(This post was written in advance but this is not a plea for pity or sympathy- just a way of explaining why I have spent more time on the sidelines of life than anything else, and how difficult it can be for me to step onto the playing field of life.)
All my life I’ve felt like I’ve always been on the sidelines of life.
The image I have in my head is of a little girl sitting in a chair right at the line that separates her from the field where everyone else is. She sits there quiet and still, watching and listening. From time to time, she’s gotten up and walked out onto the field. Sometimes she’s even spoken up and tried to participate in things. Sadly, though, she’s never really felt like she’s a part of the group on the field. And sooner or later, she retreats back to the sideline and her chair.
Why does she retreat?
Sometimes it’s because she’s told to go away, that she doesn’t fit in. And sometimes it’s because she is ignored and she’s too shy and uncertain of herself to speak up so she retreats instead.
Now I’m not looking for sympathy here but being quiet and shy and introverted is not a recipe for social success. All my life I’ve always felt like the odd one out. I have trouble seeing why I have difficulty being a part of a group. I try not to take over or be mean to anyone yet I know I’m different. And I know different is not bad but sadly, in group situations, it’s not seen as good either. I’m not saying all people are mean and cruel, but some of them are just unimaginative and unresponsive to those that have had different life experiences (or lack of, in my case).
It’s taken me a long time to make peace with this and realize it’s not my fault that I don’t fit in. I’m not a freak of nature or a crass and loudmouth bore. Sometimes I even find my voice and speak up and forget my fear of being kicked out of the group-circle. But eventually, I’ll retreat to my chair on the sidelines. It’s not about feeling a need to be in a safe place, or even a need for quiet. It’s just that I know I can’t change people’s minds about me and what I think and feel. And maybe I find it easier to go silent and retreat rather than stand and be heard.
Here’s another problem I have: I’ve attracted people who are very needy. And by needy I mean they are so strong in their need for validation or support that they don’t stand up for themselves past a certain point. I don’t have a problem helping people if I can, but I also believe people have to do something to help themselves. Because here’s the thing: these needy people eventually turned on me and pointed me back to the sidelines and my chair. So yes, I have trouble getting close to people because of this. I have misinterpreted neediness for friendship but when you’ve been burned as badly I have been, it’s hard to overcome that.
And I think that’s another problem some people have with me: my independence. If my father were alive he’d tell you that from the time I was a young child I always wanted to do things for myself. And not to prove anything to anyone but because I didn’t to be a burden. I didn’t want anyone to see me as weak-willed or unable to take care of myself. I always felt like I had to take care of myself first and yes, I have a ton of trouble asking for help to this day. Not the best trait in the world to have but I’m not perfect.
So why am I writing this, you may ask? Why did I title this post ‘Stand and Be Heard’?
Because through my writing I want to be heard. I want to say the things that I’m not good at saying in person. And I want others to know they are not alone as I know I’m not the only person to ever feel like this. I want to write the words that speak to other people like others wrote and spoke to me through their words.