following niche interests. These days I'm proud to say that when I need someone to go to a concert with, I can call my fellow organic-walnut-farming friends.
posted by melissam at 3:50 PM on July 6, 2008

A couple of things stand out from what you've written. One is the fact that the situation with your parents, past and present, has obviously played an important, probably dominant role in how you've formed socially - but you treat it very shortly and seem to want to quickly put it to the side. It's pretty clear you didn't have a typical "home schooling" experience, it's clear you feel (and I'd guess correctly) that you were in fact mistreated by your parents in your youth, and now you are, if I read you correctly, you are now their caretaker and this requires you to live in their house. That's pretty strong stuff, and while I don't have any magic words or resolution (besides consider therapy, if you aren't in it already), I just wonder if the wall between this very real and important component of your history and present and your "social" life creates part of the disconnect that keeps you at arm's length in situations outside the home.

The other thing is that you don't say anything about romantic relationships and you don't say anything about close friends. Close friendships are for the majority of people (in my experience) the basis of social and support networks. Among other things, people tend to invite their acquaintances to BBQs, but they invite their buddies to their bachelor party. I think your theory that people are sensing you'll be a drag in a context like that is a whole lot less likely than their just not feeling like they have "that kind" of relationship with you. From what you say about your guardedness and reluctance to risk disappointment from rejection I wonder how much progress you will really be able to make until become willing to take some risks that you are uncomfortable with - some of which may well have outcomes that are disappointing. But others will form the foundation of the sort of depth of relationship I think you need. Among other things, I wonder if you can imagine having friends close enough that you could share these personal family issues, past and present, with. I think this stuff needs to get more out in the open in some aspects of your life - among other things, I think you would benefit by the discovery that weird and bad family shit is fairly normal, in varying degrees.

And I find your not mentioning romantic relationships just curious, because it's for most people the most essential social relationship, the one they put the most effort into finding and maintaining, the one they think the most about, and itself a center and foundation of other social relationships. I don't know why it doesn't factor into your discussion, maybe you just figured it was a whole other question, but it seems potentially significant to me.
posted by nanojath at 9:42 PM on July 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

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