How To Love Yourself When You Are An Outsider

alone girl hi

The clamor for good self-esteem has become almost cliché, an excuse for parading out a barrage of aphorisms: Love Yourself For Who You Are, Accept Yourself, Love Yourself and Others Shall Love You, Woman.

Whether that means loving your skin, or eyes, despite the White Beauty ideals seen on magazines and television; or flaunting those curves or hips rather than hiding them, it is part of a new wave of Self-Love scouring across society.

And sure, I can relate.

Being Asian myself, and very thin to boot (throughout school, I was teased mercilessly for my stick-thin wrists, and a girl once, upon raking her eyes over my spindly body in a bathing suit during swim class before puberty hit, pronounced me a “monkey” – skinny-shaming is just as debilitating as fat-shaming), I have had to deal with self-confidence issues related to these two traits, just like people who are a little on the plump side, people with disabilities, any physical signifier that classifies them as “Ugly” or “Other”.

But so much of the recent Self-Love onslaught focuses on appearances, particularly the appearances of women. And while that is all good and important, humans being highly visual creatures, very little attention to paid to the confidence issues one has to deal with by having a particular personality.

Personality is the true determining factor of your self-confidence, I think, at least in one’s younger years. It is much easier to feel happy with yourself when others seek out your company, like to talk with you; when you feel loved, approved of, accepted – and when peer acceptance is not present, low self-esteem is often, unfortunately, a natural consequence.

For instance, for many years I was made to feel defective for being introverted, so introspective that I barely paid any attention to the real world reeling by before my eyes. In the media, in modern literature, a new breed of the ideal woman was sprouting forth to smash traditional gender barriers: independent and bold and confident – in other words, extroverted. Though this “New Woman” allowed for greater opportunities among the female populace, at least in Western countries, doing so only replaced a previous admittedly debilitating standard for women with another – less constraining, yes, but a new standard to measure oneself up against, nonetheless.

Being Asian, in this case, actually made matters worse, as there is this absolutely nonsensical stereotype that all Asian women (I do hate using racial monikers; we’re individuals, not groups; people do not think all, say, brunettes or Caucasian men possess the same personality type, so why the generalizations?) are shy and submissive. As an INFP, a personality type which naturally, even among males, is conflict-averse, withdrawn, dreamy and, yes, has a tendency to be quiet and shy and burrowed in a corner with a book, I fit into this stereotype perfectly.

But, racial stereotypes aside, it is a fact that introverts, or any outsiders, have greater difficulty with self-esteem than their extroverted or more accepted counterparts. People find “confidence” (Read: Extroverted) beautiful, they find a “sense of humor” (Read: Usually Gregarious) attractive; and those who are shy, reserved, slightly weird, are overlooked or disliked, dubbed sometimes, infuriatingly, as possessing no personality at all.

It is hard, to learn to love yourself, when not only do people not seem to like you, they do not even see you.

How can you love something that does not exist?

On top of being shy, introspective, and skinny as a rake, I also had Asperger’s, suffered from social anxiety, and, lo and behold, was a creative thinker and writer – and we all know how solitary and odd writers or original thinkers have a habit of feeling in mainstream society, probably accounting for their general recluse lifestyles throughout history. This is not me complaining (Oh, Delia, my dear, I had such a hard time of it, you can’t possibly imagine!); all I am doing is trying to point out the various contributing factors, along with living in a low-income household that could not afford items such as new clothing more than every few years (“daggy” clothes are not great for popularity), that led me to have such low self-esteem for years, and years. Long, long suffering years.

Oh, actually, I am garnering for a little sympathy here, but it comes from a good place: perhaps some of you out there can relate, to any of this, and will feel less alone for it.

The bullying from my peers, ranging from abuse to exclusion, the days spent hidden in the back of the library, the days spent watching television showcasing people who looked nothing like me, a lack of supportive friends, not looking right, acting right – all this, for an excruciatingly sensitive and aware child, and later teenager, added up. I did not like myself – no, I loathed myself.

