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We All Understand What It’s Like to Be Misunderstood

Sad Woman Silhouette Worried On The BeachDear Harlan,
People don’t seem to understand me. I know I’m a child and a geek at heart, and I like many things that other people don’t. I try not to bring my weird hobbies into conversations (not that I think they are weird, but other people have told me they are). For some reason, this makes people think I’m an innocent person who does not know how to have fun. When I try to tell people about my hobbies and that I do have fun – just not what they would find fun – it just makes it worse. How can I convince people that I’m not someone who needs saving from herself and that I do enjoy all the geeky things I do? I feel like I have a stamp on my face telling people to help me, but I don’t need saving.  – Not Looking For Help

Dear Not Looking for Help,
You’re going to be frustrated for a good part of your life. Then, one day, you’re going to realize something: You can’t control other people. You’ll spend several years trying to figure this out. Some people spend their entire lifetime and don’t figure it out. It’s true. You can’t control what other people say or do. You can’t control what other people think or feel. You have no control over these people. You have no control over romantic partners, friends, family, parents and children (if you ever have them). I don’t have control over them, either. You can only control what you think, feel and do (even that can be hard). You can work to tilt things in your favor, but that’s a temporary fix. My secret is that I make people laugh. I learned to do it as a defense mechanism. If I can make people laugh, I know they’re not thinking horrible thoughts about me. When I was younger, I was extremely overweight and insecure. When I made people laugh, I knew what they were thinking – that is, until they stopped laughing. Then I would have to make them laugh again. This is how I became funny. I learned to do this because I wanted to try to control people. My humor deflected people from seeing that truth.  What is the truth that you’re hiding? Why do you find it so bothersome that people misunderstand you? Instead of feeling like a target, engage these people. Educate them. Bring them into your world. Give them permission to appreciate you or not appreciate you. Teach them about your hobbies. Help them to see all the things that make you interesting, intriguing and dynamic. Don’t do it so they can like you. Do it so you can get to know them. These people are not trying to help you – they just want to understand you. Also, find someone in your corner who will always understand you. This is why therapists are so awesome. They will help you understand yourself so you can understand other people. Once you can open up and love the things about yourself that make you uncomfortable, it will be easier to share these qualities with the world. The problem isn’t everyone else; it’s how you see yourself. I relate to you. I feel connected to you. I, too, felt misunderstood and underappreciated for most of my teens. I didn’t love it. Then, I learned to love myself. Now, it’s all changed.

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