MGU 315 | Navigating Neurodivergence

 
Navigating neurodivergence requires sensitivity. Our brains work differently from each other, and we have to respect our uniqueness. Whitney Lauritsen discusses how you shouldn’t shy away from things that make you different. Accept and embrace who you are and be confident when you say, “Hey, I’m different.” Don’t allow societal pressure to force you into doing things you don’t want to do. When we tap into the authentic side of ourselves, we inspire others to do the same. Tune in!

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Navigating Neurodivergence, Sensitivity, And Societal Pressure

This is another one of those episodes where I’m recording at 1:00 AM because I got struck with this moment of, “Maybe this could be an interesting topic,” so I’m going to dive in and see where it goes. This also may be a little tangential as usual. That’s something I brought up on a brand-new project that I’m doing outside of this show.

One of the many projects I’ve taken on is a daily live stream show that broadcasts to my YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, which I’m experimenting with and LinkedIn all at once. It’s cool. My show is about Web3. I have dabbled in talking about that here on the show and I have said that I may talk more about Web3. There’s a specific guest I want to bring on to discuss this but for the most part, I intend to keep it separate until Web3 becomes more commonplace.

Getting To Know My Brain Health

For a little context, we are in what’s referred to as Web2 and transitioning into Web3, which is composed of things like cryptocurrency, NFTs, the metaverse and the blockchain in general. It’s a lot of terminologies that give people anxiety and confusion, so I started a daily show in which I’m going to share similarly to how I do on this show but through live video and talk about what I’m learning and engage with people. I’m excited about it. I said on that show the whole reason I’m bringing this up is that I’m trying to own up to the fact that my brain works differently and I also feel a bit confused and unsure of what exactly is going on in my brain.

I was thinking of doing a brain scan. I want to get to the root of it. I’m like, “What is going on in my head?” Another thing I’m excited to share and hopefully will be interesting to you will be the results of my sleep study that I did. It’s taking a while for the results to go to my doctor. I have an appointment in a few weeks. I hope that it will make for an interesting episode but I’m also prepared for the sleep study to not give me a ton of data.

Here I am on a tangent. Let me circle back before I go into a completely different point, which has nothing to do with the topic for this episode but it will all come full circle, hopefully. On my new series called Web3 with Whitney, I mentioned how I could get tangential and that’s how my brain tends to work. I find myself trying not to get tangential but isn’t that how most conversations are?

My aim with this show is for you to feel like you’re being with a friend and not being lectured by someone super polished. This is also part of getting uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable for me to not be polished and I’ve learned to let go of that over the years but there’s still this vulnerability that I sense and this fear that people aren’t going to like my show or my other work because it’s too long and all over the place.

As much as I love platforms like TikTok, I struggle on there because I feel like I have to edit and plan so much. It takes so much mental energy. Thoughts like this have led me to consider getting a brain scan or examination done. I did a pre-quiz for the Amen Clinics. I didn’t realize this but you can do this free brain quiz. If you didn’t know about this, the Amen Clinic is well-established and respected so I was excited about that. I don’t even know where on the website you can find it but I found a link to that quiz somewhere else. The results I got seemed to make a lot of sense for me and my brain. If you’re curious, let me pull that up for you because maybe this will inspire you to do the same quiz.

Don’t shy away from the things that make you different. Click To Tweet

You can download it as a PDF. It’s called a Brain Health Assessment. Everybody gets different results and you get these custom descriptions of your brain. I got the results of a Brain Type 11 and these individuals are often take-charge people who won’t take no for an answer. I fall into that but because I’m a people pleaser, I do take no for an answer sometimes because I get uncomfortable with people pushing back against me. Sometimes, it depends on the circumstance and how confident I am, so I don’t know if that’s the best description.

Brain Type 11 individuals tend to be strong-willed, tenacious, persistent and sometimes stubborn. That’s me for sure. They also tend to struggle with worry, have trouble sleeping and like things to be done a certain way. They often have increased activity in the front part of the brain in an area called the anterior cingulate gyrus. ACG is the shorter way to call that. It is thought of as the brain’s gear shifter. It helps people go from thought to thought or move from action to action. It involved being mentally flexible and going with the flow.

