Introversion, Misfittery & How To Build A Real Person

I grew up in a very loving family. I knew my parents loved me and they told me so. I had a big brother who, despite the odd dead-leg and headlock, always had my back and was on my side. We were well looked after and enjoyed the simple pleasures of family walks at weekends and cosy Christmases in front of log fires. And yet, as I grew from a confident and carefree toddler and then young child, things started to change. I became more insular, spending more time playing on my own (or with snails, or my imaginary horses whom I fed rhubarb leaves, or writing odd little stories and poems). Gradually, and imperceptibly, my introverted nature was beginning to emerge. This was a completely natural process, but as I grew older and life changed around me, I began to develop a sense that I was perhaps a bit of a misfit amongst my more outgoing and outspoken friends. Having just come out of the other side of Christmas, feeling a bit down and a bit uncomfortable in my own skin, I was reminded of one of my early encounters with feelings of misfittery as a girl.

My brother and I are the only members of our family born in England. Everyone else, including my parents, were born in another country. When I was a child my parents, especially my dad, would get very nostalgic about the country of his birth. We would listen to tales and music from his childhood and be regaled with stories of the hardships and the humour of growing up there. And I could certainly see the charm, and I totally understood his enthusiasm and need for these reminiscences when he was far away from his wider family and history. The only problem was, over the years, and after the tales were no longer new, and I realised I didn’t like the music so much actually, this annual immersion started to make me feel somewhat out of place – because that was not my history, not my home.

This was compounded by the trips we made to visit relatives. Amongst my cousins I would sometimes feel like an alien. They would make fun of my “posh” accent, and I often felt sad they didn’t seem to think we had much in common. I tried too hard to be liked by them and it had the opposite effect. The final indignity came when my brother (the one person who I felt I should have been able to rely on as an ally – given he was from the same country of birth as me), started to also immerse himself in these stories of the old country. He would encourage my dad in his ponderings, and worse still, eventually in his teasing of me because I just didn’t get it. I started to dread Christmas – trapped in a room with people who were enjoying things I just couldn’t connect with, and feelings of guilt because I didn’t. They would laugh at my discomfort and dismiss it as silliness and immaturity. This seemed particularly unfair as, surely it was my parent’s choice where I was born, and so why was I being persecuted because it wasn’t the same as for them? Though I did on occasion try and explain how I felt, my voice was too young, or my articulation of the issue too poorly formed to help them understand how out of place and isolated they inadvertently made me feel.

Lots of people find Christmas difficult. I know I am not alone in this. And this one annual deference to my father’s nostalgia would probably not have been an issue at all had I felt more secure in myself in other ways. But sadly this was not the case. We moved about a lot when I was young. As my father worked hard to provide us with the best life he possibly could, we moved home as he moved job. Unfortunately this also meant my brother and I would be ripped from the friends we had made and then have to start again from scratch. As very young children I think this was probably manageable. But as we grew up, so did the strength of our attachments and the impact of their ending. One particular move – at the age of eleven (my brother fourteen) was the toughest of all. We were moving from a place we had called home for longer than anywhere else, and leaving those friends and that sense of security broke my heart. I still remember the phone number and postcode of that house. I still have vivid and unsettling dreams about it regularly. I remember my best friend’s phone number, her birthday and, for a very long time, mourned the growing up we were not going to get to do together.

The first day at every new school was always terrifying and stressful for me. I so badly wanted to be liked and to fit in. I would build myself up into such a frenzied state of tension that I would throw up on the way home from these trials without fail. My brother would despair of me for trying to change my accent to make it sound more like the new people at school. But I was willing to try anything so that I wasn’t so obviously the outsider they all knew me to be.

And, I did make friends, and eventually, I did fit in. But a price had been paid. Unlike many of my classmates who had grown up together, who had a chance to find out who they were in a relatively stable environment, I had been formed somewhat unnaturally – having to adapt to wherever I found myself and whoever I found myself amongst – losing confidence in myself in the process, and forming a strange hybrid person who really wasn’t sure who she was supposed to be at all.

And, this pattern continued on into adulthood. As I left for university (a time when many young adults can finally throw themselves into their newly discovered selves with full force), I was still very much a square creature on the inside, trying to fit into the circular spaces offered to me. This led me to attach myself to people I had little in common with, but without the self-awareness to recognise this or the fortitude to change it.

And now, in my early forties, I am finally starting to understand this hotchpotch of a person that was formed through those early years. It is all thanks to suffering from depression that this transpired. I had experienced depression when I was younger (though I didn’t know that was what it was at the time). But it wasn’t until I completely lost the plot in my mid-thirties that my fragile foundations disintegrated in front of my eyes and those of the people that love me. My husband said he didn’t recognise me. I was exhibiting all sorts of out of character behaviour. The ‘Me’ I had created out of necessity had imploded. And now, having gone through counselling, and a lot of soul-searching, and some grieving, I am starting to rebuild myself, hopefully to form a more fully functional, integrated, authentic person who would pass a structural inspection. (I have tried to capture this process in fairy-tale form in ‘The Path To Wise Counsel – A Tale’).

Last year, whilst going through counselling, my best friend sent me a supportive message, with the most beautiful words about me that anyone had ever said. Her words brought me to tears. I was incredibly moved, and very hopeful that the good she saw in me was a true reflection of some part of me that I could retain.

It is way beyond time that I finally get to know and present the real me to the world. And, over the last couple of years, having experienced anxiety attacks for the first time in my life, I am left wondering if perhaps this is in response to an increasing feeling of urgency to find myself and become the true person I was born to be.

Last week I read about a man in Indonesia who has just celebrated his 146th Birthday. Honestly! 146! The oldest man to have ever lived (that we know of) – born in 1870. Of course, he is a rarity in the extreme – but he gave me great hope that there is still enough time to figure it all out. And I am confident it isn’t going to take nearly that long :).


