How to avoid social isolation (when you are an introvert) - The Self-Worth Experiment

How to avoid social isolation (when you are an introvert)

By Dr Berni Sewell | Love yourself

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Dec 03
How to avoid social isolation (when you are an introvert)

As a highly sensitive, introvert empath, High School was hell for me. 

I enjoyed reading books more than trips to the shopping mall. Preferred gardening to “meeting up with the boys”. Actually loved learning and detested the obligatory Saturday night partying.

I was a geek, a teacher’s pet with uncool hobbies, unexciting interests and oddball opinions. But still, I wanted to be accepted. Be part of the popular crowd.

But I never really fit in.

I felt different. Weird. Incompatible with the rest of the world.

So, throughout my school years, it seemed like I only had two options:

  • Be true to my authentic Self and face rejection, bullying and loneliness
  • Deny my true nature, renounce my interests and adapt my personality to fit in and avoid social isolation

And both of these options meant suffering. But there was a third option. It was right in front of me all the time.

 I just never allowed myself to see it.

The perfect solution hiding in plain sight

While I constantly battled for approval, my personality just did not line up with the criteria required to gain popularity with my peers. And the necessary self-denial was hurting me almost more than the rejection and derision.

After years of being different and not fitting in, I started to ask myself whether I was somehow wrong.

I felt not good enough, unlovable. And, for a long time, I struggled to be ok with myself. Suffered from anxiety and self-doubt because of the rejection I experienced in school.

But the irony is that there were people in my school with similar interests and views of the world.

People who could have been wonderful friends. Outcast book-worm companions. Quiet allies in an overwhelming world.

We were right in front of each other’s eyes. All the time.

But we were all too busy adapting, fitting in and impressing the popular people to notice the ones who would have shared our passions.

For one simple, but devastating, reason.

The tragic consequences of society’s worth judgement

I never considered the other outcasts in my school potential candidates for friendship. Simply because I bought into society’s worth judgements.

You see, for some ludicrous reason, our society puts more worth on extrovert personality traits. Outgoing, sociable, adventurous is worth more than quiet, withdrawn and pensive.

Typical introvert characteristics are often considered dull, boring, undesirable.

And while introversion is a wide spectrum, many introverts therefore tend to feel wrong. Our introvert nature, an inherent genetic predisposition we cannot easily escape, puts us in a worth deficit from the start.

Because, in society’s general view, we are worth less. Just for being introverts.

Which is also why introverts are more at risk of suffering from low self-worth compared to extroverts.

In school, I was desperate to make up for my inherent introvert worth deficit by being accepted by the popular (more extrovert) crowd. Because I believed that, if the popular people approved of me and I hung out with them, my worth would be increased by association (another one of these odd societal beliefs).

So I suffered through High School on an unpredictable rollercoaster of isolation and self-denial. Not fitting in with the extroverts, and not considering the introverts as worthy friends.

Because my conditioned mind believed that they were just as wrong and worthless as I was.

I know all my experiences, good and bad, make me the person I am today. And I am grateful for them. But a lot of trauma could have been avoided, had I realised then what I know now:

That our society’s concept of a person’s worth is INSANE! And so wrong.

Letting go of insane societal conditioning to avoid social isolation

We all struggle through life feeling different, unacceptable, inferior to everybody else around us. Worthless.

But our alleged worthlessness is a big, simple lie.

We will never know where it came from. But we heard it all our lives, repeated over and over again. Until we all believed that we are inherently without worth.

That we have to earn our worth through the fulfilment of strict criteria. Such as the display of certain desirable character traits or defined acceptable levels of success, wealth, status and popularity.

And that we are doomed to an unworthy existence full of anxiety, loneliness and rejection if we can’t meet the narrow standards.

But just because everybody believes a lie doesn’t make it the truth.

In reality, our worth is an inherent quality of our Being. An absolute part of our existence. Unchangeable as the number of cells in our body.

Being different, an introvert, or not fitting in changes nothing about your true, inner worth. It simply can’t. Because it’s impossible for your unlimited worth to ever change.

Full stop.

And, if you want to avoid social isolation, part of healing your self-worth is to hunt down the lies. Kill all those misguided misconceptions, obliterate society’s random, unfounded and arbitrary beliefs.

Because the truth is that you ARE worthJust as much as everybody else.

No more. And certainly no less. No matter who you are.

I wish I had realised this back in High School. Because then I would have chosen the third option:

  • To embrace all my introvert characteristics, allow friends into my life who share my interests (no matter how unpopular). And just BE ME.
  • G’day Berni

    I missed this article when you posted it, but I found it when I needed it I guess.
    I was around 50 when I began to realise that I was introverted and empathic – not strange and wrong.
    Drinking allowed me to be someone else and feel somehow else. It also lead me to the isolation I craved.
    I’m so glad that I finally found a way to be me.
    Another thing I adopted was self-improvement challenges, so that I could finally fit-in when…”I’m brighter, fitter, more successful”.
    Brene Brown taught me that what I really wanted to do was belong, not fit-in. trying to fit in with them was denying me a chance to find ME.
    Nowadays, I relate to the analogy in Buddhism about the sculptor chipping away at the stone everything that is not ‘elephant’ until all you are left with is ‘elephant.
    I am now chipping away at the personality I built to hide Mike.
    love alwaz

    • I love this, Mike! “Chip away at the elephant”. I also found that it is difficult to make real friends when you try ti fit in. Because the people that surround you will not reflect who you really are. Personally, this made me feel hollow and unhappy. Like you, I had to force myself to do things that weren’t in my personality. Which, in turn damaged my self-worth. And made me feel like a fraud (because frankly, I was one). We are the best when we are ourselves. We just need to find the courage to just be…us.

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