When the ACG is heightened in activity, usually during lower levels of serotonin, people can have problems shifting attention which can make them persist even when it may not be in their best interest to do so. Maybe that explains why I’m recording an episode at 1:00 AM. I was about to go to bed. I took the sleep herbs that I love and those came from a previous guest. Those supplements have been working well for me. I take those about an hour before I go to bed. I took those for about 30 minutes. I’m probably going to get sleepy as I record.

This assessment may explain why my brain often does things that are not in my best interest. Anybody could say that about themselves but I’ve noticed this. My brain tends to work in ways that I don’t feel are ideal. I’m curious. Do you feel this way about yourself? The more I study things like this, the more I think either, A) This is very universal and a lot of people feel that way or, B) I’ve gone my whole life thinking that other people think the same way that I do and that might not be the case.

I’ve found that if I share that with other people, they’ll respond to me in a way that indicates that they don’t think like me and sometimes, that can make me feel lonely or unique in an unpleasant way if that makes sense. I’m so grateful for the guest that came on the show to talk about autism and ADHD. Corey is her name. It gave me a little bit more confidence about my brain but a lot of the things that I’ve learned have been self-inquiry, research and self-assessments like the one I’m reading to you. I would rather somebody else do a deep assessment on me, so that’s why I’ve been casually thinking about going to the Amen Clinic.

The last time I looked into it, I remember it being very expensive but part of me thinks it may be worth it. If I can save up, use a payment plan and something like that, maybe it would be a life-changing thing. I would hope so. I remember it being somewhere between $1,000 to $2,000 or maybe closer to $3,000. I don’t know. I couldn’t easily find the numbers but I’m at the point where I want to do an exploratory call with Amen Clinic.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a brain scan? In the assessment, they say that the scans of individuals with Brain Type 11 often show heightened activity in the anxiety centers of the brain. This is often due to lower levels of the neurotransmitter, GABA, which helps calm the brain and in fact, GABA is in the supplement that I’ve been taking.

MGU 315 | Navigating Neurodivergence

Navigating Neurodivergence: The brain health assessment quiz gives you custom descriptions of your brain.

 

People with this brain type tend to be motivated towards a goal. They can feel intense pleasure but also struggle with feeling anxious or nervous, which causes them to be more cautious and reserved but also more prepared. That describes me to a tee. My anxiety is something that I feel has been there in ways that I didn’t even fully understand.

When I was in college, I was struggling with my mental health and that was the first time that I went to therapy and saw a psychiatrist. I remember my mental health feeling so intense that I was considering dropping out of college, which is crazy to me because I was described as this very determined and goal-oriented person. I enjoyed a lot of elements of college but I felt like my mental health was in a decline. I felt panicky.

I remember even specific places that I was at in my dormitory feeling that way. I happened to have this incredible psychiatrist who guided me through that and gave me a lot of tools but at the time, it all felt like it was pointed towards depression, so I identified as someone who was struggling with depression and then I became committed to finding natural ways to work through that. I felt like I overcame it. I started to recognize how much anxiety I have and the more I reflect on it, I see the thread through for so much in my life. That has been interesting as I’ve tried to learn more about my sleep issues.

Sleep Issues

I don’t know how much I’ve gotten into this in the show but if I have, it has been a while, so I’ll give you a summary. One thing that’s extremely unique about me, statistically, is that I am a sleepwalker. Most of the time, when I tell people about this, they’re so intrigued, curious, taken aback and also nervous. I tend to only talk about my sleepwalking when I’m sleeping in the same room or at home with somebody.

It generally comes up because I get nervous that I’m going to do something that will make somebody concerned or uncomfortable so generally, what it manifests is me waking up usually about 90 minutes into my sleep. I’ve tracked it and it also lines up with most data around sleepwalking. It happens in those 90 minutes. It’s the stage that your brain goes into before sleep.

In my brain apparently, there’s maybe something I’m not activating that keeps me asleep. This neurotransmitter GABA is something that I’ve come across several times because that’s somehow involved with this process. Taking those herbal supplements, which are relatively new for me, is helping because I haven’t noticed sleepwalking in at least a week or so but that’s part of what’s interesting about this. I sleepwalk so regularly that when I don’t sleepwalk, it’s noticeable.

