That Old Familiar Feeling.

Image: Pinterest
Image: Pinterest

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.” ― Wayne W. Dyer

I got an unexpected and sweet message from an old friend from high school the other day. They were writing to apologize for things that went down in high school.

I told her that I was happy to hear from her and we should get together but that I didn’t really think about those days anymore. I had never really held anything against her anyhow—it was just so long ago.

That was true, but then I started realizing that that thing has never really gone away. Whether it’s about me or them, I still grapple with that feeling frequently, that feeling that predated high school.

It’s been with me ever since I can remember, and it keeps happening. Recently it’s been coming up for me at work, before that it was to do with a group of friends in Vancouver…even just the other night (in a small way), and even with family.

There’s this feeling of being left behind, squeezed out…not so much rejection as just plain not noticed or invited, not a part of things: the last chosen in gym class, the quiet one playing alone in the corner of the playground.

I’ve never really stood out. I’m average: average grades, average looks, average intelligence. Awkward at first, sometimes. Nice, but nice doesn’t get you far.  Always in the audience and never on stage. Watching, listening, cautious about speaking. Unless I’m particularly comfortable and/or well-prepared, I freeze up when they call on me.

It’s aways been that way.

Lately I’ve been better about acknowledging this and letting people know that I’m this way: I need to know I’m invited, even if I don’t show up. I’ve been pushing myself to show up more too.

I work hard. I work well. But I’m not a type-A-extravert-high-achieving-leader and never will be. I’ve struggled with not being that my entire life and now I accept it. But when people try to push me in that direction I just retract the other way. It’s an almost visceral reaction to the sense that someone doesn’t accept me the way I am. That they want me to be someone else.

This post isn’t about blame and it isn’t a pity party—it’s more of an exploration: I’m 36 years old, there is nothing wrong with me. I recognize my own role in the way this feeling comes up now.

But it still strikes me now and then, that it hits me so hard. Why is it that when I feel I don’t belong my automatic reaction is to run and hide, to just shrink back further?

It’s difficult for me to express myself at times, which makes me seem less exciting than the other people in the room. I have always valued interesting over beautiful, but I’ve never been good at making something interesting and and showing it off. Jumping into the middle of the room and telling a story, a joke, doing a dance.

I don’t always love living life in the shadow, but sometimes that’s just where I have to be.

I also may seem insecure—which of course at times has been and is true (as it is for everyone)—but the thing is that at the end of the day I am not. At the end of the day I always have to drop those feelings and know I’m okay.

Still, I’m tired of going there. I am tired of feeling small. I’m tired of feeling like other people want me to be different. I don’t want to have to explain myself or apologize for somehow not being more.

If I feel like I’m not ‘acting’ in a certain way, I feel de-motivated to participate. I love working/being with good people, but I don’t like the rah rah rah.

I don’t want to be pushed. When it’s already difficult to stay healthy, balanced, happy…this can tip me. Then I hide.

For the most part, I have to be alone to create/work.

As this actually what is happening, or am I maybe a little bit jealous? For sure. I remember feeling envious of those people who naturally stand out ever since I can remember—this is part of what was going on in high school, too. But now it’s not so much about that.

Fundamentally I’ve gotten past a lot of actual envy. What pisses me off the most is when I know Im’ okay like this, but I get the feeling that other people wish you were like her, or at the very least different than you actually are

These are my own feelings, not theirs. Maybe they think I’m less than them, maybe not. But it’s not about them at all. Never was.  It is about the people who genuinely do accept me, reach out, care. Who receive me and accept me and hold me. Who let me be when and what I need to be.

Sometimes though I’m just quiet. I want to sit back and stay behind the scenes and work or read or observe.

That’s who I am and I don’t want to feel that I’m somehow lesser for being me.

To some extent we all evolve and I’m definitely pushing myself to take risks and be more extraverted. But at the end of the day I will probably still be that shy girl playing alone in the corner of the playground. I will come to you when I’m ready.

I want to hold your hand, for real, to be up front and bold and creative and really show myself. I want to so badly sometimes that it hurts…but it might just take some time.

And I need to know that that’s okay.

Daily Prompt: I(NFP)

The Daily Prompt today is INTJ: Do parties and crowds fill you with energy, or send you scurrying for peace and quiet?

Introverts-in-Business

I am an INFP at my core, but I’ve been extroverting (I am not sure if that’s technically a word but I need to make it one right now) as I get older, and it’s been extremely liberating.  I am much more social than I used to be.  But one of the real traits of introversion is not really about ‘not’ socializing at all, or not liking people, but needing a lot of alone time to recharge.   And that is something I definitely resonate with.

But I’m going to sway a bit off-topic here because I want to talk about introversion more, not socializing.

Because I’ve been so much more comfortable socially lately, I have actually questioned in the past couple of years whether I was actually becoming an extrovert.  But after having watched Susan Cain’s Ted Talk and starting to read her book,  Quiet, the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, I realized that I am and will always be truly an introvert.   Probably I just feel more extroverted because I’m becoming more comfortable with myself as I get older, and am learning how to be more open.

Susan Cain has offered this amazing new perspective on introversion which has changed the way I think about myself and my entire life.  Recently I’d been consciously acknowledging certain introvert traits as positive ones that I used to consider as negative ones.  But at the same time (more so when I was younger), a part of me deeply believed that I needed to be more bold, loud, assertive, talkative (or other typical extrovert qualities) to be acknowledged, to be successful, to make more money, to even meet a partner.  I always thought I had to be different to have a happier life.

