Thursday 6 January 2011

WHY I am like this?

I had a conversation with someone yesterday about being in outsider, and we have two things in common. One, we are both artistic, and two, it all began when we were very young.
When I was a kid, nobody liked me. It wasn't until I was about 16, in high school, that I started to make 'real' friends. I'd had friends before, but they always abandoned me when someone 'better' came along. I'd spend my recess and lunch times alone in the playground, eating my vegemite sandwiches and apples and if I was lucky, my crackers and cheese dip, leaning against a red brick wall, more often than not crying. I'd be led on by 'popular girls' by them saying that they wanted to be my friend and to come and play, then they'd take me to some 'out of bounds' area of the school and run off, leaving me there, without much clue of how to get back, then I'd be late back to the classroom and scolded. To teachers I think I was the kid that 'wasn't quite right'.
I would fake being sick on Wednesdays. I remember that well. We'd had Math on Wednesdays. Teachers told my parents that I didn't like doing anything in groups. Funny, I'm still a little like that today when it comes to 'work'. I like being alone, able to think at my own pace without someone looking over my shoulder. Is that some sort of insecurity?
I am an only child (I have a half brother and sister that are younger than me but we didn't live together), so I guess I was selfish with my belongings. I was also shy, so I guess I seemed snobby and stand-offish and unapproachable. I don't know why I was like that, especially considering my mother was quite nuts when I was a very young girl - and I mean nuts in an eccentric kind of way, not mentally ill, so I always had very lively and outgoing people around me.
What exactly turned me into such an intorvert? And although I have friends now (very FEW close friends actually, I have more aquaintences than real friends), I still prefer to be alone where it's safe to let my mind tick tick tick over and over and over without trying to concentrate on being social. And I wonder, I really do wonder WHY I am like this. Am I afraid of something? Do I have some sort of mild agoraphobia? I really don't know. But I do know this: Every time I have plans to go out, I sift through excuse after excuse to cancel, but there's a second voice that says, no don't be ridiculous, go and have some fun, for goodness sake. And I do, and when I'm out, I usually wonder what the hell I was worried about and really enjoy myself.
So what is that? Can anyone shed any light? Is there anyone else out there that has experienced any of what I have written here? Do you think these 'feelings' have anything to do with being artistic?


  1. I can relate to this, especially when I was in high school. I was a major introvert (but, I'm weird... I could perform in front of total strangers without a problem), I would have preferred alone work rather than group. It must have something to do with being artistic... well, that's my excuse.

  2. I’ve been reading a lot about Schizoid Personality Disorder recently going so far as to wade through a forum devoted to the condition and some of your traits fit that condition, however, I have a problem with psychologists assuming that there’s something wrong with us, it’s simply a matter of working out what. There are alternative approaches and one of these takes much the same symptoms and simply called it a solitary personality type, not simply an introvert but a person who is more comfortable with their own company and doesn’t have that cloying need to belong. The problem with that type of person is that they’re not likely to bump into too many of their own kind because they’re not the kind of people who congregate. Another book I read was called The Normal Personality and it took a similar stance, that the majority of people are in fact ‘normal for them’ and that that expression shouldn’t be regarded as a derisory term. We like to classify things, label them, stick them in boxes but human beings are too complex for that. Schizoid Personality Disorder is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition but in DSM-5 it’s being reclassified and I could see some of the people on actually concerned because their label – what defined them – was being taken away: “If I’m not schizoid then what (in effect ‘who’) am I?” None of us should allow an aspect of who we are define us to that degree. Once we have a label there’s a tendency to not want to break the rules and be something else and, again on the forum, I found people who were accusing other members of not being a real schizoid as if that mattered. Stop worrying about yourself and stop trying to conform to some imaginary standard called ‘normal’.

  3. Only kids tend to be artistic and introverted. You need to find the balance between forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and being true to your nature. Those things you think are odd and negative - think of them as strengths instead. How can you play to your strengths?

