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How do you balance being yourself and "fitting in"

Discussion in 'PDD-NOS, Social Anxiety and Others' started by Tankgirlboy77, Jul 15, 2015.

  1. Tankgirlboy77

    Tankgirlboy77 Well-Known Member

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    so here's the thing...
    I work a 9 to 5 job constantly surrounded by people. Everyday I get home emotionally exhausted and so relieved to finally be alone.

    Here's my sticking point:

    Being myself is the problem - I don't respond to social chat like other people, I constantly miss cues and drop the ball conversationally, because I can't understand what they're expecting from me. I can't do the rhythm or tone of social chat, and the topics of these chats mostly just seem pointless to me anyway. No one else has any interest in my interests, so I don't bring them up.

    Since being myself is the problem, I feel the need to pretend to be like everyone else. This involves great and continued effort, and only limited success. Also I have to research mainstream topics and watch tv I wouldn't normally watch just to be able to join in.

    This all gets exhausting, feels inauthentic, is not satisfying and the projection or mask does eventually slip from time to time, leading me to withdraw and feel like a failure. I don't like the me I'm projecting, and really it feels like lying.

    This can't go on, I think, hence my deep inner desire to 'just be myself'.

    But (back to the start again) being myself is the problem.

    What is the answer to this, and has anyone else ever felt this confusion? What should I do?

    Thanks for reading :)
     
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  2. Ylva

    Ylva Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Sounds like you'd save a ton of energy just by admitting to yourself that you don't need to fit in. You'd prefer to fit in, but you won't die if you don't.
     
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  3. Judge

    Judge Well-Known Member

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    Over the long haul you learn to live with the charade and cherish the time where you can BE yourself. However you also never lose sight that it is a charade with the purpose of self-preservation and little else.
     
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  4. cherryq

    cherryq Well-Known Member

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    I often feel this way and walk away from a situation feeling hopeless because of my inability to "fit in" with everyone else. A 9 to 5 job is difficult, especially with so many socially-comfortable/successful people in the workplace. Many times I will lose my train of thought while speaking, or I may stutter, or I may just say the completely wrong thing. Comments meant to be funny by my coworkers about what I said, or didn't say, only worsen my anxiety that I have when speaking with them (which causes more problems for me). I either come home feeling so emotionally overwhelmed that I have shutdowns and meltdowns all night, or I come home and just want to sleep because the mental exhaustion has caused physical exhaustion as well.

    As far as being myself, I try to be as much as possible. I generally only talk to people at work about things related to work so that I don't have to end up in situations where I feel that I would have to compromise being myself to "save face" in a conversation about trivial things or other topics that don't interest me. If a noteworthy event has occurred that seems pertinent, I may join in on a discussion (making small comments occasionally), but otherwise I just stick to work-related topics. Even staying in this realm all day causes me to come home an emotional/mental wreck from the social nightmare that I find a 9 to 5 job brings.
     
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  5. Beverly

    Beverly Euthanasia Redux V.I.P Member

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    I live that confusion, have most of my life so, it isn't confusion for me any more. I have to fit in or my career would be a massive failure. [Not to mention the horrid press I'd get over a major blunder.]

    I'm not going to lie to you and tell you I'm the perfect socialite, nor that being close to that has been even remotely easy. I do make mistakes and, it's been the single most difficult part of my career. I've always surrounded myself with people that accept me as I am, the real me, when I'm out of the public eye, that is my safety net and, my sanity saver. I couldn't have done it alone and, I'd be a basket case if not for my people who allowed me to remove all of the facades my career forces me to use when the lights and cameras weren't on me.

    You have to make a very hard choice. Is professional success worth what it's costing you? There is no easy way, it's hard work, memorizing and playing the game and, you are doing the right things but, you know the price and, I'm sure you know that further you climb, the higher that price will get.

    That's the way of the world and, we can't change it. We can only choose to pay the price, or be the outcast. I chose to pay and, it does take a heavy toll on mind and body. Stress induced physical ailments are no joke. As you know, every moment of living in the facade/behind the mask pushes you closer to a meltdown or shut down. The day will come, if you keep going on that path, when you have to override a meltdown or shutdown in public. Do you have the inner strength to pull it off? If not, can you build that strength before it happens and be ready for it? Are you willing to do that and, to put your mind and body through that for success?