I even have gone to the length of recording myself on video. I have this night vision camera. I haven’t done that in a while. That, in itself, gives me anxiety. Thinking about it at this moment, I’m like, “I don’t want to do that.” It helps me track because sometimes I don’t remember asleep walking but oftentimes, I do. This is why I have to tell people when I visit them because I’ll yell in the middle of the night. It’s often coupled with sleep talking, where I’ll get up and scream. I’ll thrash around. I might speak loudly and then sometimes walk around and do something. Usually, it’s related to panic. It’s so frustrating and it’s mentally exhausting. I would love not to do this anymore.

Learn to create more boundaries for yourself. Click To Tweet

I got used to it. For a huge chunk of my life, I accepted it but at this stage, I don’t want to do it and I wish I could stop it. I used to also be resistant to taking medication but at this point, I would gladly take medication if that could help. As long as there were no major side effects to the medication, that wouldn’t be worth it. There have been times when I’ve hurt myself. I have the craziest experience of jumping out of the bed, running across the bed and falling to the ground. I did it with such speed and force that I thought I’d hurt myself pretty badly but the next day, it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought at the moment.

I woke up through this incident and was nervous that I had injured my toe. I weirdly fell on my foot. I remember my heart pounding and thinking, “If I don’t get help for my sleepwalking, I’m going to majorly injure myself one day.” That is so scary. That has happened to me only a few times in my life. I’ve been sleepwalking off and on throughout my whole life but it has been the past couple of years that it has been extreme. That’s nuts. Even that number, I’m like, “Wow.” It got started to get worse. I hope the sleep study tells me something and I will keep you posted.

I’m not even quite sure why I got into this. I’ve been thinking about my brain, how it works and why it does the things that it does. I wish there were more resources but because such a small percentage of the population has sleepwalking behavior or sleep disorder as it’s called, there are not a lot of tools. What’s interesting is the more that I’ve researched ADHD and autism, especially after the episode with Corey, I fall on the spectrum of both in terms of assessments and I’ve done multiple assessments and tons of research. It’s crazy because no one has ever pointed that out to me. I had to discover that myself.

I had a wonderful psychiatrist that I saw when I was in college. I don’t remember her pointing out the anxiety. It felt like it was all about depression. Maybe with her training at the time, that’s what she knew. This is my point. The tools for diagnosis are not even that great and something interesting that I’ve learned is a lot of the diagnoses and evaluations for things like ADHD and autism are based around men and also around specific age ranges. If you’re a woman, your brain is biologically different in a lot of ways. This is to my knowledge. I am not a brain scientist by any means but from my understanding, there are nuances in our brains based on our gender.

There should be more tools that include everybody but also age, history, genetics and experience. There are so many factors that it becomes hard to get a diagnosis. You can collect this information to try to self-diagnose yourself or get different opinions from doctors but you may continuously feel unsure about it. That has at least been my experience. It’s tough sometimes but I’m trying to own it and not shy away from the things that make me different.

The sleepwalking thing seems like a fun fact, so I enjoy to an extent telling people about it but there have also been times where it feels incredibly isolating. The symptoms or elements of ADHD and autism that I’ve discovered about myself, I’ve reflected on so much in my life. I didn’t even fully realize how alone or different I felt. I learned to mask so much about myself, change and try to be this people pleaser that I’ve lost a lot of sight of who I am.

One thing I found interesting as an exploration around all of this is this term called Aspienwomen. There’s this woman named Tania Marshall. She created this popular blog post and self-diagnosis, which for the way that I think is so poorly organized and I thrive in organizations and structure. If you see this blog post, you’ll be like, “What is this? This is weird.” I’m in the same boat but it was worth going through. It took me a while to read it, long and in-depth but I’ve learned a lot of things about myself, so whether or not I’m falling on this spectrum as I’ve started to conclude, it’s still teaching me so much.

MGU 315 | Navigating Neurodivergence

Navigating Neurodivergence: Sleepwalking happens in the 90-minute stage your brain goes into before sleep.