  4. I had friends growing up but none of them were close. I was too trusting and in the end I was alone. I have three friends that I kept outside of high school. One was a troubled girl that I'd known since middle school, I adore her! The other two are from a cross country team. We had nothing in common but running, however leaving our feelings on the pavement is what brought us together.

    Moving to Houston caused me problems though. I used to be outspoken, life of the party, free to do as I please and moving caused an unbalance. I had to find myself and it took two years to do it. I had to change the new (destructible) me. I now tell myself to go to a movie alone, go to author signings alone. Meet new people, anything to break out of the shell I put myself into.

    It's working. Slowly. I just liked being carefree and open and moving made me lose myself. It was nice to relate to someone.

  5. Here's what I think it is... and the reason I've come to this conclusion is because I'm an introvert too. But here's why: I'd rather be alone inside my own head than around most other people. Call it introverted, call it narcissistic, whatever.... the truth is that my own little world and imagination is more appealing to me than real people. However, I also very much value others and the effects they have on my life. If you chose to stay in one night because you really don't wanna hang with friends, it may be more comfortable... but you also may be missing a valuable experience, life lesson, etc.... so it's all about balance and seeing the potential of what others can offer you.

  6. Jessica,

    I adore you. I'll go ahead and out myself as the person you spoke to yesterday - I don't mind sharing that we have this in common...I consider myself to be in good company. ;)

    Personally, I think this is a plight for creative minds and I am curious to read what others think.

    Thanks for reaching out and making this post. You rock my world.

  7. Oh, I can totally relate to this. Your child/school days sound a lot like mine.

    I'm afraid I can't shed any light on why we are like this. I don't think it is because we are afraid. Fear is something that cripples. I think (and this may just be me) is that I've never found anyone else I truly like, so why would I go in search of "friends"?

    Friends are people that have similiar interests, hopes, and dreams, and when we were growing up (and now) it's hard to find that (that's why I'm SO thankfully for the blogosphere). Because I can't find people like you, or Matthew, or Candace, my beta in my home town. I've tried. And maybe I'm just not great at making friends, or maybe I just don't want to share myself unless the person really understand "me". And the only people who will understand me are the people just like me. And those people (in person) are hard to find.

    So I'll stay locked up in my house, doing what I do best, because I've learned that I liked being alone. I'm sure if all us bloggers lived in the same town, we'd grow out of our introvert ways pretty quickly, but until then ... it's just me, baby. Oh, and Em. ;-)


  8. I can't fully relate, because for the most part (even during the worst part of my high school life) I never really had a problem making friends. I've always had a problem keeping them.

    Not, that I get into dramatic arguments or anything. I just tend to be really close to someone for a couple years and then for some reason things slowly start to fade off. And then a new friendship comes on strong from somewhere else.

    Maybe that's normal. But I wish I had that ONE person (friend-wise) that I could turn to with any news. I have no BEST friend anymore.

  9. I can totally relate. I always felt (and still do sometimes) that I never fit in. I do like being alone in my head. Although, I do like going out and being social. I blame that part on my parents. They were constantly social, so growing up there was always something going on. I have some close friends, and with my job, I've had to learn how to relate to people.
    I feel most comfortable alone talking to the characters I create.
    For the longest time, I thought there was something wrong with me, but once I started to blog and got to know other writers, I've felt like I finally belong.
    Make sense?
    Have a great day!

  10. I actually feel pretty similar. My opinion is that I'm not too interested in being very social most of the time because honestly? Most people suck. 90% of people are not worth knowing. They will stab you in the back, take advantage of you, and not give a shit when they hurt you and then walk away.

    But ... I also think that the other 10% of people are so amazing that they make it all worth it. The problem is that it's a big world. I honestly have only 2 or 3 very close friends in the world, and none of them live where I live.

    Thankfully you're one of the people I consider worth knowing. One day when we're all rich and famous authors, we can hang out in real life and then we'll be more social.

    Honestly I think it's perfectly normal for creative people to think and feel this way.