    I can't answer those questions for you, that's up to you. All I can do is remind you how critical it is to have a good support network and, people around you that will allow you to be yourself when you have some down time. I can assure you that it is possible for us to climb the social ladder effectively. We can be skilled socialites just as we can be skilled in anything else. What I can't tell you is if the price is worth it to you.

    Those skills will serve you well but, it's all an act, a calculated risk every time you put yourself out there and, every time you do it there is a price to pay. Up to you, if you continue and push yourself further, or choose a new, quieter, more lonely path.
     
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  6. Datura

    Datura Well-Known Member

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    I suppose I am at the point where I have mastered niceties ("hello, how are you?", greeting people with a smile, "Have a nice day.", ext.) and being a good listener. If somebody is relating a personal story I can ask for more details and I relate a similar experience I have had. If discussing popular culture we either share interest in a given piece of media, or we don't. There isn't much middle ground. Though it always helps to ask for elaboration if the show/band/book they are talking about is something you haven't heard of. People generally love to go on about things, and you may just find your next "thing" in the process.

    Quite often a conversation will remind me of something apparently unrelated (though it is related, if you could follow the trail of neurons in my brain) and I will have to debate weather or not to follow that train of thought or just ignore it. The correct answer is most often the latter, unfortunately. People often don't want to talk about these random esoteric topics that pop into my head, even if they are much more interesting than the banal conversation we were just having.

    All of that said, I will sometimes go out of my way to organically insinuate my interests into a conversation. Once I managed to seamlessly turn the topic toward the mating habits of cuttlefish. That was a fine day. But I suspect this would not work in a professional situation, unless your coworkers are delightfully odd.

    Frankly, I have never had the best report with coworkers. They seem to think I should like things which frankly bore me. They also openly flaunt their bigotry, creating an environment in which I know I cannot be honest about myself. At the end of it all am I going to spend my free time studying what these people think is important? Not likely.
     
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  7. Epicurean Pariah

    Epicurean Pariah Immaculate perception

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    Tank, I think the majority of us have been there and suffered the indignities of the emotional hysterical folks we share this place with.
    Some strive mightily and never truly adjust to the social chaos, but by tenacity and applied genius overcome the difficulties that society imposes upon us.
    Some never can adapt and are in perpetual misery in failing to be a part of the turkey herd.
    I made a productive and happy life by learning a creative skill that allowed me to, turn my back on the system and encouraged front people to act as my mediators and buffers to lubricate the social grit that I create when out in public.

    Do what you must to survive day to day, but be true to yourself, bet on yourself, and never listen to the detractors.
    If you have tools and bandwidth, and I think most Aspers do, your success and happiness is not only possible but in my never humble opinion, inevitable.
    Soar alone, roar within a small pride of lions or run with wolves.

    Never settle for mediocre unless being mundane is your bliss!
     
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  8. Progster

    Progster Gone sideways to the sun V.I.P Member

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    I'm not into popular culture and what's on TV and that kind of thing either, but I just tell people when I don't like or don't watch something that they like. I just say "reality shows aren't my kind of thing" or something like that. There's nothing wrong with this. I would never watch a TV show or listen to music I don't like just to fit in. Other people have to accept that not everyone is going to have the same taste as they do. Most people understand this. All people are different, we are not clones. If they can't accept you as you are, it means that they are being extremely narrow-minded, or immature. People should celebrate diversity, not suppress it. I think that in this situation, I would accept that I don't really fit in with those particular people and stick to work-related topics of conversation instead. When I was younger I used to feel that I should make an effort to be social and fit in, but as I've got older, I've become a lot less inclined to pursue social relationships which are hard work and I'm never going to enjoy.
     
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  9. Tankgirlboy77

    Tankgirlboy77 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks everyone, this is all excellent stuff. I'm glad to know that this recurring theme in my life is familiar to other people here (although obviously I'm not glad to hear that other people suffer).

