There are countless ways women can excel in our society. However, there are just as many ways society hinders women from fitting in and feeling misunderstood. Whitney Lauritsen dives deep into this uncomfortable notion. She shares her learnings from the book Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You by Jenara Nerenberg. Listen in as Whitney tackles this paradigm-shifting study of neurodivergent women with ADHD, autism, synesthesia, high sensitivity, and sensory processing disorder. Join Whitney as she explores why these traits are often overlooked in women and how society benefits from allowing these unique strengths to flourish.
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The Masks We Wear To Fit In And Feel Understood
If you have tuned in to this show for a while, you know that I’m an avid reader. I love listening to audiobooks and reading non-fiction. I love learning about the world, other people and myself. I saw some information about how that might be part of being neurodivergent, which has been a big part of my journey. I have been so focused on studying neurodivergence, specifically ADHD and autism, to see if I truly fall on those spectrums after doing some self-diagnosis and talking to other people. It is hard to tell sometimes what is going on with us because we are very biased, but it is also very hard to get information about ourselves from others because they have their own bias.
I have also learned that a lot of the ways that people are diagnosed are based on either outdated tests, studies or scientific research. A lot of that information was gathered in very limited ways. For instance, I learned that a lot of the studies done in psychology were based on men, maybe even specifically White men, privileged men or specific types of men. It has discounted the female gender, biologically speaking, as well as all different types of people.
A lot of the information that we have about ourselves may not be very accurate, and I’m deeply intrigued by that. I love studying Psychology when I was in high school and I minored in Psychology when I was in college. I often wish that I had pursued a career in Psychology, but my creativity won out. I majored in Film Production and worked in film for many years before becoming a content creator online.
Psychology has played such a big role in my personal interests but it is more so coming up in my professional career as well. I’m getting very close to taking an emotional well-being coaching program because there is a huge part of me that wants to put a lot more focus on helping other people with their well-being and that’s very tied to Psychology. I bring that up because I have been studying this for so long. It is shocking to see that the information I have collected about the world and other people, plus the information I have collected about myself may not be the full picture, and it is sad.
It is also resonating with me on a level where after exploring neurodiversity and starting to identify as somebody who is a neurodivergent, I feel like I wish I had this information earlier on. It’s like when I first learned about being introverted. I wished that I could have had that framework earlier on in my life because I have felt so isolated and alone. I also think that I have been masking so much in my life without even realizing that I was doing it.
I started reading a book that has opened my eyes. It is called Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You. It is one of the best books I have read on this subject matter. One reason is it was written in 2020. Two is that it is coming from the perspective of a woman but supporting other women that may be neurodivergent.
It is in this book and some other pieces I have read. I believe that about 1 in 5 people are neurodivergent. It is a little bit more common than I realized. Who even knows if those numbers are accurate. What percentages of the population have even been examined, tested or diagnosed? I don’t know. You have to take those statistics with a grain of salt. This book has opened my eyes and I wanted to share some sections of it because you might resonate with this and it can help us in our relationships with other people.
Part of my journey of examining all of this within my own life started in 2021. I had been visiting some family members and I was talking to my mother about this and saying, “I think one of my younger family members might be autistic.” She asked me why I thought that. I said, “There were a lot of physical manifestations of it that I perceived to be autistic, the body movements and language, and the way they talked and interacted socially.” I had a pretty limited viewpoint on what autism was at that time.The amount of energy it takes to go about life pretending to be something other than who you are is rough, and it causes so much burnout and anxiety. Click To Tweet
I have learned a lot more in six months since this conversation with my mom. The biggest eye-opener of that conversation was as I was describing these characteristics of a family member of mine, my mother said, “You exhibited a lot of that when you were younger too.” At the moment, I was like, “What is she talking about?” Was she being serious?” I was so taken aback by that and in disbelief like, “What do you mean? I did not exhibit autistic qualities.”
No one to my recollection has ever said that to me before, except for my sister. My sister has teased me about being autistic. I don’t think it is a great thing to do but if you have a sibling, depending on your relationship, you may understand that it is not meant to be mean or rude. It was our dynamic as sisters. It is also coming from a place of ignorance for both of us. I don’t know if my sister was trying to antagonize me or I interpreted it and got defensive. I’m like, “I’m not autistic,” but I was looking at autism from such a limited point of view and definition that it did not even seem possible.
