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September 01, 2014 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Personality

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Can't just be myself

Question:

When I am around people other than my family I become extremely shy, introverted, self conscious and quiet. I can't just be open and relax and be myself and say what I think, because I worry that I won't be liked. I just spent a week on a camp with a group of 'friends' and lots of other people who I'd never met before. The first couple of days I was confident, and felt outgoing and was able to 'be myself'. But as the week went on I became more and more quiet. By the end even the group of friends I went with seemed to think there was something wrong with me, and that I was a bit strange. From the comments they made and their behavior, I got a strong feeling that they didn't like me and thought I was weird. This happens a lot. Even at school I often sit by myself in classes because I can't talk to people openly. I end up feeling depressed, frustrated, and I often binge on junk food (once I ate six chocolate bars in one afternoon).

How can I stop worrying about what others think of me and just be myself?

Jennie, 18-year-old woman

Answer:

The majority of people are extroverts. That leaves introverts in the minority, which doesn't mean introverts are wrong. I'm an introvert. I generally process feelings by myself, rather than with a gang. People are different from each other. Some people love bungie jumping, while others enjoy operating on elbows.

Going away for a week with a group of friends (friends you put in quotes) and lots of other people would be intense, if you are an introvert. You did fine for a couple of days, but it sounds like a week was too long. Next time why not accept that two days is the right amount of time for you to go away with people and not hit yourself over the head with candy bars or anything else?

Frankly, there is hardly any group I could spend a week with without partially deteriorating. There was a group of therapists I did serious work with working with survivors and offenders of sexual child abuse. Then every year we went to a conference center near the ocean to recover by laughing and being silly. I thoroughly enjoyed their company and went on vacation with them for years after I stopped working with their group. But I also walked on the boardwalk by myself over the course of our stay and found other ways to go off alone and walk, think, nap and write.

You're young, just finding out what kind of grownup you'll be. (I'm middle aged and continue refining my preferences.) I suggest you find how much time you like to spend with different people and accept this about yourself. You can get a journal and do some writing. Analyze when you were comfortable and how this changed on the trip. Get to know your preferences by writing about your experiences. Personally, I listen closely, so I have a limited amount of time I can spend with people who talk incessantly. So what? That's who I am.

Knowing yourself will help you choose your career. I generally prefer to talk with one person than with a group. So outside of teaching, I'm a psychotherapist and do body work.

It sounds like you judge yourself and think other people judge you, whether they do or not. You say you worry that you won't be liked. Take an interest in the other person. Ask questions and follow-up questions. You'll get out of yourself and learn and move closer to people a step at a time.

Leya Aum, MA, MFCC

This question was answered by Leya Aum. She is California licensed marriage, family, child counselor certified in clinical hypnosis. She teaches Feldenkrais Method® of Neuromuscular Relearning, is practitioner of the Bowen Technique and Jin Shin Jyutsu®. She is also human resources consultant, writer and editor.

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