 

Social Exhaustion

There were several things in that specific blog post. The author breaks it down into different elements of your life, like career and work. She touches upon things like social exhaustion, finding difficulty attending and participating in staff meetings and work events. I’ve struggled with that my entire professional career. I’m sure I struggled with that in school and college in some elements but I thought there was something wrong with me and I had to push through it. It wasn’t until where I’ve learned and centered my life on creating more boundaries. That’s what inspired me to start recording this episode. Hopefully, I’ll get to the main thing I wanted to talk about but the tangent has taken me in a different direction.

I was struggling to cope with work and employment environments. There was a couple of elements of that where I thought, “Everybody struggles with that. Who wants to go to work?” In a lot of ways, that’s true. Especially during COVID, we have seen people shift their perceptions and want to work from home and people do not agree with the hours that a lot of jobs require. It all depends. It’s very relative but I thought that most people felt the same way.

The more that I’ve looked into this, I’ve realized that some people are completely fine with coping in work environments. It was very extreme with me, but I pushed it down and tried to change myself. I get very stressed if I have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. I get frustrated and stressed if I have to do too many things at once. I also try very hard to avoid making mistakes, forgetting things and pleasing others. A lot of those are characteristics.

Getting into social and friendships, I didn’t even realize how much I struggled with social interactions. This was something that I have identified as being introverted for so long. Once I learned about what an introvert was, I was like, “That’s me,” but looking at it through the lens of being on the spectrum and neurodivergent, I’m like, “I don’t know if that’s introversion.” It might be that I have a major preference for things like one-on-one social interactions and close friendships. I’m also generally lean towards friendships with men because I find them easier to understand than women, which is another thing. Also, needing a lot of time away from people.

There are so many points from this Aspienwomen article that I’m going to share with you. Save this for another episode or explore that on your own. What inspired me to start recording this episode does tie into that point of needing time away from people, getting stressed and anxious in group work situations and social groups. Sometimes, I’m feeling like social interactions are tough because I’m over-analyzing everything that I wanted to say, should say or wish I had said. That is incredibly draining. That causes me to spiral into a lot of anxiety.

I deeply dislike social chit-chat or superficial conversations. Anytime I’m chatting about nonsense or something that is described as lack of function, I try to avoid that at all costs. That has made socializing very tough for me. I’ve adapted. I’ve learned to do it. I’ve masked myself. If you see me in a social situation, a lot of people tell me that I look like I’m extroverted and comfortable but I’ve learned. Deep down inside, I feel deeply uncomfortable and very anxious. I’m looking for an escape. Even talking about it is giving me anxiety, to be honest.

I felt a major difference because I’m usually the only person who wants to leave a social function early. What’s interesting is I still want to go. I still put myself in those situations over and over again. Maybe hoping that they’ll be different, be in the right mood or hoping that there’ll be worth it but every single time I go to a party, I feel like I can only last five minutes. Unless they’re super close friends of mine, there’s a function to it or a purpose to the party, it feels like I don’t have a big tolerance for it. I’ve brushed this off about myself for so long.

Some places are becoming more aware and inclusive, and we need to keep going in that direction. Click To Tweet

There’s a big difference between how our brains work and our preferences or a personality in all of these things. I’m also seeing how much I’ve been conditioned, pressured and shaped through the way that I was parented. With the education I had, the friends that I had and my lack of understanding a lot about these things, I trained myself to do things differently.

I also carried around all this shame and anxiety because I felt so different. I felt like I should be feeling differently about things. The more that I look into this, the more I think, “What a shame?” What a shame that I felt so much shame. What a shame that other people do too. This is not just about me. I’m sharing this because maybe you feel the same way. I know many others do.

One thing that’s interesting about that Aspienwomen posts is reading through the comments. I don’t know if you’re like me but when I see a lot of texts, I’ll go over to the sidebar and scroll down. Do you know how most browsers show you where you’re at on the page about how long it is? In that Aspienwomen blog post, it shows that the page looks almost never-ending. With your cursor, you can click, drag and skim through the whole page. If you do that, you’ll find that the blog post or the page of this website is long but most of the length is due to all the comments.