    When I've spoken to other people about this they don't really get my problem, which leads me to believe that this fundamental sense of alienation is a part of AS disorders. Other people seem to have this deep, inherent drive to be around other people, to chase friendships with as many people as possible, to be popular, to fit in... I guess because it is fulfilling and meaningful for them to do this. When I ask why, they can't explain it any more satisfactorily than I can explain my point of view. It must be hard wired.

    I on the other hand am happy with one or two close friends, and have absolutely no desire to spread my social circle any wider or seek to impress everyone I meet. I guess because I don't have that drive and, more often than not, the idea of more people is equated in my mind with more personal difficulty and suffering.

    The conflict in my mind is whether to strive to achieve something I think I "should" want, or whether to accept it as it is and recognise that that's okay. It's difficult because of expectations from other people, I fear my behaviour will appear rude/aloof/antisocial, and the message in the media is pushing this idea of having loads of friends and always going out etc etc. It feels like saying you spent your weekend alone and it was great is not an acceptable answer to colleagues' questions. It feels like being quiet is not okay, and that you're "meant" to fill every silence with chatter about nothing in particular.
     
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  10. Tankgirlboy77

    Tankgirlboy77 Well-Known Member

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    Hahaha. I'm curious about the mating habits of cuttlefish now. There was one day I got to talk at length about the life and times of Diogenes the Cynic. No one had any opinion on it in the same way that I don't have an opinion on Come Dine With Me. Oh, that makes me sound like a dreadful snob...!
     
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  11. qwerty

    qwerty Sight seeing on the planet of the apes

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    Scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    If i remember right that phrase was originally a satirical crack at Diogenes???
     
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  12. Progster

    Progster Gone sideways to the sun V.I.P Member

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    It's frustrating when people seem to measure you and judge you in terms of how many friends you have, how popular you are and how wide your social circle is. I think that this is more important for young people, and when they get older their priorities change, they form romantic relationships, have careers, families, etc, and then they prefer to have just one or two close friends. They don't seek out so many new friends. Or at least, that is what my experience has been so far. Also, not all people, including NTs, have wildly social weekends - I know quite a few NTs who often just want to chill out at the weekend and spend Saturday night at home. It depends on the person - some are introverted and don't go out much.

    I would accept it as it is and recognise that it's okay to be different, and try not to worry about people's expectations and fitting in. It's up to them to accept you as a person different to them, and as long as you are not harming them in any way, it's not up to you to try to change yourself to suit them. There's nothing wrong with being different.

    Alexander the Great asked to meet Diogenes, and when he did, he asked Diogenes what he could give him. Diogenes asked Alexander the Great to step aside because he was depriving him of his sunlight. Alexander did so, and then said that if he weren't Alexander he would be Diogenes. There are many interpretations of this anecdote, but my favourite is that Alexander conceded to the courage, honesty and simple wisdom of Diogenes.
     
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  13. qwerty

    qwerty Sight seeing on the planet of the apes

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    This is a fantastic thread.
    I believe most to all of us on the spectrum have
    suffered through this particular difficulty and can
    completely relate to your situation, i certainly know i can.

    It seems to me that you have a good strong base to work from,
    wanting to be and express your authentic self which really is a
    fundamental human right which without can lead to a life of self
    imposed misery and unbearable suffering.

    I hope this thread continues to grow and flourish as more and
    more people share their experience and ways of coping and
    hopefully become a place where we can support each other in
    being proud of our uniqueness and the good qualities that we
    share.

    I have struggles with this dilemma for a large part of my life
    and still sometimes struggle to be "myself" around people who have
    no awareness of how and what the Autistic, Asperger spectrum
    condition is. I believe the more of us who choose not to hide ourselves
    even when facing all the social crap that we are forced to deal with
    then the more acceptable "we" and our unique mannerisms and
    way of being in the world will be seen as a normal everyday condition
    that everyday people understand.