As if that wasn’t enough, once the Self-Love movement took off, self-help books flying off the shelves, people told me I just had to realise I was “worthy”.

Yes, indeed; it is easy to feel worthy without the particular history I had, without the particular brain and psychology, the particular body, skin, experiences; it is easy for you to say that, when you are talkative and loved and have never spent time alone in the bathrooms, imagining yourself being flushed down the toilet in a gurgling swirl of oblivion; it is easy for you to say that, when you are not slightly neurologically different from others, when you do not feel like an Outsider, when you are not so sensitive each day is a tiny battle, each night a time to cry, and bandage your accumulated wounds.

It is easy to say that, when you are Extroverted, or Straight, or a Non-Minority, or Well-Liked, or Neurotypical, or Male (though this is unfair, men, on average, tend to suffer from fewer self-esteem problems than Women), or Non-HSP, or Non-INFP, or Well-Off and can Fit In Happily.

(Note: I do not mean to say that Extroverted, Straight, Caucasian, Well-Liked, Neurotypical, Wealthy or Male individuals do not have any problems: I am simply trying to make a point that when you are an Insider, it is rather presumptuous to dole out voice to an Outsider)

It is easy for you to say that I simply must feel “worthy”, when everything and everyone your life has affirmed that, and everything in mine has pointed to the contrary.

Frankly, just being an INFP and Highly Sensitive, especially if you are male, is enough to lower your self-confidence drastically, let alone the extra baggage I dragged around. What’s worse, being sensitive dreamers, we have a tendency to blame ourselves whenever anything goes wrong.

People, extroverted individuals surrounded by friends, told me, I should tell myself I was “worthy”. They were speaking from a good place; they just wanted to help. But when I was unsuccessful at raising my self-confidence that way, I believed there was something wrong with me. I grew ashamed of my lack of self-esteem, which only fueled the self-hatred.

I was a big, fat Not.

Not curvy enough. Not talkative enough. Not outspoken enough. Not friendly enough. Not normal enough. Not realistic enough. Not pretty enough. Not. Not. Not. Not. Not. Not.

Also, I was a big, fat Too.

Too weird. Too quiet. Too shy. Too strange. Too sensitive. Too poor. Too androgynous. Too isolated. Too skinny. Reads Too much. Thinks Too much. Head Too stuck in the clouds.

Above all, what drove the pain deeper, and still stabs me now and then today, was my unbearable loneliness, for I had no friends – and loneliness, as you may well know, only breeds further insecurity. A young female, or male, lonely and misunderstood, is bound to have some problems loving themselves without either a dose of wisdom or intervention.

In my case, the intervention was internal. And the recovery slow.

Yes, I did realise I was fine, just the way I was; that many writers, throughout history, had been considered eccentric, reclusive, shy, and many even had Asperger’s – so I was not alone, really; and perhaps, if I was not the way I was, I would not have my creativity, or interest in writing, or my imagination. That being shy daydreamer does not make me submissive woman; I have my own inner strength, only it is expressed differently. That the negative opinions of other people, though they hurt when expressed (“Shit! Look at your wrist: Are you anorexic?” “You’re too, um, quiet”) are less important than how I think about myself.

But the turning point, for me, was the realisation that, in the end, no-one really cares whether you are strange or different or shy, as everyone is too focused on themselves, and that everyone, even the most privileged, like all humans, go through their share of suffering. Sure, you may suffer more, you may feel lonely more frequently – but is that so bad a price to pay, for your unique gifts of sensitivity, compassion, creativity, perspective etc.? You may be disadvantaged in some respects, but blessed in others. Everyone is good at something; everyone has a spark, deep within them.

It is true, what they say: self-acceptance does come from the inside; but you will not find it by repeating mantras to yourself (I am worthy, I am worthy, please let me feel worthy…), or pretending you like being an outcast, or wearing a mask of superiority (Those unoriginal commoners!).

Instead, it comes from having a realistic outlook – no-one really cares that much about you, so you might as well care for you – and feeling compassion for all human beings. Even those who possess all the traits society accepts, they, just like you, have their moments of awkwardness, isolation, their own internal conflicts and problems.