I read some of the comments and instantly felt less alone. I was like, “There are so many people who have similar brains like me.” On the spectrum, on so many different levels and extremes, I felt simultaneously included but then scared and confused because while I identify with a lot of the things in that assessment and other assessments I’ve taken, there are several things that I don’t and that led me to be unsure about myself. It’s tough.

More Awareness And Inclusivity

The main thing I want to talk about in this episode that ties into all of this is how do you cope? How do you move through life when you feel different or you know that you are different and confident about it but maybe the world isn’t very accommodating? For example, one thing I saw on TikTok was a video of a grocery store that has sensory aware hours. Meaning that on specific days of the week and hours of that day, they change the lighting, turn down the sounds, don’t play any music and fewer people are in there. That is designed for people that are very sensitive to sounds and visuals. Other people and all of these things that can cause a lot of anxiety can go and shop more comfortably.

I’m watching this video thinking, “Maybe this explains why I feel so anxious at the grocery store.” I’ve had moments shopping where I feel a deep sense of panic. I’m thinking, “It’s my mood. I’m anxious about something else.” The more that I become aware of how I’m reacting to sensory experiences, the more I learned to cope and mask all of those things but they’ve probably been bothering me my whole life.

I’m so grateful that there are stores like those. I don’t know if there are any in my area but there are places that are being more aware and inclusive. I hope that we keep going more and more in that direction. Another reason I want to speak out more about my experience and bring on more guests to talk about this and ask you too to reach out to me and tell me about your experiences is that I want to learn about it all and maybe collectively, we can make a bigger difference.

MGU 315 | Navigating Neurodivergence

Navigating Neurodivergence: Becoming your best self is not about your appearance.

 

I was thinking about this big event that’s coming up. Jason and I have talked about it on and off on the show over time. It’s one of my favorite things to do. COVID has changed it a bit because this big trade show has not happened for years. It happens every March in Anaheim, California, which is near Disneyland, not that far from Los Angeles. It has been something that I’ve gone to for many years.

In 2020, that event coincided with when everything started to go into lockdown so they canceled the event last minute. They didn’t have it in 2021 but they did have their other event, which is on the opposite coast in Philadelphia. I went to that and that was September 2021. I went there because, at that time, I was feeling more comfortable with COVID, so I thought, “I’m going to go do this. I miss going to this event.” When I heard that they were bringing back this event in Anaheim for March 2022, I thought, “I’m going to register. I’ve missed going to this event. If they’re going to hold it, it must be okay COVID-wise.”

In my opinion, COVID is constantly changing, so who knows? I’m trying to stay very flexible but I’m also trying to figure out how to operate in a way that best supports me. The more I’ve learned about these things of how the way my brain works, it’s revealing this buried side of myself, I suppose. It has been revealing needs and desires that I’ve had that I’ve shoved so far down that I haven’t even been fully aware of them. I’ve had signals of them. In the context of this event, it’s a great example of how much I’ve masked and how I no longer want to do that.

This trade show before COVID had about 90,000 people attending it. It was about four days long nonstop from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. There would be parties and events so I would wake around 7:00 AM or 8:00 AM and get myself ready. If you know me, I don’t love wearing makeup and doing my hair. This event is one of the very few exceptions, especially when there are a lot fewer social events in person. I will do my hair and makeup, pick out clothes and plan so much about my appearance because I feel more confident.

I’m around a lot of people I know and people that I feel like I want to impress so I want to convey my best self. Even though I hesitate to use that terminology because I know my best self is not about my appearance, it’s probably part of the masking that I need to do where I’m looking for a way to feel comfortable, which is an interesting thing to examine. I talked about in the past episode how I wonder why people wear makeup, do their hair and enjoy it. I’m curious if there’s a deeper reason. Is it that they truly enjoy it or they’ve learned to enjoy it because society rewards them for enjoying it? That’s something that I’ve had to examine a lot in myself.

The more I do, the more I realize I don’t care about makeup, hair and all of these things that I find to be superficial but I also can see why there are times that I feel more comfortable presenting myself that way but it’s a mask. When I put makeup on my face, it’s masking what my skin looks like underneath and my eyes and my lips. When I do my hair a certain way, that’s not masking. I like to curl my hair when I go to these events. Normally, my hair is up in a bun and I could care less but when I go to that event, I wear my hair down all wavy. I’ll pick out specific clothing that flatters my body versus at home like, “Who cares what I look like?” I pick out comfortable shoes. I give so much deep thought to this.