    The LGBT communities are a fantastic inspiration to me, as they
    have stood up to a society in which the majority of people scorned
    them. The adjustment to societies acceptance of their way of being
    in the world was incredibly difficult, but there were heroes who said
    NO i will not live a lie, i will not live with a shame that is not mine,
    I will stand up in the face of adversity and stand my ground, I will
    fight for my dignity, i will fight for others living their true lives in
    shadows, justifiably scared of the response of people knowing who
    they really were, i will fight to be proud, fight prejudice and ignorance.

    Stand up and fight for your rights! Fight for your right to avoid eye
    contact, fight for your right to not feel like you must live a "pretend"
    life, fight for your right to not feel ashamed for simply not behaving
    like the majority, fight for your dignity, fight for pride!
    Stand your ground when someone belittles you or through ignorance
    treats you oddly or ostracises you etc...
    We are community, we are strong united.

    Those of us who are able I encourage to start groups where our
    fellows can come to feel safe and normal to be themselves, to
    exchange ideas and unburden themselves, to offer shelter from
    the storm.
    This site has become a place where I feel safe to be myself
    and has shown me that together we are compassionate, creative,
    supportive and capable. I would love to see this extended into
    your and my town/city/wherever, to sit quietly and have a coffee
    relax with other people who completely understand why you are
    being you.

    Okay hopping off my soapbox now lol:p
     
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  14. AsheSkyler

    AsheSkyler Feathered Jester

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    I always draw the line at TV. If it's a show I like, I'll chime in, but if it's a show I dislike and somebody tries to belittle or drag me in then I'm not so friendly. One old snob actually called me sheltered because I had not watched "A Perfect Storm". When I worked at a video store. Quite obviously I was not interested in it, elsewise I would have taken it home and watched it. Blaming my parents had absolutely nothing to do with it.
     
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  15. Judge

    Judge Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps the most important aspect of your plight is to simply know that you aren't alone. That we get you completely.
     
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  16. Tankgirlboy77

    Tankgirlboy77 Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, that's a classic one. I seem to remember Alexander asking Diogenes why he was searching through human bones and he said something like he was looking for the bones of Alexander's father, but couldn't distinguish them from the bones of a peasant. It's a shame none of his writings survive, but he seems to work best as a legendary figure whose strange ways later writers could marvel at and interpret. A bit like a Greek zen character.
     
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  17. Tankgirlboy77

    Tankgirlboy77 Well-Known Member

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    You're right. I know this deep down, but all those perceptions of judgements and fear of them seem to stick around, probably from school. To a large extent, it's mostly in my head. It remains a scary thought to strike out as different. I guess the more I do it the easier it will be, or if not then I can just stick to work chat and not worry about it.
     
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  18. Ravkrat

    Ravkrat Well-Known Member

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    hm.. a few years back (when I was 16-17 ish) I stopped talking completely, heh its hard to give a flying turnip what people think when your constantly debating the pros and cons of life and death(debate has ended and seeing has im typing this no worries :p), then once somethings happened and I decided to start talking again I found that people couldn't hear me.. its like when your at a family gathering and people are chatting about something and you interject a comment or two and nada zip zero no response, no tightening of the eyes or shuffling of the body so about four min after my comments I just said ' to hell with this' and of course people heard that comment (heh) so I went to my room and took a catnap, I guess to an extent I've 'broken' to the point of not really needing to chat every other moment. though the price for my silence are a few golden nuggets, family thinks I'm insane(or deranged..wait is there a difference..meh)and everyone other than my family thinks im a genius... I swear if I live a hundred years ill never understand other people. (for reference im 21 now)


    looking back at the first post.. I think this is on topic..somewhat
     
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  19. kestrel

    kestrel Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I balance myself.
    Then most of the time, I worry less about not fitting in. I have chosen authenticicity over anything else, because I can't be putting masks on and off, it exhausts me and life is too damn short for that.
    So, I pay the price, whatever that is, sometimes quite dear, true.
    "The old man laughed and said, 'what good is a used up world & how could it be worth having."' – paraphrasing Sting.
     
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  20. epath13

    epath13 the Fool.The Magician.The... V.I.P Member

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