We are all outcasts, deep in our hearts, only some people are better at hiding it. By the same token, we are all beautiful, in our unique and wonderful ways, and even if other people do not see or affirm it, you must. Hard as it may be to possess a trait that deviates from the norm, you can use it to your advantage and, if not like, at least accept your differences, in spite of the pain, in spite of the suffering.

Loving yourself, as an outsider, is not about never feeling uncomfortable or out of place among other people; that will never go away. Instead, it is about feeling Acceptance and Compassion: For The People Around You, For Others, and, most of all, For Yourself.

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A Dreamer Tries To Help: Q&A

Bottle 1

Since the birth of this blog two years ago, I have received quite a few messages, through comments and emails, from other lost, lonely and struggling souls – many of whom who identify with the Myer-Briggs Personality Type INFP, but also people who are simply sensitive, often introverted and feel as though they do not belong.

It has become very apparent to me that this world pushes some people to the fringes of society – and if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re happier living on the edges than amongst the throng.

We belong in the corners and the crevices, behind the secret doors and within the hidden alcoves.

However, despite liking being “different”, it does make surviving in society difficult. Sometimes very, very difficult. And there are a lot of us experiencing those difficulties. So I thought I would start a weekly Questions & Answers post, where I transpose a person’s message for help onto a blog post and try and answer it as best as I can.

That way, it will help the person who is asking (or sometimes wailing out into the ether in despair) and also anyone else who stumbles across my blog who might be struggling with similar issues.

In my head, I have sort of, well, “anointed” myself as a little, quiet supporter for misfits all around the world. A warrior, fighting for those who are too sensitive, too quiet, too strange, and who do not belong, kitted out in silvery armour etched with gamboling kittens and books, and my trusty sword named Edgar Allen Poe – please, do not laugh, he is a rather sensitive sword (which makes battles rather tiresome, mind you, as he never wants to hurt the enemy, which completely defeats the purpose of fighting in the first place, in my opinion) and you will most likely hurt his feelings and I shall have to deal with the mess. Do know how badly sword-tears rust metal?

Edgar, however, approves of subterfuge tactics, which do not actually involve shedding blood, like encouraging and helping other misfits with words so that we can rise up and silently take over the world. Or at least feel a little less sad, tired, and alone.

This whole thing, really, was mostly his idea, conjured up so he could wriggle out of fighting our enemies, like Mean Corporations Who Care About Money Instead Of People and other Selfish, Heartless Nincompoops. Fortunately, it was a good one.

Songbird asks:

“I am an INFP female, 55 years old, but, in all honesty, not only do I not ACT my age, I certainly don’t FEEL my age, and I don’t look my age, either. I feel very much like I did when I was about 9 years old. I can remember my feelings of “not fitting in”, and how in the world to try to “look and act the part” so vividly; it’s because I feel those same feelings, now.

I crave time alone. I got exhausted on phone calls. I love to talk when the conversation is interesting, but I am so passionate and have such a hard time trying to explain myself and I feel so misunderstood that my talking is perceived as “excessive”. Although, I talk no more and quite often less than friends when we are talking together.

It’s just that THEY talk about the things that they all understand and want to talk about–things that I don’t really care about, understand, movies that I haven’t seen and don’t want to see, tv shows that I have never watched and have no interest in watching, etc. I want to discuss an amazing book I’ve read and how that book actually spoke to me, stuff like that. Sometimes I feel like I am being looked at like I have lobsters crawling out of my ears.

It is VERY, VERY hard being an INFP. When I get “labeled” a “talker” or “eccentric” or whatever, I feel that I have been somewhat permanently, dismissed.

I am also a musician, which just seems to compound the problem. I am extremely artistic and creative. I have taken on the “this is who I am, and if you don’t like it, too bad” attitude, and it works for me for a while, but deep down, in my heart of hearts, I just feel misunderstood. I am becoming worn out with dealing with people. It is getting to be just too much trouble to try to deal with. I would like to go back to teaching music in my private studio and not have to put up with he politics of dealing with a public school setting or all of the women that are found in same.