Since I’ve been going to this trade show for many years, I developed strategies to help me get through them. Looking back, I’ve noticed so many things. This event, to me, is the greatest example of my brain but also my coping mechanisms. The event is so chaotic with tens of thousands of people there. There’s also time pressure because even though it’s four days long, there are so many things to do and see. I’ll get major FOMO, so I try to do everything I possibly can, which has required me to create in-depth plans so much so that I wrote a whole eBook about this trade show to help other people. I meticulously went through every possible strategy. Every year I went to this event, I’d conceptualize more things.

Often, we are not alone in our desires, but we hold them together because of social constructs. Click To Tweet

For many years, I thought, “What a great thing that I did. I’m so organized.” I organized events and meetups. I would spend all this time and effort crafting them and getting people there. People would thank me and it boosted my ego. I felt like, “I deserve a pat on the back for all this.” At this moment, I’m looking at all of that behavior thinking, “That’s anxiety.” That is someone who’s doing everything she possibly can to cope with this event to handle and reduce her FOMO.

As I was anticipating what this event could be like in March of 2022, I started feeling all my anxiety come up. I felt like I need step back and make sure I wanted to go. I could go on and on about the decision-making but I won’t go through that at this moment. If you ever want to know something, I’m happy to elaborate but this is where I feel self-conscious. I’m like, “Am I oversharing?”

That’s another common trait of someone neurodivergent. They don’t know when to stop sharing and then feel self-conscious about the fact that they may have overshared. I go through that all the time. This is especially hard on a show. I’m sitting here talking to myself and recording this hoping that people enjoy it and do not know. That’s tough.

I went to this event in September 2021. I remember feeling that anxiety within 5 or 10 minutes of being there but trying so hard to manage it. One thing that I noticed about myself very profoundly is I was struggling to interact with people, which defeats the whole point of going to a trade show. That’s virtually what you do there. For a visual for you to paint a picture if you haven’t been to this event before, it’s a ton of booths. Depending on the event, 1,500 to 3,000 exhibitors are spread out in huge convention centers on the East Coast and West Coast of the US and then there are a ton of attendees.

The one in September 2021 had a lot less with COVID being part of it but also historically, the East Coast version of this trade show is less attended. I was hoping like, “It’s COVID. Everyone’s going to be standing far apart. I don’t have to interact with people. I’ve got my mask on.” I felt more comfortable because I was masked but I also wanted to hang out with friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I wanted to try samples of products. When I get there, all I want to do is to be by myself. I was trying to think about how do I get through this event and experience it with barely interacting with people.

I thought at the time that it was because of COVID. I thought, “It’s just my COVID anxiety. I’m nervous about being in an environment with people.” I’m sure that was part of it but thinking about it, it was my mask starting to come apart or dissolve during COVID. This is where it’s fascinating. It could be that many of us feel out of practice with socializing but it’s also possible that we haven’t been in situations where we’ve had to put up all these coping mechanisms or masks. If you’re like me or anywhere on this spectrum of neurodivergent or somebody that struggles with anxiety, you might have an anxiety disorder clinically, you can probably relate to this. It’s revealing things about yourself that maybe you’ve tried to ignore. That’s the big theme here.

At this moment, I’m trying to figure out, “Do I want to go to an event like that? How does it serve me?” It’s scary to question it. This is one of the lessons too, if you’ve done something that you felt like does bring you joy and serves a purpose in your life but suddenly, you’re faced with this realization that it has been unpleasant in a lot of ways that maybe you weren’t willing to admit to yourself.

MGU 315 | Navigating Neurodivergence

Navigating Neurodivergence: Step back and make sure whether you want to go to social events.

 

I’ve known for years that event drains me but I thought that was because I was introverted. I thought, “It’s tough for me to be around all these people. It drains me. I need to go home and recharge.” Examining it, I see all the anxiety and deep discomfort. That’s causing me to think, “Do I still go to this event?” At this moment, I want to say yes but I don’t need to decide for a while.