Copyright © 2017 · Words · Forty and Everything After

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23 thoughts on “Introversion, Misfittery & How To Build A Real Person

    • The uncertainty and insecurity that such upheaval can create is often underestimated by those who haven’t experienced it. And, of course, different people cope in different ways. I was (and remain) quite a sensitive soul, and so such things hit me hard and messed with my sense of self enormously. I am only understanding that fully now. But learning about who we are and how we became that way is one of life’s great challenges and journeys. I just feel lucky that I have a chance to discover and change as a result. Thanks so much for reading :)

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  1. Wow this is an amazing story. I am a misfit regardless of my introversion 😂 but I came into my personality a couple years ago. Still, it was interesting to hear about someone else like me.

    Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome! I don’t know if you saw my post on normalcy, but “normal” doesn’t exist. At least not in the sense that society defines it. “Normal” varies from person to person. My normal is blogging, studying for university, reading, cooking, etc. It’s different from, say, Taylor Swift’s normal which is having concerts, writing music, promoting, and all that. But both of our normals are equally real.

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      • You make a very good point (though I’m not sure I can quite stretch to Taylor Swift’s life being any form of normal :). But as you rightly suggest, it is kind of irrelevant in any case. We are all individual and could completely validly experience the exact same thing entirely differently. It is all part of being human and being unique, and no-one has the right to judge anyone else’s reality as a result. Complex for some to swallow, but such is life :)

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      • Well no when I say normal, I mean your life is your normal. It’s normal for you. That’s why everyone’s “normal” differs because everyone’s life is different. :)

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  2. I can totally relate to your story. I have been exhausted for most of my life trying to fit in, figuring things out and looking for validation until I discovered my introvert personality two years ago which brought changes that weren’t easy, to say the least. But figuring out oneself and loving oneself in the process made it all worth it. I hope you know your tale connects and tells me I am not alone in this journey (among all others who are on it) and that we still have years and years of figuring things out and become better versions of ourselves. Have a great week.

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    • Ah, thank you so much for your comment. It means the world to know that you felt a connection with it and that it was worth me writing and sharing. I struggled with this one in particular for some reason. I reworked it several times before I felt it was in any sort of order to be worth sharing. So to hear that you found it useful and you can see a reflection of your own experience in it means so much. Thank you for sharing a bit of your own story and here’s to less exhaustion for us both and being more loving of our true valuable selves. Xx

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      • Amen to that. I felt the same way when I started blogging knowing that I want to share my story of introversion and crossing over from a lot of made up plans in my life. It was a struggle to write because I’m not a writer in the first place but more so when I hit the publish button because I don’t usually put myself out there. But for the past 6 months, I could say I am glad to have done it and the chance to connect with people who understands. :)

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      • Putting ourselves out there is a challenge for sure, especially for us introverts, but I have found I have gained so much from creating these connections, and I have found the Blogosphere a unexpectedly supportive and constructive place to hang out. I am grateful that I found my way here :)

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      • I feel the same way. The kindess and support is just overwhelming. I have often thought I am more ‘outgoing’ here than in any other social gatherings I’ve attended, like being my most extroverted version in my own space and place. ;)

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  3. I understand totally with this. I was outgoing and loved to talk up until I was 8 or so and then adolescence kicked in, becoming introverted. I had sporadic friends (I got along with anyone) but they are friends for life. Of course it’s hard when you’re growing up in the 90’s everyone had a huge group of friends based off of trends (I couldn’t afford the latest fashion trends). On my father’s side, I don’t mix well with my female cousins. I always felt left out and awkward like in a competition. So I get it and I’m glad that you were able to find yourself whole.

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    • Wow, it seems like we had pretty similar experiences. I’ve never fitted in with the latest trends or the ‘cool people’. But I’ve got to a place where I’m pretty happy with my non-cool self. I could be a lot worse. And those that were the cool kids are not all so cool anymore? The playing field levels as the years pass and we all find and fit into our own special us shaped groove. Thanks so much for your comment :)

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  4. Oh my, we are far more alike in our life experiences than I’ve known before. And that’s something for someone I already feel such an affinity for. Thank you for sharing this. It was great. I am beginning to get a new piece of the “puzzle” of being human that I’m about to share in my blog. Your story is confirmation of the experience of others that is so much like myself and that I think is so important for others like us to hear about. Clarity is a wonderful thing. And sometimes it feels difficult to live in confusion or a haze until clarity comes, often only with time. It’s a strange gift, but a gift all the same, to not know you are in a haze, or in the unknown. Haze is my own word for what I felt being moved around so much and having to find my “solid ground” each time I had to go to a new school or make new friends, etc. There is enough time! There is! :)

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    • Thanks so much for your comments Monique, as always :) It certainly would seem we have been running on parallel tracks doesn’t it? Each piece of the puzzle is a blessing – walking us toward our own clarity, however long that may take. As you say it is very reassuring (for me too) that what I write about means something to someone else and they can recognise some of that in their own journey. It not only makes it worth writing but helps individuals know they are not alone, or weirder than the next guy, or wrong for having found things hard that others might appear to sail through (which of course they won’t be, everybody has their own private struggles). Making those experiences less privates as we do, can help the next person feel valid in their own struggle, whatever it may be. I look forward to reading your new piece :)

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  5. Hi, there, my name is Truly…I just wanted to say that what you wrote resonates, is beautifully expressed, and is sure to be a comfort and inspiration to others….and, as for time, I believe that you will have the time to not only rediscover/reclaim all of who you are–but that you will enjoy many decades of being your best you….and, the world will be better for it…thanks for your willingness to share and contribute to collective healing and growth….your “voice” is brave and lovely and needed :)

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