I have had my feelings hurt countless times, and I have forgiven, but I am at the point now that I am ready to not only forgive, but to just move on.

I am just too tired to continue to try to put forth the effort to fit my “square and eccentric self” into this round hole of “normal existence in day to day life”.

I love VERY deeply. I care very, very deeply. I do NOT give up on my passions and I am a champion for the children that I teach. They need me very desperately, a many of them have no one else. The problem is, I have poured out so much that I am beginning to feel that I need to be re-filled. If I were to try to explain ANY of this to anyone else, they would actually believe that I had lost my mind.

So, I just don’t even try. I just continue to suffer in silence. I have always, and still do, LOVE small spaces and to be closed in, by myself in the dark with only soft light, where no one really knows where I am, and I can read my book, by myself. I can have my dog with me and just sit back and read.

All of these things would literally make others want to look for the closest mental hospital to check me in to.

I am just so tired. Does anyone else feel this way? If so, and I’m sure that you do, how do you cope? What do you do when you get so hurt and laughed at about “talking too much” when you suddenly believe that you might have picked up on something in a conversation that you can relate to and explain yourself?

What do you do when you are so deeply hurt in your workplace and so close to retirement that you just can’t really leave? I am at a complete loss and I am actually thinking that I would much prefer to stand behind a bar in a restaurant and serve mugs of beer to people that I don’t have to get so “close to”, I can “chat” a bit if I have the energy, or not, and then, at the proper time, I can leave with my purse.

Any suggestions from anyone???”

Dear Songbird,

I feel your pain.

When I say “I feel your pain”, I don’t mean it lightly, the way some people do when they say it which often makes you annoyed at their insincerity: I honestly feel your pain, because I have gone through the same kind of pain.

Though I am a little younger than you are, I have been told that I am wise beyond my years – of course, you may disagree – and hopefully I can give you some suggestions to ease your suffering.

First of all, there is nothing wrong you with you. You just have a heart, one a little more powerful than most, and a personality which does not mesh well with the rest of society. There is nothing wrong or strange about wanting to sit in a dimly lit room with your dog, where it is quiet and safe, and read, preferably for the rest of your life. There is nothing wrong or strange about caring very deeply, or feeling too much.

Your problem is that you are burnt-out from prolonged, unfulfilling interactions with society. No-one understands you, and when you reveal your true self, even just a brief glimpse of it, you are subtly rejected, which, being sensitive, stabs you to the core. You yearn to speak on subjects that matter to you – the books you read, the world of the imagination, philosophy – but no-one else seems the least bit interested, and you are left alone and baffled, unable to form a connection with anybody.

What you have to realise is that you will never receive the validation and understanding that you crave from most of the people you meet. It simply isn’t possible; it’s like trying to describe what a jungle is, exactly, to a fish. So my advice is – and this is based on experience – don’t even try.

I, myself, have launched into effusive bursts of talk, only to be looked at strangely, my skin burning with shame and rejection. To protect yourself, then, stop letting glimpses of your true self seep out, because people who reject your true self don’t deserve to see it. If you must interact with people who do not understand and never will an atom of your being, then act. Play pretend. Make it fun, which will make it less tiring; see it as game, a secret show you are putting on that only you know about.

And then exit from the interaction, as quickly and politely as possible. Any friends who don’t understand you and just drain your energy – cut them from your life. For once, be a little selfish, and take care of yourself, and spend your time doing things you like to do, rather than talking about things you have no interest in.

But what if, as in the case of work, the unfulfilling and prolonged interactions are constant, and exhausting?

There are a few solutions to this.

One, is to start carving out as much alone time as possible at work, by eating lunch in your own office or classroom rather than with everyone else, or even escaping into the toilet cubicles with a book.

It’s best, I’ve found, to establish a shy and retiring persona in the eyes of others, as that way there is less expectation that you will be talkative and chatty, and you will be less exhausted.

