“You will never hurt someone else by being who you are. You will hurt them by not being who you are. Hold yourself back, and anger and sadness leak out. Stay true to who you are and you give everyone the chance to live up to their highest potential. Authenticity always heals.” ~Tama J. Kieves
I’ve been thinking a lot today about my comments yesterday regarding the fact that I am told that I am a difficult person to get to know and a difficult person to be around (at least in extended doses). This perception of myself comes from fairly consistent feedback I’ve gotten over the years from many, many different people, so I accept that there must be a healthy dose of truth in it. It’s more than just my usual tendency toward low self-esteem going on here.
As I consider why I believe this to be true about myself, I realize that I have volumes of memories of people trying to help me be more socially acceptable by critiquing how I talk to other people, what I say to other people, which people I should (or shouldn’t) talk to, and how I should act around other people so as to appear less awkward or uncouth. In every case, people were genuinely and sincerely trying to help me, and their comments were well-intended. (There are, of course, times when people have just plain said mean things for the purpose of being mean, but those are pretty easy to discard.)
The fact that this feedback is so consistent over so much of my life from people in very different relationships to me in very different situations and circumstances tells me that I really must not have good social skills, and I have to come to the point that I can accept that with a fair amount of equanimity. In fact, there are times when I have wondered whether I should get tested for Asperger’s Syndrome because my lack of social skills seems to fit with some of the issues that are symptomatic of that condition. I’ve never bothered because I’m not sure that a diagnosis would be of any benefit in changing it.
However, all this brings me back to some of what I talked about yesterday. I do reasonably well with one-on-one interactions, especially when I am in the listening role, but I still do pretty poorly in group situations. I’ve learned over the years to get better at playing a role so I’m a bit less awkward-seeming around others. I get less correction than I used to, but I know I still haven’t even begun to get this whole thing right. And despite my increased ability to pretend to be something other than who I am, I think Tama is right that my sadness and anger still leak out despite my best intentions otherwise, and this tends to undermine all of my best efforts at being easier to be around.
As I look at my ongoing futile attempts to create some kind of community and I think about the skills I am going to need to make my business a success, I am easily discouraged. My awareness of my lack of social skills causes me to tense up—which doesn’t help people feel comfortable around me—and my struggle to be someone I’m not prevents me from making true connection because I’m not even bringing my real self into the interaction. I could go back to being authentically me (which solves the two problems above), but I already know that’s a social disaster waiting to happen.
Perhaps the answer is in accepting that this is just the way things are. There have always been those very few key people over the years that seem to be able to overlook my awkwardness enough to actually befriend me, and maybe I need to let that be enough. Perhaps over enough time, I’ll be able to slowly collect a small group of these people so that I don’t rely too heavily on any one person in the group. (That’s always my greatest fear—that I’ll wear out my welcome with the few people who can tolerate me because I need too much from them since my social circle is so small.)
There’s still this big part of me that wants to find a way to change something, to find a way to make me be someone else. But I really think that the key is going to be learning to accept that this is just who I am and letting that be ok. It’s hard to do when that seems to put so many of my dreams just beyond my reach, but if this is how I was created, perhaps I am dreaming the wrong dreams. Maybe I need new dreams that better fit the reality of who I am because surely I am this way for some purpose, and there must be some way that I can be a blessing to others being who I am.
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