You know who you are. And somehow, by reading these posts, you can sense that I can speak your language. This means that, over time and without really intending to, I have developed somewhat of a sub-specialty of working with very capable –often female– individuals who struggle with issues around friendship, work relationships, and their romantic lives.
Unattended, these effects tend to increase with age, and these issues all largely stem from people’s sense that they simply do not ‘fit in.’
How that plays out in daily life is that you will often have your mind focused on other things, which can lead you to mis-reading some social cue or other. You’ll also often be disliked simply for your preference for focused solitary work at the expense of many group activities. Many of you also talk about others being threatened by your temper, which often comes on suddenly, but fades remarkably fast.
A short list of some common traits that people that like this often –but don’t always– exhibit are things like:
- You are always a pleasure to talk to because many of you share excellent verbal skills.
- Your emotions can often feel disproportionate to the situation, and you can often have strong all-or-nothing feelings and those can often make friendships difficult to maintain.
- Despite the fact that you will often endure hardship longer than most people, you will often reach points of frustration first but then be fine afterwards.
- A version of your over-emoting is that you will often feel you have over-shared by misreading social cues.
- Most of you, whether educated or not, are quite intelligent, with impressive natural, logical thinking skills. You are also often very good at tasks requiring long periods of focused work.
- You will often be viewed as controlling youngsters, but as adults they you’ll often end up in leadership or organizational roles because you are good at tough decisions, (although your ability to focus and your iconoclastic style can also see you end up making your tough decisions as an artist).
- Your sense of intellectual rigour means you see complexity in pretty much anything you look at, so you’ll often want to calculate all the angles. That same busy-minded quality will also often lead you to avoid crowds or general busy-ness.
- You tend to naturally gravitate to things that require precision, like accounting, or engineering, or the law, and you’ll often enjoy the sciences in general. STEM subjects often are appealing, as are fields that involve difficult either-or decisions made by experts or administrators. For instance, very few teachers are like this, but the ones who feel they would make good principals often are.
- Forgetfulness is common, you are often late and mix up times, and many of you pay with anxiety, stomach issues and clenching teeth.
- Unless you know how to stop them, you can get caught up in obsessive, repetitive thought-loops.
- Music, repetition or tactile sensations will often offer comfort to you.
- You tend to be fashion, car, and even holiday iconoclasts, and you are often dismissive of many social norms.
- Rather notably, you often have a favourable view of people who dislike you and you find it difficult maintaining any grudges.
- Many of you have also had a childhood that required you to grow up quickly.
- You are often viewed as self-centered, but other than a distaste for not being liked, you generally feel that you are neither important nor unimportant, and you have fairly healthy ego –except for the suffering associated with trying to explain everything on this list.
There is no question that some of those qualities are challenging in society. Others are significant advantages. And some can go either way. So as scary as that list might look if you’re on it and struggling, it’s really no worse than any other kind of person’s list –as long as you manage your life accordingly.
Like anyone, people like this just need to know how to maximize who they are and how to manage the prices associated with being this way (as opposed to the prices paid by people who are other ways). No one gets through life without some crosses to bear. But you can still be like this and be enlightened.
It makes sense if you feel alone. It makes sense that you find life frustrating because I know you all come so ready for answers, and you’ve all worked quite hard to understand your situation. But it’s one of those things that’s hard to see from the outside, and I’ve seen many people get all kinds of wild diagnoses that they could not relate to.
Particularly if people are young, their entire lives can end being defined by an early misdiagnosis that then follows them through life. Each new professional meets them by starting with a false premise that they rarely, if ever, let the ‘patient’ influence or change.
That approach and sense of reality on the part of doctors then means that any time the ‘patient’ resists their ‘definition’ or ‘diagnoses,’ their behaviour is viewed seen as resistance to the truth, rather than as evidence that the original diagnosis may have been wrong.
This leaves the otherwise healthy person in a weird loop where they know they need help to understand the way they are, but they don’t feel mentally ill in any way, shape or form.
At worst most feel misunderstood, which likely explains why they are often so comfortable with me. I generally admire them. To me, they all seem like the only thing ‘wrong’ is that they need to know how to manage the sort of person they are.
When I ask them if they would take a pill to be more like others –one where they could find socializing much easier and they would feel more understood– they all find that idea attractive. At the same time, they all say they would only want that for one day or one week, just to see what it’s like. But so far no one actually wants a pill that permanently steals what they have always perceived as a strength.
You are right. Those are strengths when managed well. In certain fields, these sorts of people are often seen as exemplary professionals, and in some professions that benefit from these people’s abilities, they can even outnumber ‘normal’ people. So do not feel like you cannot belong.
If that list feels even partially familiar to you, please do not hate yourself. The negative feedback you get does hurt, but it also makes a kind of sense. But you can feel better once you have a better understanding of why these things are happening, which in turn allows you to be able to see those reactions as being less personally meaningful.
By discovering who you really are you can free our own mind. By surrendering your need to ruminate on all of the why’s behind the reactions you get, you can instead focus on using your considerable abilities to take your life forward.
Keep the faith. You aren’t broken, but you are special. And that can be a very good thing if you’re living your life in accordance with who you really are.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.