But I’ve always known I was different in a way that was really good too, and that changing myself would be wrong.  Lately, I’ve had this sense of a quiet kind of power, a sense that I’m meant to live differently, a feeling that I must push myself to have every facet of my life be about meaningful action.  I have been trying (I’m still trying) to figure out how to define that for myself, let alone actually express it to the world in my own (quiet) way.

This is actually something that she discusses in her book when she talks about quiet leadership: some of the most influential people in history have been introverts, and the changes they made in the world were particularly meaningful because they weren’t doing these things in order to be in the spotlight.   They were doing these because they felt a profound sense of urgency to create meaningful change without any expectation of recognition.

She goes into a lot of detail about the ‘Extrovert Ideal’ and the ‘Culture of Personality,’ these deeply engrained concepts of western culture that we really do have to be extroverted to succeed.  So it wasn’t really just me being down on myself, or finding something to be angry at the world about …this is something that is deeply engrained in many facets of Western culture.

Cain’s observations really hit the nail on the head for me: it’s not just me that is thinking about changing myself so that I can fit into a certain ideal, it’s probably millions of us that have felt this way.

Her message is that we don’t need to change anything about ourselves to be the change.  We can lead, innovate, act and inspire others in very unique ways.  It’s just that much of the world doesn’t realize this – yet.

Anyhow, because this was a post on Introversion, I wanted to get the message out there to other introverted types to check out the Ted talk and/or book if they have not already.  It is very well-written, insightful and interesting.  And I think that the kind of acknowledgement that she offers us through the book is something that we need and deserve to hear.

Fellow ‘I’s unite… from the privacy and comfort of our own homes! 🙂

Hello, Alone, How Are You Today?

Sometimes, when I’m by myself, my mind reaches back into some other time when I felt safe, secure companionship, from a relationship that ended not so long ago.  My brain automatically, instantaneously classifies that past time as “good”: safe, secure, comfortable.  And classifies now as “bad”: lonely, unsafe, lacking meaning.

It all happens so fast that I don’t even know it!  And suddenly, I feel lonely.

As an only child, a natural introvert, an HSP, and someone who has not had many long-term (serious) relationships, I’ve spent many moments by myself in this life.  I should, by now, have so much practice that I’m really great with it: the thing is, I’m not always OK with it.

The video below, How To Be Alone, by poet Tanya Davis, offers us a glimpse of just how great being alone can be.  Take a look.

Sometimes it’s easy to see the beauty of alone.  Sometimes it takes some practice.  It is always, always important to be aware of your solitude, to practice being OK, to practice play.

And always, some days are better than others.

But the times that you have to really focus on your aloneness are those times when you start sinking into loneliness without realizing it, when it sneaks up on you like a disease.  When it starts to creep in without you barely noticing  then all of a sudden you really are lying in a pile on your bedroom floor (which is also perfectly OK, btw) for no real reason.

Or, maybe you have anxiety attacks, but only when you are alone.

Does your own company, your own mind, really have to cause you that much grief?

For me, today, right now, I’ve resolved to not go there.  I’m not able to spend money (I’ve resolved to never again use the term ‘broke’, because that implies that something is broken, a vessel empty, but that is a whole other blog entry).  I’m OK alone, in my somewhat messy little cheap apartment, in the middle of a rainy-day-grey-Vancouver-Sunday.

I could (as I have many times), allow myself ‘get’ grey, feel lonely, but I’m practicing just… not.

My brain (society) is so deeply conditioned to believe that alone = bad.  Even with all the new-agey hype about the concept of making friends with solitude, that habitual thought pattern is still engrained in my brain.

But in reality this moment of alone is just as good as any other.  Or, if we want to get all Buddhist about it, it’s neither good or bad.  It just is.

Today I made one promise to myself, a promise that I boldly (in bold!) proclaim to the world (or at least my small blogger audience, and a few friends):

I will not equate being alone with sadness.  

I mentioned earlier that I’m an HSP, which means I’m a very sensitive person, swayed easily by the energy of others.  I’m learning to do this in only the most positive ways, to let others lift me up, and to use my influence to help others, even when all that entails is listening well.  It’s taking time to learn.

But as an introvert, I find I need time alone to recharge.  I need time alone to just be, and not have to navigate through so much external energy.  It can be exhausting.

In fact, when I’m around my most energetic, interesting, intelligent and wonderful friends, sometimes I find myself most exhausted!  Which does not mean I don’t want to be around them, it just means that I want to (do) absorb everything they say and do, and when I can’t I don’t feel quite so devoted.

I want to be fully engaged and connected to those who I know and love.  And when ideas are bouncing back and forth and conversations and ideas flowing, it’s so overwhelming!  Wonderfully overwhelming. But I need time to sit back and process after those times.

Alone is fine.  In fact it’s great, because here there is noone to energetically sway me.  I can’t hide here, but I can go here to recharge, to refuel.  It is such a blessing, really.

So, why not try it: if you are alone, be strong and bold in your aloneness.  Don’t wish for something else, just be (interested) in this time you have now.  Get used to your own company.  Do your thing.

You can view it as making friends with solitude, or, just being.  It could just be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.

Thank you for every single solitary thought and gesture that ever happened.