As I have talked about in an episode where I did a diagnosis after having some guests on the show that talks about her adult diagnosis as being a person with both ADHD and autism or ASD. It was such an eye-opener. Suddenly, my horizons were broadened and I have been studying it and looking for more information to better understand it. The more I dig into it with books like the Divergent Mind book that I started reading, the more I think, “What if I have been a person with autism my whole life but no one knew because I masked it so well, or maybe I learned as a child to mask so much that no one picked up on it.”
That’s common because women, in general, tend to exhibit different traits and symptoms or characteristics of something like autism differently than men. Because men have been primarily studied and the diagnosis has been based on those studies around men, it is hard to see it in women because it is not as talked about.
Categories And Labels
I’m trying to be mindful of my language because this is a sensitive subject not just for me, but for others. I’m still learning how to navigate this. If I do have an autistic mind or fall on the spectrum, it is shocking and simultaneously almost revealing and relieving. It’s like when I found that word for introversion, I felt like, “That makes sense.” Now I’m not even sure if introversion describes me. What if what I thought was being introverted is related to being neurodivergent and I don’t feel the need to label myself. In the episode with the anxiety sisters, I love one thing that they said, which was that there are pros and cons to putting ourselves in categories and labels. A few guests have said this.
I can speak for myself here. I want to diagnose and have a way of describing ourselves because it helps us operate in the world. I’m nervous about telling this to people, aside from you. It feels a little different on a podcast because the podcast feels so intimate. I’m more nervous bringing this up to my friends and family members because I don’t want it to come across like I’m calling myself autistic. First of all, it might be as shocking to them as it is to me if suddenly I’m like, “I think I’m autistic or I have been diagnosed autistic.” I almost feel that people that I know won’t believe me and that’s scary. They will think that I’m trying to jump on a trend. I don’t see it as trendy but I don’t know how else to describe it.
It is scary to share something about yourself. Maybe this is the only way that I can understand what it would feel like to come out of the closet. Especially for adults that have been viewed as heterosexual their whole life. What if they reveal that they are homosexual and that changes somebody’s entire viewpoint of them? That is scary, or they feel they are not going to be believed or they will be treated differently. I feel that way too with this. I’m not saying they are the same thing. I’m saying that I wonder if it is a similar experience.
I try to be mindful of my words because this is a quality of being neurodivergent, especially with autism. I have learned that it is not being able to sometimes say things that are inappropriate or come out the wrong way. A neurodivergent filter could be very different from a neurotypical filter, the socially acceptable ways of saying things. I’m terrified of saying the wrong thing.
I got a message from somebody who was a bit hurt or upset by something that I said in a previous episode. I felt awful because I wished I had not said it. I said it at the time because it felt right for me to say it. I often feel like walking on eggshells. A big part of my life has been the fear of not fitting in and being misunderstood. Those are deep things for me. I have a wound of feeling misunderstood my whole life. Apparently, that is a quality of being neurodivergent because your brain works differently. A lot of times, we don’t even realize our brain works differently than other people because we automatically assume that everyone thinks the way that we do.
Even if we can observe differences in other people, it is hard because we are only in our heads. I’m not sure if any of this makes sense, but this is what I grapple with. I have this fear of talking about this to people I know. I have a desire to get a formal diagnosis if that even exists. The more I look into this, I don’t even know if I could trust a diagnosis based on how diagnoses are created. Part of me is like, “Can I diagnose myself? Do I have enough information?” That’s a challenging thing too.
I have also felt this way when I have talked about the history with my body. I switched my language from talking about having an eating disorder and started framing it as disordered eating. Part of me does not even know if I actually have an eating disorder. I don’t know if the behaviors and the mentality that I had about my body are common and may be technically not a disorder. It has been something that I tread lightly on because I take eating disorders very seriously and I don’t want to put myself in a category where I don’t belong.
I exhibited the behaviors, traits, and thought processes of somebody who has an eating disorder. Is it that I’m in denial or something that I either still have or had? I don’t know. This is the trick of it all and going back to even the desire to label ourselves. If I think about disordered eating, for example, there are times when I feel like I fit in with other people because they too have experienced that. There is a bonding. It is like I’m not the only one that ate the way I did and talk the way I did. We’re one about the world in that way and we can relate to each other.
I’ve talked about it on YouTube and it had brought more people into my life. It was in 2012 that I made a video about opening up about all of this. I don’t even know why I made that video but I remember how many people were coming forward and saying, “I can relate to you.” They felt closer to me because I discussed that. There is power in sharing these things about ourselves, even if we feel like we are fumbling through them as I do. That was one of the big reasons that I have been trying to talk about this more openly.
