Friday, June 06, 2008

How to be Comfortable?

I'm putting my answer to this Ask.MetaFilter question here so I'll remember to try and keep observing it myself... Here's the question:
How do you learn to feel comfortable with yourself?

(Anonymous because of family on Mefi.)

I'm never really comfortable. I always feel like an outsider, or that I'm doing something wrong... I can just never relax because of all this.

I have low self-esteem, it's true. I also just tend to assume I've screwed up somehow and work from there. It drives some of my friends batty, but it kinda works. It keeps things steady.

Part of all of this not trusting myself is that I assume that I have to keep myself restrained. Can't let myself go, or I'll start acting on all my other problems--start confusing sex with love, start acting out, start doing all these things. Like if I let myself go, my little box of a life will just crumble and everyone will see how fucked up I am. This, plus my natural introversion, results in a lot of automatic repression, which means a lot of things just... bubbling over suddenly. I've gotten better at not talking about my feelings too much, though... which is probably part and parcel with the problem of not feeling comfortable, but it keeps me from causing unnecessary problems for anyone else.

Oddly enough, all of this came to a head in a club. I couldn't make myself dance. I was tipsy, even,which helps, but I felt so horrifically uncomfortable... I just couldn't relax. I physically couldn't. I couldn't make myself feel comfortable. Friends and acquaintances were trying to get me up and dancing, but that only made me feel worse, like I was screwing up their night slightly just by being there.

It's not that I was stressed about work or anything... I have all the free time in the world and still feel like this.

One restriction: I have no money to spend on the favorite AskMe answers of improv classes, or therapy, so those don't really work as solutions.

I know this is all kind of vague, but it's the best description I can offer. Thanks in advance.
And my reply:

I think a lot of the answers seem to just be pulling out the standard answers to "help me not feel unhappy" but your situation is a little more specific than that and it's one I can identify with.

Something I realized was that part of the reason I expected others to be so judgmental of me was that I was silently doing the same thing to a lot of the people around me. I am not saying you are or you aren't projecting in this way, but perhaps it would be easier to learn to be accepting of yourself by practicing on other people first. Little things like paying no mind at all if my carpool mate starts to hum a little too loudly to a song on the radio, and being more patient when a family member calls to see how I'm doing and just asks the same usual questions that I had been getting tired of. That's not to say let people walk over you, but just realize that as their flaws and shortcomings do you no harm, in the same way the way you act isn't causing anyone else any real damage either, to the point that they probably aren't noticing it while you are worried sick about their perceptions.

Of course the opposite of judging others too quickly, putting them on a pedestal, won't help you either. If someone makes you feel nervous or inadequate.. well, one time this really gorgeous girl who had come up to me at the bar and wanted to talk to me was causing me to stammer a little, and I just on a whim decided to say "OK, I'm going to admit right now that I'm finding you a little intimidating". She thought that was very funny but it made her relax herself and the conversation after that was completely fluid and easy. So honesty sometimes is the easiest solution.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:55 AM on June 6 [+] [!]

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By al - 1:09 AM |

whoa... did i write that?
Hah, you and me both.
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