Growing up, I often felt isolated and different, almost like an immigrant in a foreign country. I didn’t understand a lot of the customs or why we do the things we do. I found myself confused and distressed because I didn’t understand what was expected of me. I was often anxious, upset, and depressed for good reasons – especially as a teenager.
The good news is I had a great family and lots of people who tried their best to help me out. They let me know that even though I was confused they were there to support me. My mom especially did a good job of really listening to me and trying to understand where I was coming from. She would take time and focus on me which was one of the greatest gifts a teenager can receive (or anyone for that matter!) She would also tell me social stories about what happened and explain why things happened the way they did. I also had teachers who taught me how to get along with other people which is not necessarily the easiest thing for anyone.
These days I have come to the conclusion that a lot of times many people are confused and don’t know what to do either. I’m not alone in struggling in social situations. Getting along with people can be hard work regardless of how close you are to that person. There are many books on the subject of getting along with others. I find comfort in this fact. Many of the social advice columns that I’ve seen also deal with how to get along with people. Yes, I’m awkward with other people but I find comfort in the fact that there are lots of people who have similar difficulties.
There are lots of things I need to work on but there are a few things I’m trying to really focus on and practice:
I’m working on trying to appreciate the fact that other people have different life experiences and reasons for believing what they do. I find reading or listening to books a good way to try to understand another person’s perspective. I found this is the closest way I can get to being “inside somebody else’s head.” Another reason I enjoy written material is I can read and reread until I understand what someone is communicating.
I have also tried to take a look at what I believe and see if it’s true. This is really hard to do, not an easy task for me. I get so emotionally invested in what I think is true and right that I get frustrated when somebody contradicts it. It’s much easier to think the other person is wrong or doesn’t know what they’re talking about. After all, I have to admit then that maybe I’m not so sure about what I believe which is painful and scary to do. I have a lot of work to do in that area.
I’m trying to be more compassionate towards myself and others. If I embrace the concept of compassion than it’s easier to get past my depression and anxiety. First, I’m not judging myself so harshly. I need to work on this concept first before I can extend it to other people. I’m not sure how to do this but the good news is I have lots of people who can help me.
Trying to improve myself has allowed me to acknowledge that I’m part of society and not so different from the people around me. I feel that everyone is trying his/her best and trying to be a good person. This knowledge brings me great hope about the present and the future.