  11. What an interesting topic to explore! I was like you to some extent -- a bit of an outsider looking in as a child and a teen. I found that I would have a couple of friends from a few different "circles" but had a hard time fitting in to the group as a whole. I always preferred to hang out with just one or two friends at a time.

    Still, in classes -- I didn't mind working in groups at all. I just wanted to be the "leader." (Or the secretary.) I always liked being the center of attention. I would volunteer to read aloud, participate in class, try out for school plays and musicals... like another commenter said, I think my own imagination and internal struggle were more amusing to me than the lives of other people. (I think that's why I like to write about myself, even today.) Yes, I think being artistic is related: mystery is: WHICH CAME FIRST. Am I introverted because I'm artistic, or artistic as a result of being introverted? Hmm.

  12. I can't answer your questions, but you're not alone.

    Perhaps it is a creativity/artistic thing. We create worlds and people in our minds, and those that don't probably don't really understand. It's easy to be a introvert that way, but I don't know.

    I'm an introvert, but personally, I wouldn't have it any other way.

  13. I can relate to some of this, especially the introverted parts. I used to be very extroverted, but sometime during college, that began to change. And even now, since I'm not working and am alone all day, I'll get the occasional urge to be out among people, but it doesn't take long for that to be satisfied.

    My husband and I aren't very social. We really just prefer our own company among our own things. We have zero desire to go to bars or clubs or spend a bunch of money when we'd rather just stay in and watch one of our box sets or play video games or whatnot.

    I don't have many friends because I'm not very friendly. I have one deep friendship from college, my brother, and my husband. And that's enough for me.

    I don't think it's necessarily anything to do with being creative, but I think sometimes creativity can be a natural outpouring of isolation.

  14. I think there's a degree to which this shy/solitary thing is part of an inborn temperament and part of one's genetic makeup. But having big personality parents (I sure did) can leave the kids feeling small and insignificant and stuck always in the shadows. Like you, I also find that if I can psych myself up to go to some social thing I nearly always have a good time. I'm also realizing that becoming a little more outgoing is something one can choose. Carl Jung's ideas of personality (on which Myers-Briggs is formulated) is that one should strive for balance between extraversion and intraversion, between sensing and intuiting, between thinking and feeling, between judging and perceiving. I like what Alex said about playing to your strengths, because others do pick up on our attitudes about ourself and often treat us accordingly. So think of your urge for solitude as "creative focus". :-)

  15. I don't think it is about being artistic or being an only child. My husband is an only child and not the least like this while I am one of five and very like this as a child. I have known many people who were the same as children and who grow up to be rather introverted, or rather, natural introverts, but many of them are not artistic. I think it is the way one is. One of the best ways to understand our own Self is, I think, through astrology. There is no doubt that being an introvert can aid an artistic process but it is not a requirement.
    There is a very good book called The Highly Sensitive Person which you might find insightful Jessica. It explained a lot of me to me although my astrological readings are the most insightful and useful of all.

  16. p.s. The other good 'personality' assessment is Myer-Briggs. This is actually extremely good and it appeals to corporations who could not, or would not in a million years, countenance astrology. Within the systemit says that we all have all of the character elements within us but some of us lean more in certain directions than others. I first did this in my thirties and registered as extroverted not introverted but when I did it again in my forties, after four years living in India where I spent a lot of time alone, I registered as introvert. I think I am and always was more of an introvert who is very good at being extroverted when required. Myer Briggs and astrology are all just ways of gaining insight into Self; understanding others and realising there is no right way, no one way or for that matter, no way; there is just each unique Self.

  17. Man! I hate little bitches like that. Yeah, that's right. I said it.

    I wasn't ever treated that way, but as a little kid, I was very much "in my own world." Sort of the outsider. I always had at least one friend, but I wasn't really into being popular--my older brother was the "extrovert." Very VERY out there. Also gay. *snort*

    Today I do the same thing you've described--try to find a million reasons to stay home only to go out and have fun. But I still prefer to only have 1-2 close friends... I also think the intense pressure we're under as writers trying to get published heightens those feelings. It's hard to find folks who understand what you're going through, and nobody wants to be the whiney baby...

