reply to post by mossme89
Hi there, mossme89.
It's a long time since I was in high school (34 years, to be exact), but I still remember what it felt like to be the socially awkward one, the one
who didn't fit. All these years later I still don't fit very well, but things are different now. I have made a place for myself in the world and won
other people's respect. I don't have to bother about fitting in any more, because they take the trouble to accommodate my odd-shaped edges and fit
themselves round me.
I'm going to tell you the secret of how to achieve that, but first I would like to review the advice you've already been given in this thread. It will
help -- trust me on this -- so read on. I'll keep it as short as I can.
Most of the people advising you here have said something like 'be yourself and let the rest go hang.' The first part of that is good advice -- the
best -- but the second is terrible, and you can see how bad it is by reading between the lines of their posts. I'm willing to bet these diehard
individualists haven't done too well at finding themselves a place in others' hearts. Some of them sound like they're still fighting the same old
adolescent battles in adult life.
One of the best responses you've got so far is from SunSword. It's at the top of page 2 of the thread; I've starred it. He or she advises you to get
good at something. It doesn't have to be three things every three years or whatever: just one thing will do, so long as (1) you're genuinely good at
it and (2) it's something genuinely meaningful and real. Becoming all-time world Halo champ won't cut it, I'm afraid.
Getting good at something worthwhile will win you other people's respect. Win respect and half the battle is won. But only half. Hold that thought
while we look at some of the other responses you've got.
Originally posted by mossme89
My social life IS what makes me happy. It's that interacting with others that really feels awesome.
Originally posted by Annee
Then you are screwed.
I have had many quarrels with this lady on ATS, but that is not relevant here. What is relevant is that her answer to you is unsympathetic, foolish
and wrong. Of course interacting with others feels really awesome to you -- you're seventeen, for heaven's sake! At that age, peer approval is the
biggest thing in anybody's life. That's the way nature, or God if you prefer, made us. Adolescence (and young adulthood) are the most sociable times
of anyone's life.
Besides, you're human, and most human beings like to be around each other. That's why we form families, clans, peer groups, tribes, societies and
civilizations. That's why we build villages, towns and cities. It's why we enjoy working and playing together, singing in harmony, even fighting as
comrades. Enjoying other people's company, interacting with others, having friends and sexual partners and children is what we are designed to do.
Believe me, you are not
screwed. You are just as you should be, except that you are socially maladapt and that is -- quite naturally and
understandably -- making you unhappy.
By now you will have figured out that I don't believe that becoming an Army of One, as the poster after Annee advises, is going to solve your problem
or make you happy. No, the solution is very simple: it is to find a way of becoming more comfortable with other people, and making them more
comfortable around you
The next poster has some advice for you on that:
Originally posted by bandito
Do your personal inventory and if there is something about you that turns people off it may be something that you're not happy with either so get rid
of it, change it to something else or work on it.
Bandito has the right idea -- make folk more comfortable around you -- but I believe he is advising you to go about it the wrong way. His solution is
the Dale Carnegie solution -- turn yourself into what other people want you to be. That solution just addresses the externals, and if you follow it
you will make people think you're a faker and a creep. Besides, you are a unique, valuable human being, and you don't want to lose what's best about
yourself by turning yourself into someone else. That never works, anyway.
Okay. Here's what worked for me, and still does. I think it will work for you, too. It's a two-part solution. The first part you have already,
courtesy of SunSword: get really good at something worthwhile, something that will win people's respect. An obvious one is sports, but there are
plenty of young people competing for excellence in that arena and you won't get very far unless you have pro potential. Even then, sport is a young
person's thing; better to pick an art, craft, skill or academic field that will earn people's respect as long as you live. Obviously, though, the
thing to pick is the thing you have the most aptitude for. If you can make a career out of it, so much the better -- you'll never look back. Believe
me, the royal road to happiness is to find the work you love and do it.
That's part one of the solution. Part two is very different. Pay close attention now, because this is the hardest part, and it's one that won't come
naturally to you.
You are, I feel, an inwardly-directed, reflective kind of person. The content and tone of your posts suggests this to me, as does your writing style.
Now here's the thing: when you are in company, a lot of your attention is probably still focused on yourself. You're probably focusing on your own
discomfort and nervousness, the feelings with which you respond to other people's words, looks, laughter and giggles, etc. You're surrounded by other
people, but the person you're most conscious of, all the time, is yourself.
is what you have to change. If I'm right about the kind of person you are (i.e. someone who is a lot like the way I used to be), then
changing it probably seems impossible to you right now. But it's easier than it feels. The trick is to pay close attention to how other people in
the group are thinking and feeling, and respond appropriately
First step: you don't have to be the focus of attention in the group, you don't have to be performing all the time. Relax, sit back and observe the
others instead. Their speech and behaviour are clues to what they are really thinking and feeling. Forget about yourself and watch them.
You'll soon realize that other people have their moments of discomfort too, their vulnerable spots, their ego buttons, their special tastes, desires,
fears and worries, and that they betray these all the time in their words and actions. People are all just the same in the big ways, the ways that
really matter, although we are so different from each other in little ways. Watch others and learn the big ways and the little ways. Become an
Second step: when you have learned what kind of behaviour (in others) makes people relaxed and comfortable, approachable and sympathetic, and what
kind of behaviour makes them nervous and self-conscious, repels or offends themm, try to put yourself in their shoes and work out why. It's really not
that hard, because, in the end, you're a person just like them. Watch, learn and develop your empathy.
Third step: once you've got a handle on understanding other people, start using it. Yes, it sounds a bit manipulative. But I'm not suggesting you turn
yourself into a creep; just that you do what more socially adroit people do automatically. You don't have their natural talent, so you have to work at
it. Think about the effect of what you're going to say before you say it; don't just blurt out the first thing that seems funny or cool to you. Choose
your words to create the emotional effect you want rather than using them simply to manifest your own ego. There is no need to assert yourself all the
time, or insist upon your own point of view no matter what (I know it can be hard for Americans to accept this
) Learn to be diplomatic. Learn to
be kind. And above all, remember that you could always be wrong.
What goes for words goes twice over for actions. Look where you're going -- metaphorically as well as literally. Learn body language, and make use of
it to understand how people are feeling and what they are thinking and how best to respond. In fact, read Desmond Morris's Manwatching
its lessons to heart. Here I must insert a warning: don't try to change your own body language!
Again, that's only for fakes, and the
truth is you can't really do it convincingly unless you're a trained actor. Besides, you don't want to lie to others about yourself. No, the trick is
to watch other people's body language and use the information you get from it. Over time, your own body language will change automatically.
Fourth and most important step: learn to be considerate and kind. In the grand, true scale of things, you are not
the most important person in
the world. Every other person in the world is equally important, no matter what his or her station in life. If you bear in mind that others' needs and
feelings are at least as important as your own, your path through life will become smoother and straighter. And while we're on the subject of kindness
and consideration, doing someoen a good turn can go a very long way.
Everything I've said above can be summed up in one sentence. In company, make others and not yourself the focus of your attention and care
have plenty of time to focus on yourself when you are alone.
Follow this advice and you will win not only popularity and respect among your peers, but also, in the years to come, wealth and worldly success.
Please u2u me if you would like to talk about this some more. The details are important. And if you do decide to follow my advice, u2u me again after
you've tried it out for a few weeks, and tell me how it's working.
edit on 18/2/11 by Astyanax because: I added 12 years to my age by accident. No, really! Honest!