For a long time, I have related to giraffes. I towered over my classmates at an early age and felt like my awkwardness made me stand out. Just like the giraffe, it was hard to blend in. There’s no place for a giraffe to hide, and I felt like all of my insecurities were equally on full display for everyone to see.
Experiences over the past two weekends have left me with an overwhelming sense of peace in the realization of how far I’ve come on this journey of self-acceptance in just a short time frame. And I credit it with being honest and open in writing while working hard to internalize these new ways of seeing others and myself.
I’m usually hesitant about going to parties because it can be awkward to make small talk, especially with people I don’t know very well. I tend to latch on to the few individuals I know and follow them around. So far, December has meant plenty of social situations as I’ve attended four parties. That’s a lot!
For once, though, I was much better prepared to be myself. Better prepared to offer some updates on what has been happening in my life. Going beyond the “I’m fine” responses and actually sharing something real! Of course, there were a few people I spoke to who were only after the polite chitchat. Those encounters were fairly easy to identify.
There was a moment when I was talking to someone and I was close to leaving it a bit impersonal but there was something in her expression that prompted me to share more. So while I was conversing with someone I knew and liked, I still had to force myself a bit to “bite the bullet” and dive a bit deeper, more personal. And it was well received! Yay!
I was able to verbally share with another friend about some of the benefits I’ve experienced through my writing efforts. This particular person knew some details but didn’t know the extent of what I’ve been working toward on this blog. I was able to describe more confidence in myself and in the various ways I make contributions. Since I’ve written about many of these moments, it meant that the words were more easily accessible as I vocalized the concepts. An added bonus!
My effort to shift from an all negative perspective to a more positive and balanced one is having tremendous ripple effects. Not in every aspect of my life, but at least in more areas. It’s becoming easier to see the little successful aspects instead of grouping everything together or assuming the worst.
I managed to be in these social situations, handling the crowds and noise, and more or less doing well with the frequent transitions associated with talking to different people. It was a welcomed change to walk away from these encounters feeling good about the experiences rather than focusing solely on what could have been better.
Part of the realizations I’ve come to is that I’ve allowed fear to have too much control. I’m tired of being scared and of worrying about what others think. Mostly I’m tired of feeling like I have to continue being that frightened chameleon that seeks the shadows, forced to just blend in rather than standing out.
And more and more I’m feeling a sense of peace about my quirks, putting less pressure on myself to speak if I truly don’t have something to share. Embracing the silence more rather than agonizing over the lack of contribution. And, likewise, I find myself having things to contribute and finding more opportunities to share. They may not be perfect deliveries but the effort is there. And even if it means stumbling through an explanation, I’m trying and doing it anyhow.
I’m making the efforts to be in social situations that I know will be uncomfortable and trying to focus less on the externals. The externals are usually what trip me up when making comparisons and evaluating myself. Instead I’ve been able to walk away with an exhilarating feeling for having pushed the boundaries of the comfort zone and finding varying degree of success. I’m looking for more positives in the effort rather than just a dreary mess. And I’m seeing my value and my worth much deeper than the limited ways I saw them before.
And the biggest difference is that even though doubts creep in or I hesitate about how something might turn out, I’m working toward not allowing those moments to prevent me from trying. Instead, I’ve made the effort anyway and have been pleasantly surprised at the outcomes, typically better than expected. It’s not that the doubts have been eradicated, but that I’m trying not to allow them to paralyze me into inaction.
I have quirks. I have certain sensitivities. And that’s ok. They aren’t always easy to deal with but I’m finding ways to cope — mostly by not having to pretend and hide. I don’t need to become a chameleon and cover up various things to win approval. The people who matter are understanding. They care about me, too. They don’t want me to hide. So I can be me and share without missing out on those opportunities to have a community around me (as I wrote about before).
I’m standing up for myself more and advocating for what I need. It doesn’t always happen with the speed and immediacy as I’d like, but it’s improving. (The recent effort to address disruptions to sleep is a good example.) I’m realizing I have a right to acknowledge what’s bothering me instead of feeling like it’s better to keep things bottled up. And that’s a big deal!
Through the writing I am learning more and more how everyone puts on a mask to some extent. There’s some sort of struggle, whether it’s acknowledged or not. So, each person is dealing with something. I don’t need to feel weird.
And I’m embracing my height more. I still tower over people at times but it doesn’t have to be a source of awkwardness. The height is what it is. And being an adult now, that means it’s less of a problem. Hey, I’m easier to spot in a crowd! And I don’t have to be right in front to see things. What more could you ask for?