You can also make excuses to avoid interactions with people (there is no shame in this as it allows you to preserve your own energy), either by professing you are unwell and are therefore not in the mood for talking (say it as politely as possible, not bluntly) or that you are very busy, and “exceedingly sorry that you do not have the time to chat.”

In addition, you can try and spend more time with your students, who are, because they tap into your empathy, perhaps a little less draining to interact with than the women at your workplace. To stop letting phone-calls deplete your energy, you can try (though sometimes you simply must answer some calls, as per the requirements of your job) to use Text Messages and emails more often.

However, in the end, these are merely attempts to put Humpty Dumpty back together using plastic tape. It doesn’t solve the problem, which is that you are a retiring and extremely introverted person forced into an environment that requires you to be extroverted on a daily basis. It’s like forcing a man who can only walk two miles a day due to lung problems to run a lap of his entire town in under five hours. It’s agony, like you are screaming inside every minute of the day and will do so until you retire – trust me, I know.

Thus, if you follow these tips, you are still going to be tired – just less so. You might even become more stressed and tired because people might start thinking you are aloof or snobbish, or asking where you start disappearing to all the time, and why, exactly, you aren’t eating lunch with them anymore or answering their phone-calls. If you think you can tolerate work by inserting these little “breathers” into your day, then everything’s good, and you will be able to wake up in the morning without feeling miserable.

However, chances are, if you are anything like me, the only true solution to your problems is to find another job, where there is less pressure or need to interact and put on an act.

As musician, this might mean, as you said yourself, opening a studio and teaching students one-by-one or in small groups privately, which eliminates co-workers and where the only interaction you have to withstand is with your students and their parents.

You could also try seeking a job with a different organisation, perhaps a smaller one, with less people and less pressure to talk, where you just teach, finish the lessons, and then go home. At the time, you should try and sock away more money into your retirement fund so you could perhaps retire earlier, and sink into the solitude you crave, and try live on less, so you can, for example, work only part-time and still survive.

I would not look longingly towards retirement as the gateway to peace and serenity. I don’t know where you live, but here in Australia, both women and men retire at 65, so it’ll probably be a good decade or so before you can leave the workforce. You need to find peace and serenity now. Finding a job more suited to your social needs, saving away more chunks of money so you can perhaps retire earlier – or have more freedom to hop from one job to another in order to find the right fit – and perhaps working part-time is the best way to do this.

As for not being able to find anyone to relate to, you could start a blog to pour out your feelings and experiences, as I did, or join a forum where you can meet other INFPs (like Personality Cafe), in order to fulfill your need for meaningful interaction without the downside of having your energy drained.

It’s also Okay to be a loner. Offline, I do not have a single friend who truly understands me, and, partly due to other issues unrelated to being an INFP, spend much of my time alone, or simply with my siblings who, having grown up with me, are well-acquainted with my eccentricities and do not reject me for having them (even though they don’t understand me).

If you don’t have any siblings or family members where you can be yourself, that’s fine, too. What I have realised, finally, after many years of pain and loneliness, is that you don’t need other people to understand you or validate you. In fact, if you’re very honest with yourself, you don’t even truly need to talk philosophy or books with other humans; just enjoying the books or thinking about life is often rewarding enough.

As long as you are spending your time in activities that bring joy to you, like reading, and understand and validate yourself, that is enough. The world has over seven billion people in it. It’s impossible for everyone to have someone understand them, and the truth is, no-one really understands or truly validates anyone; we’re all trapped inside our own universes, filtering the world through our own minds; we’re all extraordinarily unique, and some part of us will always be a secret to other people.

Even the people who you see fitting in, laughing cheerfully and happily, have moments when they are alone and they feel as if no-one in the whole world truly understands everything that goes on inside their heads. As INFPs, we are just aware of this alienation a little more keenly than other people, and because often we are markedly different from the majority, the loneliness and lack of validation is compounded. And besides, sometimes, we don’t even understand ourselves! Being human is funny like that. It’s all a grand mystery, and we’re stuck right in the middle of it.

I truly hope this helps you in some way, even if only a little, and I would love to hear how you are as time goes on. Take care. You are not alone in your suffering.

