What other words enter your head when I mention the words “different” or “alternative”? How would you feel if somebody used the words “different” or “alternative” to describe you? Would you see it as a condemnation, implying you are somewhere you don’t belong, or would you see it as a compliment, implying you are creative or individual? In the past twelve months, I’ve steadily progressed from the former to the latter.
Twelve months ago, I was a lot more reserved than I am today. I was quite defensive when in the company of others, and kept parts of me hidden that I didn’t want anybody to know. I even invented things just to fit in – truth be told: I really don’t care about football. I was just so worked up about creating the right impression, believing that the real me was just a flawed and socially-unacceptable mass. There was actually nothing wrong with me, just part-and-parcel of being an introvert, and the more I came to accept my introversion, the less I had to pretend and the less it bothered me. The tiny handful of strong relationships I have are of exponentially more value than all the casual acquaintances.
When I’m at work, I kind-of just blend in. The company dress code means I don’t look noticeably different to anyone else, I get on with my work just like everyone else, and at lunchtime, I do what introverts usually do and grab some all-important me-time away from my desk. I am my true self the whole time I’m in the office, but the avenues for self-expression are rather limited – I am on company time, after all. Outside of work, when I’m no longer bound by company policy, the true self becomes noticeably visible; in other words: I look different. Ever seen a man wandering around the Midlands wearing a kilt? If you have, it was probably me. I could NEVER have done that twelve months ago.
Being among a tiny minority of kilt-wearers in the Midlands (I don’t assume I’m the only one) has taught me one thing: nobody really minds “different”. The people who know me best already accept me for who I am, and they’re the only people who matter. Pretty-much everybody else is too busy concentrating on their own little agenda so, if I’m not breaking any laws or causing any harm, nobody’s really minds. A few may giggle or make silly remarks, but that’s either jealousy or ignorance at work. I found expressing this more visibly-adventurous side of me got easier the more I kept at it – my self-consciousness continually decreased over time, and I became more comfortable in my surroundings.
If you’ve had any similar experiences, or if you feel you are struggling to be the real you, feel free to leave a comment below.