I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. To clarify, I was comfortable by myself, but in the company of others, I often felt like I didn’t fit in, and didn’t measure up. Small talk and shallow conversations bored and exhausted me. Social gatherings were draining, and after a couple of hours, I always felt like I was suffocating and had to escape to someplace where I could be by myself.
To make matters worse, I felt I didn’t measure up to what society expected males to be. I was bookish, quiet, and in touch with my feelings. I pondered the deep questions of life. Sports, hunting, and fast cars held no appeal. I wasn’t macho or cool.
They say opposites attract, and I married an extrovert who needed social interaction to feel energized. We tried to find a middle ground when it came to our disparate social needs, but I know that I was a bit of frustrating puzzle to her, and to our friends.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that there must be something wrong with me for being so different.
After decades of feeling like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, I had an “Aha!” moment when I read about the introvert personality, and how it loses energy through group social interaction and recharges through alone time. I also found that I fit the Myers-Briggs INTJ personality type. Things began to make more sense.
I also went through a re-thinking of the beliefs which had long been an unquestioned part of my life. This led to a lot of deeply honest discussions with my then-wife, and eventually, an amicable ending to our marriage.
Despite the uncertainty of these huge changes, I had a sense of security and excitement in feeling that I was finally beginning to live in alignment with my true self, rather than what others wanted me to be.
I found kindred spirits in the company of freethinkers and creative types and felt energized and accepted. Group interactions weren’t torture, when they were with the right kind of people. As I aligned my relationships with those who understood and could relate to me, I found my own self-acceptance and confidence growing. Instead of feeling weird or ashamed of being different, I felt happy about the things which made me unique. In this environment, my creativity flourished.
Then I read a book by blogger Mark Manson, which encourages men to use honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability to attract the kind of woman who is a good match for them. The takeaway from the book which resonated with me was that if I wanted to find a compatible partner, I had to present my real self, without apology or editing. That advice fit perfectly with the changes which had already been going on inside me.
I worked on practicing authenticity in my social interactions, aligning myself with my unique personality and viewing it as an asset, not a liability. One day I came in contact with and began getting to know a very special woman. As she and I showed each other our true selves, we discovered that we had an amazing level of connection. She understood my ‘weirdness’ in a way that no one had before and loved me for who I was. In turn, I understood her on a deep level and responded with love and acceptance.
Because the personal growth in my life had prepared me, love was able to blossom and become a reality. If I had gone about things by trying to be what I thought others would want, lacking the courage to be my authentic self, most likely I would not be in the wonderful relationship which I now enjoy.
Accepting yourself and confidently walking in the truth of your unique identity opens the door for good things to happen in your life.
If you feel odd, different, or an outsider, don’t worry. It just means you haven’t found your tribe yet. I promise you, there are people out there whose hearts will feel like home. Wear your uniqueness proudly so they can recognize you.