Love,

Dreamerrambling

If you have a question yourself – or perhaps a lament – you can write a comment, or send a message to my email, dreamerrambling@hotmail.com.

I can’t promise that it will get answered (sometimes questions overlap; sensitive and shy people tend to struggle with similar problems) on this blog, but I always make a point to try and reply a private message to every email I receive.

Perhaps I could make this Q&A a weekly sort of thing – it feels so grown-up and professional! – what do you think?

I do love helping people with their problems; it makes me feel like I am doing my part to ease suffering in the world even though I don’t have wherewithal to tackle big issues like starvation yet. There is so much suffering in the world, and if I dwell too long on that fact, I can’t function, so I try my best to focus on what I can do. Tears don’t help anyone; action does.

If it weren’t for my anxiety, I think I would have loved to be a counselor, though perhaps the sort of counselor who heals people through words or talks over the phone rather than in person. I’m better at solving other people’s problems rather than my own, which is both funny and sad, like so many things in life. Well, it’s always a possibility, even if it seems an impossibility at the moment — obstacles are also funny like that.

I love all of you. I love humanity, and I love people (at least from afar; I like watching people a thousand times more than I like talking to them) – it’s just there’s a lot of good mixed in with the bad, and the negative is often harder to ignore than the positive. Just yesterday there was an article in the news about a teenager inculcated with terrorist ideologies who shot a civilian near police headquarters in Sydney, and the dark cloud of that event still has not left me. It’s frightening, on a personal level, and it’s saddening. I will never understand why people hurt, kill, torture, exploit. Never.

PS:

Edgar would like to communicate to everyone the following message:

“Words are stronger than swords.”

It’s true, in a sense, I guess. Words can change minds, which changes lives, which then changes the world. But I do think some people in the world respond better to a knife at their throat than an appeal from thousands of suffering people – don’t you?

For Those Of You Feeling Lost In Life

lost creature

On a daily basis I feel lost, which is perhaps something I should not admit whilst looking into life coaching as a viable part-time career.

Thing is, what I’ve found so far is that solving other people’s problems is so much easier than tackling your own. Perhaps it’s the sense of perspective fixing someone else’s life affords; while, when we are living our lives, moment by moment, it is difficult to get a good look at it, analyse and dissect it as we would another’s.

Then again, maybe it is more a case of denial: we solve other people’s problems so we do not have to face our own, like the doctor who heals patient after patient while secretly harboring a tumor in her brain, an insidious fungus that flowers larger each day.

For me, lately life has been a matter of overcoming my own personal delusions borne of both an overactive imagination and a sporadic inability to face reality (which are pretty much same thing, anyway). My delusions are colourful and varied as coral in a reef – something which I should probably state with less mischievous pride.

Some of them are centered on people, as mentioned in my last post, whereby I construct fantasy relationships only to be severely disappointed – not in the fallibility of reality, but my own brain. No matter how many times it is let down, the squiggly lump of protein housed in my skull never learns.

Other times, they revolve around my own “goals” in life, signposts which mark arbitrary points of progress over the course of an existence. On some days I feel ready to sally forth into the world, pen held high like a sword, to carve out a living as a journalist, or an author, buoyed on a drift of euphoria. Then, sometimes the very same afternoon, I read a book, gape at the exquisite prose, then plummet back to earth to lie in curled in a crater of despair. These shifts in self-belief occur with alarming frequency, up one minute and down the next like a pogo stick.

Judging by what I write on this blog, you may come to the conclusion that I am a remarkably even-tempered human, able to dole out sound advice and act as a voice of kindness and reason – which is true. I am all those things.

But every person is a complex mix of opposing traits, and I am no different. If you were to ask my family, “temperamental” would perhaps be a more apt descriptor. Or “moody” and “fickle”. To be honest – and I would forgive you for thinking me mad – I sometimes feel as if there are at least ten different people crammed inside my body, expressing themselves in turns on a strictly unstructured rotation.