    That's why we have each other! :o) (((big hug)))

    I SO would've sought you out as a child. I found kids like you fascinating... what made you be the way you were? I had to know... ;p

  18. I was a lot like you as a kid, of course, I was also caught in my own head a lot, much as I am now.

    I think a lot of writers are, which makes it a hard decision to go out sometimes. But I always have fun when I do.

  19. One reason why people can feel averse to going out is because they are highly sensitive and instinctively know and perhaps 'fear' the 'energy onslaught' of being in a crowd or with others. Highly sensitive people are profoundly affected by the energy of those around them. There is a saying which is very pertinent:
    Extroverts are energised by socialising and introverts are 'drained' by it. People who are energy sensitive do need to 'pace' themselves or at least be aware of their tendency to absorb energy.

  20. It's all too easy to remain within your comfort zone , one has to try and do something new once in a while albiet writing, travelling anything that is different to what you're comfortable doing.


  21. Oh you just opened a big can of childhood memories I don't care to inspect! lol. But, I can relate.

    Can't shed any light on it though. Must just be one of those things. A characteristic. Like some people have freckles and others don't or something.

  22. Wow! I feel like I'm reading something written by myself!

    I don't know why it's easier for some of us to be alone NOR Do I understand why those of us who are introverted, who aren't loud about everything, who need time to think about things and not rashly answer are always looked down upon and treated as inferior.

    We're just a little group of introverted peoples who should band together by staying blissfully alone, in our own worlds, converging every now and then with book and coffee :D

    Happy New Year!

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  24. Hum, I don’t know. I was pretty shy as a kid, at times introverted. I liked being alone. I’m still quite happy hanging out with myself now too. I have a few close friends. One is a childhood friend and were are still best buds.

  25. I will say it is hard to be artistic if you crave constant social interaction.

  26. Oh. My. Gosh! I am the same way!!!!
    It used to bother me a lot (and it still does at times), but I have a great creative mind because of it (at least that's what I keep telling myself). I do have a few really close friends.

    I think it's okay, I don't think I'd be the same person if it weren't for that. Plus, I find I am very happy with myself. So it's all good. =)

  27. Okay, I deleted my first comment because it was just a monstrosity of length. Let me try again.

    I do know just what you mean. I was bullied and teased a lot in middle school, and even as I got older it happened.

    I have an older sister, and I am so lucky to have her. I've always had trouble making and keeping friends because I always think they have ulterior motives.

    I'm not sure if I think that these feelings have something to do with being artistic, but I do know that this is why I turned to reading, and later, writing. It's always been about the escapism for me.

    Okay, so that was still pretty long (sorry). I can completely relate to just about everything you said here. While I can't really shed any light on the why, I do understand how you feel, and how difficult it is to have these feelings. *hugs*

  28. I can't add much to this amazing comment thread, Jessica - wow. So many wise people! But I can say that I ADORE you and you are not alone. :-)

  29. This is a great topic Jessica. I'll start by saying that I think that the reason the writing/blogging community is so close is because many of us share some of these characteristics and experiences. I was also the child that was always left out. I felt shy, but others saw me as a snob. My two younger sisters were very popular, tons of friends, my parents always had lots of close friends and social engagements. I was a "book worm"

    It took me a long time to accept that there's nothing wrong with being a loner. I'm a born introvert, no one made me this way, this is just the way I am. It all boils down to this, people drain me of energy. If I don't have some private time, every day I go nuts. My sister is the exact opposite. She can't stand to be alone. If her husband goes out of town for a week, I have to go "sister-sit" her because she hates to be by herself.

    The most difficult thing for an introvert is to find like minded people to engage with. Extroverts seek out people to fill their lives, so they always have lots of friends, but introverts tend to shy away from people. The chances of two introverts meeting up becomes even more rare. But then, along comes social networking. Now we can reach out to so many other like minded people, all over the world who aren't "in our face" and we can be socially engaged and maintain our need to be alone at the same time.

