I had a friend go through a breakup a few months ago and recently, he started feeling ready to put himself back out there in the dating scene.
“I’m feeling this urge to become social lately,” he said, “which isn’t like me. I’m not a social person. But sometimes, when I feel social, I forget that I don’t know how to be that way. If I keep practicing, it’s like I grow another limb on my body. But if I don’t keep practice, I lose it. I want to grow it back again, Misha!”
I thought about what he said for a while. The sensation inside of him to be more social, but how it felt like listening to that wasn’t truly authentic. Instead, it felt like he grew another arm or something. This made me think about how I defined myself.
Spontaneous but also loves to plan. Sometimes an introvert, sometimes an extrovert – it depends on my mood. Still unsure about whether I truly enjoy cooking. High anxiety but loves anything that will give me an adrenaline rush. Sometimes an overthinker and other times, impulsive.
Looking at these small parts of my nature, you can probably tell that none of them are seemingly consistent. They all fluctuate from one end of the pendulum to another, something I’ve never thought twice about until I kept hitting a wall with people. Suddenly all I felt was misunderstood. Having partners tell me I’m “too complex”, which really just translates to “I can’t seem to put you in a box.”
In therapy, we discuss words in-depth – mostly because as a writer, that’s how I make sense of the world. What I’ve come to notice, is that the language we use is often what shapes everything around us. These labels of social, loner, spontaneous, level-headed, flaky, or what have you – all of these are often conjured up in our childhood. Deep down, we’re still those kids that felt lonely or left out, different or awkward.
I asked my friend whether he was really a solitary person or if he just maintained that over time because it was how he understood himself to be. If he’s suddenly feeling social, shouldn’t that mean that there is a part of him that wants to be more connected? Maybe even a part that he’s ignored over time or hasn’t accessed enough. This doesn’t mean he’s suddenly an “extrovert” or that he shouldn’t spend time on his own. It just means if he’s feeling social, he should listen to that.
I think we’re all fairly a mix of contradictions and in a world where we wish to simplify everything, we’re told we have to maintain certain parts of ourselves so that others can make sense of who we are. Oftentimes, this is the exact reason we begin to feel disconnected.
So maybe my friend isn’t growing another limb each time he is more social. Maybe he’s just accessing a part of him that was always there but has never been given the space to grow.
I think our bodies know far more about who we are and what we need than our minds do. If we can just follow those cues or instincts as they come, well then we’re actually being authentic even if that means we’re harder to make sense of.
As much as we would love to be understood by the collective, wouldn’t you love feeling aligned with yourself just a little more?