When you go to school, the first social construct you’re made aware of is the art of fitting in. For six-year-old Maria that was made particularly hard thanks to my optometrist, who made me wear an eye patch over my one lazy eye (+ round metal glasses). I could have turned it into a cool pirate-related thing and got the six-year-old boys onside, but unfortunately the eye patch was made entirely out of tissues and sticky tape, thanks to my thrifty Mum. I didn’t get made fun of but I felt very different, and it kick-started the whole journey of self-awareness that we all have to begin sooner or later.High School went by just fine and as much as I didn’t entirely love the overall experience, I hardly felt bullied or ostracized. But still, when everyone went to high school parties or talked to boys over the fence at lunch, I would be contemplating all the existential reasons why we were doing those things.
I thought differently and felt differently to a lot of people my age, and I never really got into the whole high school scene in general. This turned out to be a great thing, because I look back on myself walking to school playing Kanye West on my Walkman, and I appreciate how much I didn’t give a shit that I didn’t have an iPod nano at the time.
So if you asked 17 year-old-me, how 27-year-old me see’s herself socially, I would have assumed that my need to fit in would be a thing of the past. Recently, I’ve come to discover that even in adult-hood you never stop seeking acceptance within others or within a group. As much as we evolve and get to know ourselves more, there’s still that inner child that wants to be validated.
Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and hanging out with different people, has stirred familiar feelings of being on the outskirts looking in. And if you have any understanding of how a classic over thinker reacts socially, you can imagine how my brain goes into overdrive when I’m in a big group of strangers.
If I take a step back however, and break away from my own neurosis, I can see so clearly that this something that we all experience at every age. I just have think about myself with an eye patch back in the day and practice a little self-compassion for that inner-nerdy child in me. Sure I’m still self-conscious and a little socially awkward, but it’s time I embrace those things instead of trying to suddenly morph into a confident and extroverted person.
Having a point of difference is what makes a person interesting, and it’s those finer details that are important to remember when you feel uncomfortable at a party or at the first day of a new job. So what I’m beginning to tell myself everyday is to stop giving so much of a fuck if I’m like everyone else or not, or if I’m even likeable. Because I find it so refreshing when someone says something completely out of left centre when I meet them for the first time, instead of trying to talk about the possibility of rain that day.
These are realisations I wish I had known sooner, but I’m glad to finally be getting to a point where I can say that I like the person that I’ve grown into. I’m sure I’ve got my share of awkward situations ahead of me, but I’ll be able to handle them with a new found sense of ease that I’ll be appreciated by those who are meant to know me, and who also would have made friends with the girl with the eye-patch in year 1.