One of the big issues around social interaction, for me, has always been how much compromise is required in order to fit. How much of me will it be necessary to hide? How much will I have to tolerate that I find difficult, uncomfortable, even painful? How much humiliation will I have to endure? How is the trade off going to work here and what’s the cost going to be, and can I sustain it?
As illustration, I love walking and there have along the way been opportunities to walk with various people. However, there are a few things that make me a less than perfect walker – poor depth perception and lack of physical confidence mean I struggle on rough terrain. Some days I am stiff and achy such that walking is hard work. Other people are a lot fitter than me. So in some situations, walking with people has required me to hide what I was struggling with, face terrain I found alarming, hold paces I found uncomfortable and endure being humiliated over anything I found difficult. Forever embarrassed, struggling to keep up and not even feeling it was ok to name the problem for fear of further ridicule, or outright rejection. If you won’t compromise to fit in, they might not take you with them.
Then there are the other walking experiences, with people who are happy to take things gently, and if I struggle, offer help. That’s a whole other world, and one I did not grasp even existed until these last few years. That it is possible to find people who like having me around such that some compromise can flow the other way, is a revelation. If I struggle, the pace can drop to help me manage. My shortcomings cease to be a source of embarrassment. Rather than feeling like a barely tolerated extra, I get to feel like part of the tribe.
From as far back as I can remember, my impression was that in all situations I would have to obfuscate my inadequacies and try very hard in order to fit. I would have to quietly accept whatever was asked of me, or done to me, while trying not to ask for anything or cause anyone else any discomfort whatsoever. I never had any sense that there was a place that belonged to me, just that with enough effort, it might be possible to be tolerated. It’s a belief that has coloured all of my relationships and left me vulnerable. With that belief set, it has been very easy to be at the mercy of people who were less than kind, while feeling grateful that they bothered with me at all.
There are plenty of people for whom I am not good enough. I get to hear about it, when I seem too… difficult. Inconvenient. Attention seeking drama queen, melodramatic, unreasonable, demanding… I’ve had plenty of that along the way. I’ve come to the simple conclusion that this is fine – other people are entitled to feel that way, and anyone who dislikes how I am is not obliged to interact with me. (I wonder what it says about the ones who dislike and yet want me to stay around?) I don’t need everyone to like me. So long as there are people to walk with who do not mind my downhill pace on uneven paths, I do not have to walk with people who find me too difficult.