    So those are my thoughts on this fantastic subject. Thanks for opening this up for discussion.

  30. Wait a minute, I think you just described my childhood! And I have a much older half brother and sister.
    There are things about you I'm sure others envy, though. You're creative. I bet you focus and work well by yourself. Bet you're organized, too!
    The personality is called melancholy - introverted, emotional, artistic, perfectionist, leader.
    I guess my only saving grace is I ended up with some sanguine in me, which is a very outgoing personality. I always joke I'm an outgoing introvert!

  31. *hugs*
    I was very like this when I was in early elementary, but somehow seemed after that, to had one or two friends at a time. School was easy though, and I ended up with those couple friends being popular, so I was sort of the quiet sidelines girl--then in high school decided alcohol loosened me enough to feel normal. It wasn't until college I sort of got my real footing, and ADULT you sounds very like me... we writers are a wacky bunch, eh?

  32. I kept to myself a bit until about tenth grade when I realized that the whole growing up, insecure thing seemed a bit ridiculous. High school was a lot more fun after that.

    Artistic? Yeah, I need a LOT of quiet, thinking time. That's a huge part of it. I don't mind being alone. At all. Three days alone in a padded cell? Can I have a notebook? I'm good.

  33. You need to watch this:
    And maybe read this:

    And don't worry about it anymore! We are who we are, my pomegranate friend. Who needs a million mediocre friends, when you really only need a couple people who really get you? But I do understand you need for a connection. That's why all of us are here, writing these lovely long responses. :)

  34. Yes, we need connection but we do not need to be other than who we are to have it. The greatest place of harmony we can find is where we are at one with who we are, balanced, at peace, regardless of whether we have anyone who connects, approves, or who is present. So much of our dissatisfaction with Self comes from what we believe are the expectations of others.

  35. Jessica, I can relate to this big time. I think sometimes it's situation related, like a move or a feeling isolated at school, work. Sometimes it's just our personality. I'll never know if I'm an introvert because of me or because of my childhood, but I am—in every sense of the word. I guess that's why you, and I and so many others are writers. ((HUG))

  36. Jessica, I have to wonder if you're an Idealist on the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, have you ever taken the test? I'm an INFJ- a 10 on the introversion scale (that's as high as it goes. . .) and you've practically just told the story of my life.

    I know a lot of people very well, but very few people know me very well. Like you, I have many acquaintences but precious few real friends.

    I'm fine with that by this point in my life. As an extreme introvert, socializing really takes it out of me, and with my health issues I'm not that up for much of it any way.

    You are a rare and special person, and I am so grateful to have gotten to know more about you recently. You're an incredibly talented and unique individual and lucky is anyone who gets to call you their friend.


    PS: my idea of Hell on Earth is a group project. . .

  37. I'm with you sister. This is pretty much the story of my life but I am not an only child. I've just been surrounded by a lot of people who didn't understand me and didn't accept me for who I was. Now that I'm older, I have a few people that do accept me and it makes the others not that important. The past is still there and the feeling still comes but I'm doing pretty good at focusing on the good parts.

    You should read the Van Gogh Blues, it's very insightful on the struggles of all artists and proof that we're not alone. You are not alone!

    Hang in there, you are fabulous!

  38. I am not artistic, and I was good at Maths, but I too was one of those people who didn't have real friends. I had people who would hang out with me, till they met someone cooler.
    My first friend I made when I was 15 or 16, and I didn't really have more than acquaintances for most of my life.

    But, like you, I am an only child.

    You are not alone, and I think you are great.

  39. I'm artistic and really good at math and science. When I was you I struggled with friends too.

    I guess I made the mistake of believing that when someone says they're your friend, you can trust them.

    I still have the issues, but have learned to trust people little by little. I have five very close friends, and about twenty friends and many more acquaintences.

    See I'm an extravert with trust issues. Wonder what a shrink would make out of that.