This lack of a certain identity, of a foundation on which one builds the self, has made me feel inadequate for many years. If you carefully look at the way people interact with the others, they often have a particular and often unconscious “fixed” personality uniquely their own, whereas I feel more like a perpetual actress, jumping from one role to the next in any given day, before crumpling at the end of the day exhausted backstage. Rather than ask for others to accept me as who I am, I adapt, changing myself to suit them.

This can make even simple, everyday exchanges precarious. I  feel like I am always on quicksand. Constantly, I ask myself, am I being “myself”? Am I conforming to the persona I usually reserve for this individual? What is the real me, anyway? What if, deep inside, there is nothing there at all, just a blank canvas upon which to paint whatever person whenever I want? Or does my true personality only radiate through my writing, is speech to limited a medium for someone so introverted as I?

All this makes me feel like I have no control over life. I feel lost, unmoored; the world is a tossing sea without any lighthouse or constellation to guide the way. Every component of existence, be it belief in my own writing, or who I am, are not bricks but loose coagulated masses of sand, liable to crumble to pieces at the slightest touch.

And I am forever searching for land, for a solid foundation. Perhaps that is why I construct fantasies: to create a semblance of security. I delude myself into thinking someone loves me, because a loved one can act as an anchor in life. I delude myself into thinking my literary dreams are achievable in the next five years, rather than ten or twenty, so as to have something to clutch onto when the night gets dark and the seas get rough. I talk to my characters, in my head, as if they were real people, to feel as if there is someone out there who knows and understands me – even if it is only a product of my own mind.

That doesn’t make me crazy; in fact, it could be seen as a gift, from the right perspective. For instance, being able to shift myself into various personas to make others feel comfortable is useful if you’re a therapist. And talking to people in my own head, though a sign of madness in many books, is something which writers do all the time.

So if you are feeling lost, or without a stable identity, I want you to know that is perfectly fine. We all drown, eventually, and we all have parts of ourselves that lie dormant, never erupting unless the right circumstances transpire. Deep down, no-one is sure of anything, and no-one knows anyone.

In this murky realm between what is true and not true, what is part of reality and what is a delusion, instead of sobbing at the incomprehensibility of it or trying to come up with definite conclusions, we should embrace and step into the fog, and simply, well, live. And by the end of it, perhaps we will look back and realise what we were looking for was there all along.

Combating Loneliness & Feeling Misunderstood

lonely

So many of us, even those who are not typical misfits, often feel misunderstood and alone alone despite the number of people we surround ourselves with.

Within us all, deep down, there lies a hard, faceted core, untouched, unseen, and grown lacklustre over time, sometimes even forgotten by ourselves.

Charles Dickens (a fellow INFP) wrote a quote which encapsulates this phenomenon quite perfectly:

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this.”

For it is true: only we know ourselves best, only we know exactly what it is like to be us, to have gone through our particular set of experiences with our particular personality, point-of-view and consciousness.

And we are all different, even if we do share similarities. There are over seven billion people in the world, each of them with their unique aspirations and dreams and lives. The sheer complexity of the morass of humanity is marvelous to ponder.

However, the immensity of the human population also means that, unique though we may be, there are always going to be people out there who understand and can relate to facets of yourself.

For instance, one person might know exactly what it is like to grow up with a cold and distant father as you do, even though their personality or life experiences might be markedly different. Another might share the same MBTI personality type, and though they might not know what it’s like to grow up with a neglectful father figure, they can understand your particular thought processes and the way you react to life.

So, in truth, even though we feel alone, we are not. Whilst mired in suffering, take comfort in the fact that somewhere out there in the world, perhaps even back in time (or even forward!), someone wept tears of despair at their table just as you did, their chest boiling with misery.

No matter how terrible your life circumstances are, I can guarantee you someone else has felt the same way, experienced the same thing; someone else out there also got evicted from their house, watched loved ones murdered before their eyes or lost hope in life to the extent of wanting to end it, once and for all.

Many circumstances are also universal, in that everyone encounters them in life sooner or later. They are the grey shades of existence: death, depression, frustration, betrayal, existential crises, grief, humiliation, oppression, inequality, etc. This is why poetry is so compelling, as it often speaks to the underlying current of what it means to be human and experience these varied shades of living.

