You know the feeling when you finish an awesome movie, or a book, and you absolutely can’t wait to discuss it with someone? Of course you do – it’s a pretty common feeling. But for me, it’s often a little more challenging to find someone to lend me an ear, as the majority of the books I read, podcasts I listen to, or videos I watch are self-help & psychology ones. It’s not exactly riveting to everyone. Sure, I have friends and family that will afford me the basic courtesy to smile for a few minutes, or throw in an obligatory “Oh, that’s neat”. But ultimately, they will be itching to change the conversation, and certainly won’t be asking me any follow-up questions.
Which is fair. It would be like someone trying to talk to me about their new car. I would nod politely, but if you tried to discuss the engine, the horsepower, or any of the technical aspects my eyes would start to glaze over and the nodding would quickly turn into nodding off. It’s just not something that interests me, nor would I have anything to contribute. I get it.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I had someone who would want me to elaborate on a personal development goal, ask me a follow-up question when I tried to talk about incorporating mindfulness into my day, or better yet – tell me that they would love to watch/read/listen to what I was raving about.
It never happens. For example, my colleague asked me the other day why I appeared to be staring off into space while eating lunch, instead of reading a book or catching up on emails. I started to tell her about an article I had read on mindful eating, and was kind of excited to explain how I thought it would help improve my relationship with food (which has never been great). She let out a genuinely surprised laugh, shook her head, and said “Right – good luck with that”. Similarly, my spouse asked me if I wanted him to bring my phone downstairs – assuming I had forgotten it in the bedroom, and wanted it by my side in the living room. He had helpful intentions, but I explained to him that I was actually making a conscious effort to unplug, and trying to avoid looking at my phone few a few hours before bed. I actually wanted to launch into it, as I was finding it quite helpful, but lost my wind when I realized he was staring at me as if I had suddenly sprouted three horns out of my forehead. His face was utterly perplexed – I was deliberately ignoring my phone?!
In both cases the people were just poking fun at me. I wasn’t at all offended. It was possible that I had even caught them off guard by broaching a subject they were unfamiliar with, and they weren’t really sure what to say. All that being said, it sometimes bums me out that I have less and less in common with people, and, more worrisome, that I am having trouble relating to some of my closest friends and family. The above examples sound trivial, of course. But, as I continue to work, and grow, it ultimately means I am becoming a different person. While I think it’s for the better, it’s isolating. And I feel mis-understood.
I’m working on assertiveness, for example, and am (truly) proud of myself when I’m able to be honest about how I’m feeling – maybe it’s declining something I’m not comfortable doing, admitting that I need some down time, or communicating to someone when I am upset. To others, however, I am often perceived as being “difficult” or “selfish”, among other things, as I am typically the people-pleaser of the group. My new attitudes and behaviours may now be confusingly unexpected, to some.
I also can’t help but sometimes feel frustrated, and am having an increased difficulty in communicating with people who aren’t on the same page as me, emotionally. Maybe I try to proactively approach a family member about a conflict, only to have them lash out and shut down. Other times I have to bite my tongue extra-hard when a colleague is passive aggressive. I work hard at being a better communicator, and owning my own shit, and wish other people could do the same.
To be clear – I have no sense of superiority over anyone. I still have my moments where I lash out as a defense mechanism, even though I know better. And five years ago? Well, I’ll be honest that I was possibly the passive-aggressive one. I have no right to tell someone how they should/shouldn’t be feeling, or how to live their life. I ultimately work on the stuff I do in an effort to find contentment and peace within myself, create my own happiness, and have more authentic relationships with others. It’s also not lost on me that part of my self-improvement work should include having more patience and compassion with other people who struggle with their emotions, and might not have some of the knowledge and skills I’ve developed. Not everyone has the luxury to focus on this stuff like I do, and I should remember what it felt like for me, several years ago, to have less of a handle on things.
But – still. I sometimes wish I had people in my life who wanted to learn, grow, and stumble with me. I crave friends or family who will listen to me non-judgementally, and offer validation and support, like I do for them. I wish someone could tell me that they “totally get it” when I said I unplugged for the night, or who congratulated me on setting a boundary, or thanked me for being honest.
I asked my therapist about this one day, and was curious if she struggled with this in her relationships. I was somewhat hoping she would tell me that it wasn’t difficult for her, but she confirmed that it was in fact very isolating, at times, and admitted that she didn’t have a large circle of friends (although this didn’t mean she didn’t have valuable relationships, or people that she could depend on). She also pointed out that I could seek out the support and connection in other ways. Maybe I didn’t have to ask my friends to read the same self help book that I did – maybe I could engage with others who had posted reviews about it online. Maybe I could gain a sense of connection with people who hosted podcasts or YouTubed about topics that were interesting to me by commenting on posts and becoming a regular follower. Or maybe I take the time to write blog posts like this one 😉
I’m learning that there are in fact kindred spirits out there. I just might have to search a little bit. Ultimately, I don’t want to stop this journey that I am on. I like the direction I am headed in, the person I am becoming, and hopefully one day I’ll pick up a few more companions for the ride.