    Anyway, maybe you have been hurt so many times by people who say that they're your friends that deep down you think that any new friends you make will hurt you?

    I used to think that way, but I'm glad I got over it.


  40. I can really relate to this, Jessica. As a child I only ever had one or two close friends, and I was usally the kid who was last to be picked or left out altogether. Even in my late teens I found it difficult to fit in and could have been described as a little odd or anti-social.

    Now that I am in my thirties and been settled in a long-term relationship for 17 years, I can get along with anyone. But I still only have one really close friend and much prefer my own company. I hate parties!

    I think I ended up this way for a number of reasons. I was in care for most of my childhood and put with several different foster families. I spent between the ages of 6 to 12 being an only child, who spent a large amount of time in adult company. Another possible reason, is that I was always daydreaming and off in my own little world. I wonder if that is the artistic part?

    A great post!

  41. Oh, that is so me. I was and am so shy and introverted. I did have my group of friends growing up, but many people thought I was stuck up because I was so shy.

    Even now, I am just like you- finding excuses of why I can't go out. I'm terrified of social situations for some reason, and would much rather sit at home and read or watch a movie with my husband.

    I don't know why we're like that. I was the youngest and always let my sister/mom/dad/outgoing friend do the talking. My husband is the most extroverted, social (and loud) person ever- so I can continue to let him do the talking for me while I blend into the background, or hide next to him. Opposites attract right?

    As many introverts, I need to recouperate after a night out, or a birthday party or something. I literally need to be by myself in the quiet for a while afterwards.

    I hope you can learn to work with your gifts, as I am always learning. I've realized having a child has forced me to step out of my box. It's nice to have others to relate to though, who know what we're going through.

    Someone mentioned the personality scale- I am an INFJ as well.

  42. I'm an introvert as well, and it probably is common with creative types - after all, we do spend an awful lot of time alone.

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  44. Artists need isolation I believe. The vast majority of artists need to live in their mind a bit in order to create. It's a chicken and the egg kind of thing. It's hard to really tell which comes first.

    You Aussies and your vegemite.

  45. Great conversation, Jessica! I really enjoy being alone (with my computer or a good book). I have lots of friends, but few close friends... It takes me a long time trust enough to open up. I've moved around a lot, but before we moved the last time we lived in one spot for almost 9 years. It's been really hard starting over. I have to "act" and push myself to be social here...But I keep trying. It will get easier.

  46. I can relate. Up until about 7th grade I was mercilessly picked on and I had zero self confidence. I had friends, but it wasn't until I was about 15 that I really found the confidence to be myself. High school was generally pretty good for me. Those younger years still have their impact on me today. Like you I was also artistic. Maybe that has something to do with it.

  47. I can relate a great deal to your story. I am still rather shy and very much a loner, although I come across as extroverted and I do have a number of friends. From talking to others, I think most of us probably face similar insecurities. Years after the fact I have talked to some of my fellow high school mates who I thought were so confident and popular and discovered that they felt much like I did down inside. It's one of those "if I knew then what I know now" situations-- I would have probably had a greater sense of belonging in high school if I had realized I was not alone.

    Tossing It Out

  48. I could totally cut and paste this post on my own blog...the story is that similar (except the part about the vegemite sandwiches *shudders*). I was just struck by a thought that they should start some kind of group in schools to help kids like we were....something like Introverts Annonymous...then I reflected on the irony of title. :)

  49. Thanks so much for all your comments everyone! I read each and every one with great interest. If you didn't get a reply from me, either your email was not attached to your profile, or it was the weekend when you commented! Thank you, thank you all so much! :o)

  50. OMG! I have just read the reflection of my own school days and life today. No wonder we are scrabble pals! ;0

  51. I don't think one is 'turned' into an introvert. Most of it is genetic, as I have seen with my two sons, one of whom is just like me and the other is very outgoing, though they were raised the same way.

    I also preferred doing most tasks by myself, mainly because whenever I had to do something with a group it ended up not being done right.


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris