The wall that I guess I built between myself and everyone else for protection at some point. Almost every social situation I feel out of place, like an outsider, like I shouldn’t be there. It doesn’t matter how nice people are to me or how welcome they try to make me feel. It doesn’t matter how much I have in common with them on paper. I can’t get past this feeling.
The standard advice for overcoming it doesn’t seem to help in my case. It mostly boils down to “just keep putting yourself in social situations and you’ll feel better”, or for the next stage, “try sharing something more personal with people and you’ll find you have more in common with them than you think”. Trouble is, even after putting myself in social situations for over two decades, I still feel this way. And when I try sharing something more personal with someone and they seem to accept it and still treat me the same, my immediate thought is “they obviously didn’t grasp what a big deal that was, otherwise they wouldn’t still be talking to me”.
Beyond that, all you really get is fairly meaningless and vague stuff like “you have to be be open to it” and “you have to give people a chance”. Well, no offence to those who say that stuff, I’m sure they do mean well, but I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with that advice. I’m “open” to socialising in the sense that I keep putting myself in social situations, and I “give people a chance” insofar as I keep trying to talk to them, but that hasn’t worked and I don’t know what more I can do. I can’t directly control how these situations make me feel. If I feel alienated and out of place, I can’t force myself to not feel alienated and out of place. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
Probably the most poignant example of this is that I’ve spent 20 years now working in a workplace that’s pretty friendly, that’s full of people who have loads in common with me in various different ways, some of whom have tried to reach out… and even there I still feel out of place. I’m a parent now too… but I feel horrendously out of place among other parents. I feel like to present yourself to the world as a parent, or as a senior software engineer or whatever, is to bestow yourself with some measure of authority, competence and validity, and in my case I feel that’s totally misplaced and undeserved.
Ah well. I suppose there’s one positive thing. You might notice that in the first paragraph I said I feel out of place in almost every social situation. That’s an improvement on a few years ago where I could have honestly said every social situation. Now I have a handful of people who I don’t feel out of place around, and I am massively grateful for that, more grateful than they’ll probably ever know. If I could spend all my time around those few people, there would be no issue… but sadly life isn’t as simple as that, and I’d rather not be spending the majority of my time feeling like an outsider.
Come on, brain. Tear down this wall. You built the fucking thing after all. I don’t think anyone else can do it but you. Please?