And in turn, each of us have to come to terms with how we will spend our one little life, how will we will face death without regret – and if we do not face them, time still passes, and the day will come when it all ends, regardless.

I do think that artists have the advantage here when it comes to dispelling feelings of isolation. For whenever the urge comes upon artists to shriek out from some rooftop to the universe, “See me! Understand me! Care for me, care for me! Please don’t let this world hurt me too much!” they simply pick up their paint brush or pencil or chisel and pour every drop of their despair into a work of art.

That work of art has then the potential to exist long after the artist is dead to soothe the hearts of posterity who feel similar emotions to the ones that surfaced in the creator’s bosom while making it. Thus, the pain of obscurity is then transformed into something productive and healing.

After all, how many of us have, in reading a book, stumbled upon a line or phrase which speaks to us like a second heart of our own, pulsating from the page? You see! In that moment, the writer was in pain. She wrote about that pain, and now you feel less alone for it, so many years later. She understood you. What more could we ask for from existence than for the alleviation of this quiet suffering and to alleviate it in others?

When I think of the quietly suffering souls out there in the world, desperate for a kind touch, a hug, a whispered phrase of “I know”, I cry. It’s stupid but – no, it’s not stupid; I won’t start internalising society’s concepts of weaknesses. It just shows that I care. My heart melts a little, both painfully and happily, like candle wax. I wish I could reach out to you all and tell you that I am there for you, that I care for you, because you are an expression of this universe just like everything else, and worthy of love and happiness.

lone tree

Doing things which alleviate the loneliness in the world is my single goal in life. It is why I write stories and books (or try to). It is why I write on this blog. It is why I live. It is the reason I exist. Because I have felt loneliness, I have felt misunderstood, deeply and keenly, and I want to soothe that same pain in others. You are me, I am you: we are each other, but we can only experience life one at a time.

To help others, is to help ourselves.

It’s a big, fucking scary world out there. I hate it, a lot of the time, I really do. Most days, I just want to curl up in some corner of the library and never come out. I hate the way people ruin things, pollute things, hurt things. I hate indifference. I hate selfishness. I hate it all. It makes me want to puke, vomit, scream, though my lips stay quiet, silent, like the folded wings of a dead butterfly.

But there are good things, too: a glimpse of autumn leaves fluttering like a mass of tiny dancing fairies in the wind beneath an overcast sky; an odd, little old lady tottering down the street with a big smile on her face, oblivious to the cars and skyscrapers. Despite it all, there is a certain sweetness to life. I like that.

In truth, I’m desperate for authenticity, for realness, just like you. I grasp desperately for flesh and blood, tired of the smooth surface of plastic and outline of wires, desperate to see eyes that blink, eyes that cry, hearts that pump.

My recent embarkation of my journey towards becoming a life coach is a way for me to soothe the loneliness and pain of others, to help them overcome their problems whilst feeling fulfilled in return. I want to cradle beautiful, pulsating hearts delicately in my hands, nourish them with the love that resides within us all, to reject the superficiality that coats our world and replace it with authenticity. I want to be someone who opens up her heart on the phone to a stranger in return for glimpsing the soul of another, a spiritual, symbiotic relationship.

Of course, I’m scared. I’m not the best with phones (usually I treat them as one does a cockroach when they ring) and oftentimes experience a great deal of anxiety picking them up. But if the person on the end was as sweet as some of the people who have commented on and visited my blog, I don’t think I’d be scared for long. And I have a powerful reason to overcome any qualms.

We are all lonely. We can spend our lives helping others feel less lonely, and in turn, feel less lonely ourselves. There is no better way for humanity to pass the time, on our lonely, little blue dot.

Frankly, I just wish I could tuck you all in bed by first reading a bedtime story, singing a lullaby and then turning off the light, leaving you feeling warm and safe and assured as you drift off to sleep. Is that creepy? Oh, I don’t care; this sentiment comes from a place of love, and that’s all that matters.