I have always attributed my inner loneliness to being weird and unrelatable to others.
Ever since I was a child, I was interested in activities no other children were interested in, like reading ancient Chinese literature and thinking about the things no other children were thinking about, like why there are hungry orphans in the world.
Then my family and I moved to Los Angeles from China when I was 11, setting off another awkward and lonesome period of my life. Being weird is one thing, not knowing the language and the vocabulary to explain yourself is quite another. Not only was I struggling with a new and vastly different culture, catching up on what other sixth graders were interested in and befriending them was hopeless.
I remember making a conscious decision in my young mind that I should just give up on trying to connect with others to make friends, because what’s the point? This mentality, which stemmed from disappointment and frustration, would carry far into my adult life, continuing the narrative in my mind that I was weird and unrelatable.
It became natural for me to think no one understood who I was and no one ever would. I gave into conformity and kept the “weird” parts of me to myself, showing the world just enough of me to fit in and live my life peacefully. In hindsight, it is no wonder I never met anyone who got me, because I’d never truly shared who I was. And if I ever slipped and let that part of me show, the slightest pause in our conversation or split-second blank stare would scare me back into my shell all over again.
I went on to look for relationships, even jobs, that would reinforce that mentality, by trying to blend in, and I found haven in the corporate world. Of course, you as a reader already know that this was not sustainable. All I did was suppress self-expression that had been been accumulating day by day, year by year.
Interestingly enough, after I left my corporate job to pursue my own independent career, and taking full advantage of my freedom to work with whomever I choose, I found myself attracting more and more people who were like-minded and of similar vibration. Whenever I marvel at the miraculous synchronicities, I begin to realize more and more why that is.
Without having to conform to the environment around me, I unknowingly started to come out of my shell, little by little. The three-month grace period I granted myself following the leave, I spent nurturing the feelings of self-appreciation and comfort, and I used it to self-reflect. What kind of relationships did I want moving forward? And what type of professional relationships would I want to build for my long-term success?
The joy I experienced in those three months formulated the answer I needed—whatever business endeavors awaited, I was going to continue being unapologetically me.
This morning, on an introductory Zoom call with a client who came to us for marketing and PR services, I had déja vu listening to her echoing my own recent experiences. She is a veteran in her industry, well educated across all subjects, has a rich cultural background, and is already a successful entrepreneur; yet she expressed discomfort in telling her personal story because she felt she would be seen as weird and unrelatable, at the same time wondering how her unique perspective and her desire to better the world could come across to the right clients.
I immediately felt my pulse a little stronger, blood flowing, and wasted no time in sharing what I had just gone through. I gave her the following advice in hopes she would be encouraged to share all that she is with the world, and build the clientele she truly desires. I got my confirmation immediately when her eyes lit up and her wonderfully mischievous childhood stories began to flow out naturally and comfortably. (Joy!)
Your “weirdness” is your “uniqueness.”
By now, my own fear of being seen as “weird” is mirrored by so many others I’ve crossed paths with who share the same exact fear. Many of us carry that same weight, the shame we felt perhaps from a young age of being judged, reprimanded, or made fun of, for just being ourselves. We then spent decades trying to fit in, to prove we are “normal” and that we are worthy of love and respect. We diminished all the amazing qualities that make up exactly who we are as unique individuals.
If you ever feel the need to hide your history, struggles, or your emotions to appear “normal” to the rest of the world, consider this: you are actually depriving the world of getting to know you.
What if the world needs your unique personality? What if the world is waiting to hear your personal story? Every single one of your qualities, even if considered “weird,” is a contribution to who you have become and what you have to offer the world.
If you have read this far, you most likely have a desire to be known, to be acknowledged, and you are likely already sharing pieces of you, at least, on a surface level. I encourage you to gently peel off another layer and share a deeper part of you. Because not doing so will keep you wondering and keep you feeling caged.
Like-minded people are trying to find you, too.
Whether you lead a dynamic and interesting life or have a rich inner world, finding people who click with you can seem like a challenge. As I get older, I value those types of connections more and more because I enjoy the flow state of being. I spent many frustrating years trying to figure out how exactly to do that, but it had never occurred to me that they were looking for me, too. And I hadn’t made it easy for them to connect with me.
When I met new people, I stuck with superficial conversations because, again, I didn’t want to be perceived as “weird” and be rejected. When a friendship was formed, I tried to maintain it by exactly how I had earned it, by not being who I truly am. Needless to say, those relationships were unfulfilling and short-lived.
Sharing who you are, authentically in each present moment, not only helps connect to those similar to you, but filters the relationships that are incompatible from the get-go. By bringing your inner world to light, you acknowledge your own uniqueness and allow others to see your existence, thereby making a genuine connection with you.
The more you let other people in, the deeper the connections you will form.
The levels of connection you create with another can be exhilarating but also a little intimidating. Relationships can form from a fun-loving surface level all the way to the intimate parts of your soul.
If you are tired of superficial relationships that bear little fulfillment and want deeper connections you can build on, then your only option is to be brave, open up about your inner world, and let other people in.
This is a beautiful and crafty dance of giving and receiving led by your intuitions.
How deep the connections depends on how vulnerable you allow yourself to become and whether or not others reciprocate. Conversely, you need to be prepared to reciprocate just the same when someone else trusts you enough to show you their inner world.
While this may take some courage to build up to, the reward is well worth the risk.