Maybe you ARE different than “them.”
And maybe that’s the good news.
I remember, for years, I felt terrible because I knew I was different.
When I was a kid, I knew I was different insofar as I was carrying around a secret: that I’d been sexually abused.
I remember looking at the other kids in my class and thinking, no one knows this about me. This is a BIG secret.
I know now that I can’t have been the only kid at school who had been sexually abused— and I wonder if they felt like their experience was this big secret they were carrying around, too.
I wonder if they felt as different as I did.
But that wasn’t the only thing that made me feel different.
I knew that there was something different in how I experienced feelings— something different in how things impacted me.
At the time, I didn’t know such a thing as a “highly sensitive person” existed. I didn’t know that my nervous system likely was physically different from a lot of other kids’— and I would have had NO idea that the sexual abuse and attachment difficulties I experienced on top of that likely exacerbated my highly sensitive wiring.
All I knew was, I was different.
Maybe I couldn’t have put words to it at the time. I’m not entirely sure I can accurately put words to it now. The writing I do is often my attempt to TRY to verbally get my brain around my life experience, as well as connect with others who might have had a similar experience.
When we’re kids, we assume that different is bad.
After all, we’re often mocked an ostracized because we’re different.
Growing up, we often assume that if we’r being rejected by our family or peers, it must be because we’re somehow defective. We’re not living up to their standards or expectations.
It must be be because we’re “bad,” and the people around us somehow know it— and that’s why they’re rejecting us.
Now I know there are lots of reasons why some kids don’t fit with their peer groups growing up.
And those reasons don’t necessarily have ANYTHING to do with being “bad.”
Is it all that “bad” to be different from a peer group that bullies and values conformity above kindness?
Is it all that “bad” to be different from people who WOULD reject someone just for being different?
I don’t think so.
I know my sensitivity and my social anxiety made me a tough kid to understand and get close to. I don’t envy the adults in my world whose job it was to try to understand me or get me to open up.
If you’re reading this, you may be aware that you’re different from your family or the people you grew up around— and you might have lots of feelings about that.
But I need you to know that “different” doesn’t equal “bad”— even if your family or peer group decided it does.
Your sensitivity may make you different. How you process emotions or information may make you different. How you manage focus or stimulation may make you different.
I know LOTS of people— myself included— who would’t, couldn’t have the positive impact on other people they do UNLESS they’d grown up feeling different.
Yes, growing up feeling like an outsider was painful at times.
Yes, I would have preferred an easier childhood experience— for both you and me.
But I know now that I don’t want to be like the kids who made me feel “bad” for being different.
They were right. I WAS different than they were.
And I’ve come around to being grateful for it.