When I ask my significant other, “How should I act in this situation?” he always tells me to be myself. It’s a sweet thing for him to say. He likes who I am, he wants me to be me. But it’s a difficult task. I have not heard stories of people with as much difficulty acting as themselves, so this is vulnerable territory for me. However, I wanted to share my story in the hopes that others don’t feel so alien in their own situations.
Why I find it difficult to just “be myself”:
- I find it too personal to show people how sensitive and emotional I can be.
- How can I be myself when no one can handle me?
- It is more natural for me to adapt my actions to each situation than enter the situation as myself already.
- Sometimes, I really have no idea who I am.
Can you relate to any of these thoughts? I’d love to hear about them. Send me your stories!
For those who might still be puzzled at my line of thinking, here goes:
1. I find it too personal to show people how sensitive and emotional I can be.
I have found that the majority of people I interact with find my personality to be, how should I say this, ‘overwhelming’. I laugh too much, smile too much and 'over-exaggerate' (in their eyes). When I find something truly funny, I laugh, do the whole stamp my feet, hit my thighs, and squat routine. People look at me as if I’ve gone insane, as if I’m acting inappropriately for finding amusement. Scoffs, sarcastic comments, even downright disses have been thrown my way for the way I act.
In the moment, I feel as if I am acting on instinct, not thinking too much about why I say the things I say or do. If I ask someone how they are doing, I get a confused look. I find it baffling. Is the person surprised I pick up on negative feelings, surprised that I actually asked about it, or is s/he wondering who the heck I am to be asking such a personal question? I have come to realize that the way I act and speak are unlike the majority of people around me.
It's demeaning to constantly be with people who aren’t accepting of who you are.
Since my highly sensitive qualities keep me attuned to others' reactions, its hard for people to hide their true feelings from me. An analogy I like to use is, imagine how you would feel if you were an artist surrounded by a bunch of scientists? Even though you may be equally inspiring and bright in your artistry, around scientists, you may feel inferior. Unfortunately there is no way for you to know this without moving away from the norm. This type of confusion has caused me to hold back much of who I am to protect myself from the reactions of others. I rather keep my delight over buying a Reese’s or how happy it makes me when my dog won’t leave my side for hours on end to myself. If I keep the happiness to myself, then it is mine alone and no one can ruin it.
2. How can I be myself when no one can handle me?
If people are so confused by my reactions, then how can I listen to my instincts and be myself? The way I react is confusing to others and they then do not know how to act in return. Many also find my proclamation of emotions fearful. They do not know how to feel as strongly as I do and be expressive. Therefore they shy away from me. If people are always running at the first sign of my true self, then why would I continue to push people away by being myself?
One day, I ordered takeout for my family. I attempted to explain my separation of the orders to make it clear for the person on the other end of the phone. It seemed that my lengthy explanation was too detailed for the person to understand what I was saying. As if I was explaining too much and the other person was unsure if he accidentally landed a call from his therapist instead of a person ordering takeout! While I exaggerate the situation, I often have to remember that other people are not like me. Being different scares them and often confuses them. If I don’t want to be an alien or committed to a psych ward, I need to act in a way in which other people would understand. So no, I can’t just be myself.
3. It is more natural for me to adapt my actions to each situation than enter the situation as myself already.
Because of my tendency to observe (highly sensitive qualities) and deeply understand probable outcomes certain situations might have (INFJ), I can often predict how a situation will play out. Knowing the situation before I step into it, helps me act in a way that is comfortable for everyone and yields the desired outcome. If I go into a room of cultured tech geniuses, I want to speak in my most sophisticated tone and open my mind to all of the new and fascinating innovations I have recently read about. If I go into a recording studio, I might want to brush up on new music and dress like I’m a character on Empire, because when in Rome right?
These are not excessive or elaborate paths to take when going into a situation, but they are simplified versions of my point. Knowing what’s to come helps me prepare for it. A girls’ night out is much different from a couple’s party. Each situation requires a tailored response. People are fluid and are made up of many different parts. I would love to be engaged in all of the situations I mentioned, but a different part of me might be dominant in each situation. I alone can decide how I would like to be perceived and act in such a manner to promote that. It can be very beneficial towards my enjoyment of the event and people’s perception of me afterward. It helps to know what’s coming to know which “version” of me I want to be.
4. Sometimes, I really have no idea who I am.
I saved this one for last. It is the most vulnerable idea of the four and the most honest. With the ability to recognize what’s coming, act in a way to bring out the side of me I wish people to see, and act in a way to get a desired outcome, its easy to lose myself. It’s also very easy to get my wires crossed and not act the way I meant to. The connection to my instincts and gets all tumbled and wrung out. This makes it difficult to be able to decide what to say and what to do.
There is also a difference between who I am and who I would like to be. I can act how I’d like to be as much as I want, say by being a social butterfly, but if I forget that I have limits, then I might stay out socializing for too long and snap at someone without meaning to. My introverted nature was trying to get me to take care of myself, but I did not listen. Ultimately, that decision comes at a cost. Trying so hard to be something I’m not takes a toll on figuring out who I actually am. Being observant and perceptive can make separating what I sense from myself challenging.
While each of these difficulties can be discussed at length separately, I wanted to give a snippet of a larger story. Getting to know myself has been difficult for me. There is so much external input that listening internally has not come easily. I hope you can relate to my story and not feel so alone in your own struggles. I would love to hear your highly sensitive battles. Contact me here.
Good luck and much love.