Should I change who I am?
I am worried because there are people who seem to think that I'm a little off the wall. The truth is that I have a very good sense of humor and I display this quite openly. I thought that if you knew someone well enough, then certain things would be allowed. Like making silly jokes and playful physical contact. The people who have this impression of me are my boyfriend and some of my classmates whom I have known for almost four years and have spent time with outside of the classroom.
Strangely enough, my lecturers at the university do not think this way and are very proud of my academic achievements and spend time talking with me about current issues, their personal lives and my future. These topics don't interest the group mentioned above. They are more into gossip and dirty jokes. I tend to be better respected by older people--they don't treat me like their children and they take an interest in my development.
Is there something 'wrong' with my behavior? How important is it for me to be accepted by my peers and to what degree? Should I try to change? (I don't want to, I like myself just the way I am)
First of all, I would like to reassure you that you are not the only one who worries about what other people think of them. I am confident that, more often than not, people want to be liked, respected, and appreciated by their peers and elders. Is there something wrong with your behavior? Only you can answer that question.
It sounds to me that it is very important for you to be accepted by your peers, otherwise you would not have written us. Perhaps this importance will lessen over time. In reference to your sense of humor, everybody has a sense of humor of some kind. It takes all kinds of humor to make the world go round. Some people have a witty sense of humor while others have a dry sense of humor. Regardless of what kind of sense of humor that you feel you have, nurture it, build on it, and don't let anybody, boyfriend included, try to tear it down or minimize its importance to you.
I agree that with long term friendship comes a certain comfort level. Remember that, even with that comfort level, one has to read each person and each relationship before venturing into the joke telling and physical touching arena. You will be surprised how the people whom you thought would be open to joke telling and playfulness take offense to it, while the people whom you think will be offended are open to all kinds of playfulness. Also, just because somebody is uncomfortable with physical contact, it does not necessarily mean they think any less of you. They may simply be uncomfortable within themselves. Some people prefer to keep a large "personal space" while others are comfortable with 'playful physical contact'. Don't take it personally either way.
I am glad to hear that your university professors are providing you with respect that you obviously crave and deserve. Focus on the positive energy you are getting from them. Life is too short to worry about 'what others think of you. It might be helpful if you confide in your closest friend and ask him or her if, in their opinion, you are being offensive if any way. If they are a good friend they will be honest with you and will not judge you. No matter what they say, you have the right to take it or leave it.
You may decide to remove yourself from the company of those who do not appreciate you for the way you are. Life is also too short to associate with people that do not treat you the way you expect and deserve to be treated. It is not uncommon to 'grow' out of relationships with people for that very reason. In any event, gossip, otherwise known as character assassination has no rightful place in any situation, no matter what. Telling dirty jokes should be up to each individual and each situation should be evaluated prior to telling the dirty joke. I get the impression that you are not fond of gossip and dirty jokes, and that is admirable. You can be an example to others of how gossip does not serve any positive purpose.
Take care of yourself and don't worry about the actions and behaviors of others. If you feel that there are things about you that you would like to change, then go for it. It is never too late to make a change in life. On the other hand, if you like yourself the way you are why change? If something isn't broken, then why try to fix it? Good luck!
This question was answered by Kasey Hamner. Kasey Hamner has a Bachelor of Art degree in Psychology, a Masters of Science degree in Counseling, a Pupil Personnel Services Credential authorizing her services as a School Psychologist, and is a Licensed Educational Psychologist. She specializes in adoption related issues including search and reunion, abandonment, self-esteem, substance abuse, depression, and relationship difficulties. Also amongst her specialties are children's issues including adoption, abandonment, ADD, special education and so on. Her approach is eclectic and is adapted to suit the individual's needs.