During middle school, I had a lot of trouble with being bullied. In these years I did everything I could to try avoiding being picked on, made fun of, told to kill myself, and I was in survival mode. I suffered from depression during those years and also from suicidal thoughts and a near suicide attempt. Going forward I was able to cope with the trauma I had experienced but it affected me in many different ways going forward.
As I progressed into high school I began making more friends but I still always felt awkward in social situations. I was a smart kid when it came to school work but I would do anything and everything I could to fit in. This was a maladaptive behavior I had from navigating middle school that had remained with me. It was a survival skill.
Going into my college years I was very similar in being agreeable with others and doing everything I could to ensure they liked me. I had unconsciously learned that when people didn’t like me it would cause them to make fun of me and my life was in jeopardy because of the depression I had experienced that lead to suicidal thoughts. Going forward this maladaptive behavior of fearing not being liked by people lead me to have a ton of mental rigidity in trying to figure out how to fit in and get along with others in my college years. Mental rigidity eventually contributed to the development of schizoaffective disorder.
Over the years I’ve learned that the best way to overcome trauma has been to unlearn the maladaptive behaviors I had developed from traumatic times and replacing them with healthier behaviors. For a while, after my episodes I questioned what was and wasn’t normal and how I had to interact with others to prevent more trauma from happening. I had a friend tell me that being in your thirties is all about breaking away from what everyone thinks of you and just being yourself and this was very helpful to hear. When I compared my internal monologue to what everyone was saying externally I fit in very well but I had issues when I went to speak in communicating my exact thoughts to everyone. After realizing that my internal monologue was very likable and my truest and most honest thoughts were on par and commensurate to what others were saying externally this put the onus on me to figure out how to get the internal thoughts out.
Prior to hearing this, I would be in social situations and my social anxiety and other internal factors would cause me to say things that even I knew were strange. I had difficulty in knowing I couldn’t fit in and wondered why. There is a theory on how sometimes it’s not always good to compare our internal monologue to what everyone is saying externally but this was a situation where it was really helpful. People tend to not divulge their internal thoughts to everyone when speaking therefore sometimes it can be unfair to ourselves to compare the refined and processed thoughts that are spoken by others to our own unrefined internal monologue. This is the case because everyone refines thoughts before speaking them and picks and chooses what to say and not say.
Eventually, I realized my maladaptive behaviors in being socially awkward were a subconscious cause of having been bullied in middle school. My fear of getting made fun of caused me to say awkward things. Being liked by others was a survival technique that made me feel safe from the fear of getting made fun of but it didn’t help me to socialize to the best of my ability. It took courage to make the effort to be myself no matter who I was with. I had to unlearn the trauma that being myself would cause others to make fun of me and to bully me and cause depression and even darker issues. When I finally started allowing myself to comment on my honest and truest thoughts I began making progress with socialization.
My focus was on just saying how I honestly felt as opposed to being agreeable or being disagreeable as a means to fit in. I wanted my internal monologue to become my external monologue with little to no moderation whenever possible. Wherever I stood on an issue was where I would also stand externally and this lead to a lot of good. I started to connect better with others and people were liking me for who I truly was. The idea of being myself came from not having been liked as much for trying to be the same as everyone else or trying to be different. I figured I had nothing to lose at this point since my social life was decent but not anywhere near where I had wanted it to be when I was trying to be just like others or intentionally be the opposite of them.
At first, I felt exposed just divulging my truest thoughts on any subject in any conversation and it made me feel scared. There were no more filters beyond what I was saying and my true personality was being exposed, which was scary at first. There were some tense moments when I made the effort to be my truest self. The fear of wondering whether people would like me or not like me for who I truly am took courage to face. However, being myself created positive results and it became increasingly easier to let people know exactly how I felt on any subject.
Allowing people to know the true me and being my truest self helped speed up my cognition and improve my mental functionality. I wasn’t filtering my thoughts as much and trying to figure out what to say and not say in order to get along with others anymore. There had been a lot of mental resources being taken up in figuring out how to interact with others.
At this point, those mental resources have been better allocated to expressing my thoughts in a clear and concise manner and this improved the quality of thoughts I’ve been able to express. With more of my internal focus being on comprising thoughts and just expressing them communicating with others has taken a lot less effort and has been more enjoyable. I’m finding when I’m my true self there are a lot of people who really like me, some who might not, but I have just felt better overall allowing myself to be who I truly am and to share that with everyone else. It’s been liberating to quit worrying about what might people say to my truest thoughts and to just let everyone know where I stand.