When it comes to decision-making, part of me is hoping that the event is canceled because of COVID. COVID has given me an excuse that I’ve craved for social situations like this. A lot of people can relate to last-minute cancellations. Those often feel good for a lot of people but for me, because I’ve been a people pleaser and I’ve had FOMO, I often say yes to a lot of things that I don’t want to do but I do them because I feel obligated and I’m afraid of missing out on something.

That’s an interesting element that I’ve been trying to examine for a long time, especially when it comes to this trade show where when I get there and I’m steeped in this anxious feeling of FOMO or this panicky state of, “I’ve got to do everything possible. I can’t stop. I can’t breathe.” There are tons of small talk and feeling like there is social etiquette that I have to abide by. All that stuff is starting to feel like complete torture to me. Why have I put myself through that?

I have done things like that trade show because of the, “Everybody else is doing it, so I should do it too,” mentality. That’s what you do with the industry. Everybody says it’s great and they’re having a good time. That’s where it’s nuts to examine something like this. You’ve conditioned yourself to believe that you should do something. You’ve talked to other people and allowed yourself to fall into the pressure of it. You’ve found enough joy in something to cover up for the discomfort. It’s this big examination. There is no right or wrong answer and an absolute answer to this. I don’t know at this moment. I find myself feeling completely split and that’s a very important thing.

The process of exploring this is ultimately what I’m interested in. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether or not I go to that event. It’s not making or breaking my career. Over the years, that event has become less significant for me. It’s becoming even harder for me to justify business-wise going there. This 2022, maybe there are some tie-ins with one of my clients. I simultaneously enjoy seeing people that I haven’t seen in a while but also can only handle a few minutes with them and then I want to disappear. I feel like an awful person for saying that but what if more of us admitted that?

I’ve learned to be more compassionate and accepting of my friends because I often wonder maybe they feel the same way. Maybe they want me to cancel on them last minute. Maybe they only want to talk for five minutes. Maybe they don’t want to hang out. What if we could all be more honest about our preferences, energy levels, brain patterns, behaviors, differences and discuss them? We might find that everybody wants the same thing but is afraid to admit it because society has conditioned us to believe that we need to act in a certain way.

With that event, in particular, it’s tricky. In September 2021, I experimented with trying to avoid small talk. I started to cringe when people would say like, “What do you do?” When you go to a trade show, you’re just repeating the same thing over and over again and that drives me nuts. My brain does not enjoy that. I wish I could announce to everybody who I am and what I do. I’ll say it once and then be done but to go from booth to booth explaining myself is so exhausting. I would find myself trying to avoid it.

Accept and embrace who you are and be confident when you say, “Hey, I'm different.” Click To Tweet

Over the years, I’ve learned all these tactics. I would avoid eye contact with people so they wouldn’t ask me that question. I would time things out and do the Irish goodbye. I’d be in the middle of a conversation and then look for the quickest opportunity to walk away and feel like a jerk for not saying goodbye but I was terrified of having to wait any longer to say goodbye. My friends have called me out for this, and this is probably why I feel guilty.

My friends think that I am a jerk and rude sometimes but what’s more important? This is the other thing that I’m examining too. Who’s making all these rules about what’s right or wrong, rude, acceptable or professional? A lot of those rules do not work for me and I don’t know if they work for everybody. I wonder how many people are feeling what I’m feeling but have acknowledged it because no one else has acknowledged it.

Do you know that feeling when you’re in a meeting and you want to say something but you’re afraid that it’s inappropriate, then somebody else says it and you’re so relieved? You finally feel like you’re understood. I have this happen all the time. Sometimes, I’m that person. I was in a meeting. I couldn’t take it anymore and I had to share my thoughts. I was afraid of expressing how I was feeling because I thought it was going to come across as rude or out of line but it turned out that the majority of the people that I was on in this meeting with agreed with me but none of them said it.

Embrace Your Uniqueness

It made me wonder, “How many times are we all feeling the same thing?” It doesn’t even have to be the majority of people but how many times are we not alone in our desires but we hold it all together because of social constructs? That’s the big lesson here. It’s encouraging you that if you feel the pull towards figuring yourself out, looking into these things and tuning in, what do you want? What do you need? How does your brain work?

