I’m weird. I own that. I’m outspoken, I can be overly blunt and I have strong opinions. I tend to rub people the wrong way if they don’t understand my dark sense of humour or my skepticism.
I also have anxiety. I am constantly ruminating over the most mundane interactions with people to make sure that I haven’t accidentally offended them. It’s something I’m working on, and it leaves me feeling like I’m disliked, no matter what I do, or what others may say to the contrary.
For a long time I was trying to please everyone. I grew up in a household where I was required to be one way at home, and another at school, and it took me until I was about 16 to realize who I was, really. Living something of a double life like that left me confused about how I wanted to be when I was alone – and it left me confused about who I wanted to keep in my life.
My problem was that I wanted the toxic people to want me, because the thought of being disliked made me feel like there was something wrong with me.
Once I realized I could change my environment for myself, it began. The toxic people started at first to became angry with me for withdrawing. In high school, I had glass bottles thrown at me from moving vehicles.
I remember one time, in the middle of this “give no fucks” transition, I was crouched at my locker in an empty hallway during class, rifling through my things. A popular boy I knew didn’t like me was at the other end of the hall. He saw me, and I did my best to be invisible. He came right for me, and stood over me silently until I looked up. When I did, he simply said,
“You are garbage.”
He dropped the wrapper to his Mr. Big from a height well above my head. As it floated down, all crinkly, filthy and full of ill-intent, I did my best to keep a straight face. I stayed motionless, crouched, looking up at him.
Some people might not like you, but that’s not your fault.
You just have to find your people, and surround yourself with them until the noise of the haters is drowned out.
The way I did it, the way I always do it – online and in-person, is by lifting the filter, just a bit, just once in a while, to test the waters. I do it to gauge reaction. If I see a glimmer of recognition in someone else in response to my obscure Sherlock Holmes (BBC, natch) reference, I know they might be my people.
Watch. Look for others putting out the bat-signal for your tribe. I recently made a great online friend simply because I noticed her Fight Club cover image on Facebook and I HAD to comment. It’s my favourite movie.
Everyone always says “Be Yourself”. When trying to find new friends, I’d argue you should be yourself – amplified. Make it abundantly clear what you’re into, what your style is and what your tastes are.
Loneliness doesn’t have to be forever. Your people are looking for you, too.
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