I have always felt quite different, right from when I was a child.
I was very quiet and sensitive. The world seemed way too much. I often had a best friend, but I didn’t like attention and avoided public speaking like the plague. “Be yourself” was a concept that would have been hard to understand. I would prefer to hide, thanks. I was even put on anti-anxiety medication for a short time as a child, again probably connected to being so sensitive and affected by things. I remember worrying about a lot of things.
Once I hit my teen years, I became slightly more confident, but also started getting bouts of depression. These got worse in my late teens and seemed to centre around my many perceived failings. I definitely did not see myself as a good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, anything enough.
I started my teaching career and doing quite a lot of travelling in my early 20s, and that helped a great deal. It got me out of my head and into the world, exactly what I instinctively knew I needed. The self-absorption that depression can create was another source of self-loathing, and so challenging myself with the external focus of new places, situations, travel experiences and people was perfect.
I became a lot more comfortable in my skin during my twenties, but when I discovered Kinesiology, and started to study it myself, I really found my people.
A lot of people who are drawn to the healing and coaching world are sensitive and intuitive, and I was able to recognise that some of my perceived limitations actually served me very well in this world. They became my superpowers.
As time went on and I created my business and was seeing clients and studying online business, I met many more people who were very similar to me – focused on growth and development, passionate, taking responsibility for their choices, wanting to create change, positive in outlook, solution oriented, motivated and with diverse interests. I found my people!
This was while I lived in Melbourne. Being a larger city, it was easy to connect with people who were like me in these ways.
And then I move back to Adelaide.
I had a lot more contact with my family and many of my relatives, family friends and older contacts. I did meet new people, but these people were Not Like Me (my own judgment). I made business friends from the online world but it was slightly different as they all had children (which was fine, just a different life stage/lifestyle). I made friends at a co-working space but they were mostly tech-guys. The newer women I did connect with were a lot younger than me, and most people assumed I was quite a bit younger than I am anyway.
Then I met my partner, who is seven years younger than me, and also different in the sense of being what I consider super-Aussie and very BOY, in terms of interests. And then I met his friends and their partners, who were all lovely, but as you can imagine, I was very different to them too. Self-employed in a very unusual industry, city living, small bar hopping, and ten years older than most of the girls.
And, particularly in the early days of being back in Adelaide, I had a few conversations with people who really looked at me like I was weird, and who did not know what to make of a single woman in her thirties who didn’t have kids, lived alone and worked in such an unconventional field. I thought they were Very Closed Minded (not being at all closed minded myself in this matter, of course). I wasn’t really used to people finding my interests and way of life so Out There.
I have a pretty specific life philosophy, it turns out.
I really believe in the power of our choices, in being conscious about creating what you want in your life, in learning from my experiences, in changing things that aren’t working for me, and in listening to myself, and accepting who I am – which is a very intuitive, creative person, who sees past lives, enjoys uncovering ancestral patterns, is very deliberate about what I allow in my life and believes we can align with our desires (and who lives this and helps others do the same on a daily basis).
It was so interesting for me to realise that in Melbourne, I had lived a very insulated existence, surrounded mostly by people who were just like me. Even the friends I was close to from pre-business days had creative, non 9-5 careers, or had travelled a lot and had similar world views. No wonder I felt so comfortable.
And yet these days, after initially noticing a lot of differences and taking a little time to adjust, I feel relaxed in myself and comfortable in all the situations and groups I described. I do feel like I can be myself, and I feel accepted too.
So how DO you be yourself and fit in when you’re different to everyone else?
I’m guessing that if you’re here, we probably have at least some similarities. We are not unusual AT ALL, I don’t think. Ha!
However, like me, you might objectively be quite different to many people around you.
Some of my clients talk about being actively judged by those around them, particularly if they are quite open-minded in their views and spirituality and live in parts of the world which are extremely conservative.
How DO you be yourself, without hiding, feeling you need to make a statement about who you are, or feeling criticised or judged for your differences?
Here are my suggestions:
- Whole-heartedly accept who you are. Very often, when we feel judged by another, this can be a reflection of our own self-judgment. Our own judgment impacts on the way we show up with others and we might unconsciously try to prove ourselves. True self-acceptance is often respected.
- Learn to assess when it’s the right time to open up. My work and business is very different for most people. Many people are really interested but I always allow other people to lead how far I go into it. Usually when someone asks me what I do, I simple say I’m self-employed. If asked, I will add that I’m a Kinesiologist, which I say “is a form of natural therapy.” That’s enough for plenty of people, and those who continue to ask more questions are more likely to be more open to what I do (it’s difficult to describe even if they are super interested!) Likewise, you will find there are times that it’s great to open up, and other times it’s not beneficial.
- Know you deserve respect, as everyone does, and expect it. Sometimes my clients tell me they find themselves justifying their beliefs or what they do to others, who are dismissive or even disrespectful. Know that you have the right to your own beliefs. If someone is rude, address that. This may be as simple as removing yourself from the conversation, or may involve addressing the tone or nature of any questioning. Justifying your beliefs in such a situation rarely works.
- Look for ways you are similar to others. If we focus on how we are similar to others, instead of how we are different, we will usually find common ground. This leaves us open to learning and growth. Assuming we are different can be a defence mechanism, and was for me. Looking for similarities makes forming connections far easier.
- Avoid assumptions. It will often be the most surprising people who will be really into something you also love, or who will be interested in learning more about something you’re passionate about.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. It can be easy to become defensive or judgmental when others seem to have a different viewpoint. If you feel relaxed about who you are and ready to share a laugh, you’re less likely to find yourself in situations where you feel like you have to defend yourself, or like it’s really important that others understand you and your perspective in that moment, and you’ll move on with ease if you’re not enjoying the company you’re in.
- Get your validation internally. If you’re feeling judged or not accepted by someone, or a group of people, ask yourself why you are seeking their validation in the first place. Why does their opinion matter? When your own validation is enough, the opinions of others have less significance.
And of course, if you feel disrespected by someone, it’s totally fine to limit or stop spending time with them – even family.
What about you, do you have any suggestions on how to be yourself when you feel different to those around you?