It isn’t a choice that you can make a lot of these times. Your brain may work in a specific way that you cannot change and maybe you don’t need to change it. What if you can accept it, embrace it, be confident with it and say, “I’m different. Do you feel this way too?” It’s okay if somebody doesn’t feel the same way. It’s okay you’re in a meeting and you say something out of line, hopefully. It depends on context but at least you dared to speak up in case you would inspire somebody else to do the same. More and more, that is what I want to lean into.

I started this Web3 series started not too long ago. I asked in that video for anyone watching to reach out to me if they’d enjoyed it so I could get a feel if I should continue doing it. That in itself is interesting. Something I’m trying to shift is so much in my life I’ve done something only if I have positive feedback. If I get negative feedback on something, I usually either don’t want to do it, give up or stop. If I don’t get any feedback, I also will question it. I’m yearning for somebody to tell me that they like something I did or for someone to give me validation. It’s because I’ve trained myself as a people pleaser to be guided by what other people want and expect of me or what other people like.

In some ways, that’s nice. I enjoy collaboration and community. There’s a lot of value in pleasing other people and taking into account how they feel but it has been way too extreme for me. I’m trying to find the courage to continue doing something if I want to do it. As long as it’s not hurting anyone, if I believe in something, want something and feel guided to do something, I’m trying to practice doing it even if nobody validates it, somebody criticizes it or it feels like no one cares. I’m trying to persist and that’s very tough for me but deep down, I feel like it’s important for the exact reasons that I shared.

MGU 315 | Navigating Neurodivergence

Navigating Neurodivergence: When we tap into the authentic side of ourselves, we’re inspiring others to do the same.

 

Hours after I finished that first live streaming video, which did not have a lot of viewers last I checked and that’s okay, one person I don’t think I’d ever heard from before sent me an email and thanked me for doing the video as a woman because I was talking about things like cryptocurrency and Web3. She said something along the lines of it being refreshing to hear a woman talk about these things.

That was all I needed to hear. That made my day. It’s like how I feel when someone reads the show and tells me how it impacted them. That moved me forward. I don’t want that to be the thing to move me forward but I will acknowledge that it makes a huge difference in my life. The reason that specific email made a difference is because I was like, “I get to help, inspire and be alongside somebody else in a lot of ways.”

It’s like I was describing in a meeting. When you speak up for something that you feel passionate about and somebody else agrees with it, you were in it together, supporting and lifting each other. To me, that is one of the greatest experiences. That’s ultimately at the core of this episode. It’s acknowledging who we are, stripping away our masks, questioning our lives, raising awareness about ourselves, finding the courage to question what we’ve done and making sure that it’s an alignment. Also, knowing that it’s not just about us but when we tap into that authentic side of ourselves even if it goes against the grain, we may be inspiring other people or perhaps the permission to do the same. That’s an incredible thing.

If you’re feeling that way either about this episode or something else you’ve listened to, watched or read, I would love to hear that. I would love to know more about you, how your brain works and what your preferences are. What have the last couple of years revealed to you? Have you changed? I imagine you have, so I want to know in what ways have you changed. How have you shifted and evolved? What have you transitioned into? Where are you going? Life is a constant unfolding and shifts. Sometimes, it comes out in very profound and obvious ways. Sometimes, it’s more subtle.

If there’s anything you’d like to share, I would love to hear it from you. You can send me a message on social media. You can find my email. The fact that person emailed me after watching my video, I was like, “I guess my email is not that hard to find.” I don’t feel like I did the best job in sharing my email address. That gave me some comfort that you too, could find my email address either on the Wellevatr website or the Whitney Lauritsen. If I can ever do anything to improve upon the whole show and make it easier for you to find things, please let me know.

I’m also on social media @Wellevatr as well as @WhitLauritsen. In either way you contact me, I would look forward to it. There is another episode coming up and this is one I have not, at this moment, recorded yet. I better go get some sleep so I can be repaired to honor another incredible human being on the show for you. Thank you so much for reading. I’m wishing you all the best with your journey. Until we next connect or until you next read the show. However that manifests, until next time. I’m wishing you the absolute best in your life.

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