Lately, I have been thinking about exactly how baffled I am by most people in the world. I am not the most worldly person. The limitations of my body mean I have spent enormous pieces of my life in quiet isolation, not terribly exposed to the myriad of types of people out there. When I became a woman, I refused to allow my physical limitations to control the direction of my life, so I found ways to get out and have adventures and explore the world. This is in large part thanks to the kindness of friends who are willing to let me tag along with them and also take me on adventures of my own design. The more I’m out in the world, the more I realize how little I understand of people and their odd and often inconsiderate ways. The growing lack of sensitivity in the world is often shocking to me, as is the growing inability to consider the other side of an issue. Everything has become a grand exercise in us vs them, and I’m right and you’re wrong. Where is the solidarity? Where is the ability to look beyond the facade and see the humanity in every person?
Recently, an acquaintance abruptly and completely left and cut me off from her life. I asked why because when I do something wrong, it is in my nature to try and make it right. I really try not to offend people or hurt them but I am human and sometimes I make mistakes. The response I got was surprising though. I was told that she’s distancing herself from a certain group and then said that I haven’t been very friendly the few times we’ve seen each other. She also alleged that I called her a fangirl, which is simply something I honestly never remember doing at all. That’s really beside the point. I was bothered by the reasoning because it sounded like my association with a certain group and my support of that group devalued me to the point of not being worthy of knowing me. There is a great deal more to me than association with this or that group. I’m an individual with a lot of interests. As I thought about it more, I can honestly say I don’t remember meeting this person. You see, I’m really much more of an introvert than even I give myself credit for because when I’m around people I don’t know very well, I clam up and I never know what to say. I have introverted friends who are so good at social interaction and they have developed social skills that make people feel acknowledged and welcome. I lack those skills. I’m the girl at parties who sits off to the side and watches people but never really gets involved with what they’re doing. I’m very uncomfortable around people unless I know them quite well. So this accusation that I haven’t been very receptive or friendly or whatever the exact word was hit me as a total mystery because I had no idea I had done such a thing. My awkward and anxiety-riddled nature seems to present this false idea about me to others that I’m standoffish or perhaps even a snob. I simply don’t know how to connect with people in person that I don’t know very well. In this case, it has given someone the idea that I’m a bad person.
The lesson here is two-sided. One of the lessons is that introverted people or people who struggle in social situations need to be more mindful of how their silence affects people around them. Silence or inability to connect is apparently interpreted by other people as not being liked or rudeness or standoffishness or snobbishness even if those things aren’t true. On the flip side of this issue, next time you see someone exhibiting those traits, especially in social gatherings, don’t jump to a negative conclusion right away. Consider the possibility that such a person might be so uncomfortable that they’re frozen with fear that they’ll do or say something awkward and then everybody will know how alone they are in their everyday lives. People who find it easier to be alone don’t always like it but that’s how it is. Anxiety disorders are invisible problems so often misread and misunderstood by others.
I realized through this little incident exactly how much of a contradiction I really am. I make my living by dealing with people every day and helping them with their spiritual problems but it’s not face to face. Dealing with people I don’t know very well face to face is petrifying most of the time. A lot of people know who I am but I have very few in my life who I really call friends. I’m a contradiction. I am me but I’m a clear contradiction, obviously.
I thought further about contradictions and decided that I’m full of them. I crave the love of a man but I feel suffocated if a man wants too much affection. I write novels with themes of love but I’m incredibly cynical about love in reality. I’m highly opinionated to a fault but I can’t seem to stand up for myself when I’m hurt. I’m incredibly feminine and I feel like myself when I’m being a lady with classical dresses and manners, but then I have this other side of hating wearing clothes and I’ll sit around my house half-dressed. Part of me is very conservative with thinking women are better equipped to be homemakers and mothers if they choose, yet I am incredibly liberal politically and I freak out when men try to force those roles on women. I constantly push people to love themselves and believe in their worth, but I consider myself a very inept artist, writer and, at times, inept as a woman in general. I’m a staunch believer in the paranormal, but the more “evidence” I see, the more skeptical I am.
That’s just the tip of the contradictory iceberg!
But you know what? I am myself no matter how many contradictions and flaws I might have. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. It has taken me a long time to really know myself and I’m still working on it. My life is an ongoing experiment in spiritual development and I won’t grasp everything in this life but I’m trying to leave this world in a better condition than when I entered it.
And I’m willing to bet that if the rest of you looked at yourselves, you’d find quite a few contradictions in yourselves too. Don’t be afraid of self-examination because it can help you understand other people better too. I’ve learned that even though I am an anxiety-riddled introvert, I need to be more careful about making people feel welcome and connected when I meet them.
What can you learn from your own contradictions?