I want to go back to some of the things I learned in the divergent mind, especially the masking part of this. The author Jenara Nerenberg says, “Masking refers to unconscious or conscious efforts to hide and cover one’s self from the world as an attempt to accommodate others and coexist.” The phrase “accommodate others” hits me in a deep way because I feel like I have gone through most if not all of my life trying to accommodate others.
I find myself rebelling against that. I was feeling so frustrated with that operation. I have referred to myself as a people pleaser and a perfectionist, but now I’m not sure if even those words are right for me. Maybe they are part of it, I’m not sure. That’s still part of my discovery process here. What if I have been masking and operating in a way to accommodate, not just to please? It’s feeling like I had to show up in a certain way because how I would naturally show up would not be right or work for others.
I was trained into that or taught that. Maybe I learned that the hard way. I wish so badly that I could go back and see or remember what it was like to be a little kid who felt misunderstood and did not fit in. I spend a lot of time trying to think back to my earlier memories. I’m fortunate to have a lot of video footage of myself as a little girl, and I have been meaning to go back and rewatch some of it through this lens.When you go about life masking so much, you lose the sense of who you really are. Click To Tweet
There is one video clip that comes to mind. I was sitting on the couch with my grandparents, and my grandma was reading a book or quizzing me. She was sweet and gentle but for some reason, that moment I have seen on camera a number of times sticks out. She was trying to get me to either say words right or do something in a certain way. I kept saying it in a certain way and she would go, “No. It is this way,” and I was laughing it off.
That seems like a common experience for children, and then I started to wonder how many kids experienced that over and over again and were told, “No, this is the right way. You are doing it wrong.” I feel like so much of our educational systems, parenting and raising children is based around correction. In a way, I feel uncomfortable about that because it is pushing us into a certain way of operating and getting us to believe that if we don’t operate that way, then more wrong and bad.
Depending on the child or human being, they may deeply internalize that. I think I did. That ties into being a highly sensitive person, which is another quality or another type of neurodivergence that is covered in this book. I don’t fully identify with it but certainly, having heightened sensitivity has been a major challenge in my life. I have been ashamed about that.
There are so many times in my life when people have told me I’m too sensitive. I felt like I have to hide my sensitivity. I felt ashamed of my sensitivity. It has been a rough thing. I have seen sensitivity as bad. That also ties in to some of these biological gender-related things where if so much of the way that we operate in the world has been shaped by men, seeing masculinity as not sensitive, seeing masculinity as rooted in strength, and strength being the opposite of sensitivity in a lot of people’s minds. Of course, it is going to feel wrong, bad or weak to be sensitive.
I don’t believe that to be true, but it seems like so many other people have. I have tried hard to mask myself as not a sensitive person. The amount of energy it takes to go about life pretending to be something who you really are is rough. No wonder, I have felt so much burnout and anxiety, and this is brought up in the book too.
Jenara also says, “You unknowingly begin to edit and adapt to mask for survival. This begins a repeating cycle of censoring or attempting to fit in, and overall altering your performance of your ‘self’ in the world, leading to depression, anxiety, burnout or worse.” It is having a sense of always needing to act out the “rights steps,” and that is so me.
I have looked at life through this lens of right and wrong, good or bad, and the amount of stress I feel around that is almost debilitating. I found myself feeling I can’t even operate “properly,” which is also interesting. A lot of this information is starting to come out of the woodwork. It is fascinating because burnout is discussed so frequently. Anxiety, depression and mental health are shifting so much in our awareness and I’m excited about that. I wonder why is it that people are suddenly talking about these things so openly and frequently now. What is shifting in the world that’s causing us to feel that we have had enough of it?
This whole idea of fitting in is also interesting. Something that drives me to read so much non-fiction is I’m trying to understand the world and myself and find out who I am and why I am that way. When you go about life masking so much, you lose a sense of who you are. You don’t know who you are. I felt that over the past few years. I feel like all of it is coming up to the surface. Sometimes it feels so scary, frustrating and overwhelming. Sometimes it feels incredibly empowering.
They also believe it to be a bit of a universal experience because it is hard for me to think of people who are not expressing something like that. To me, it’s not specifically related to being neurodivergent. It is very common or the main trait of being neurodivergent is this masking. Something else that was brought up in the book is that instead of accepting myself as curious, passionate and inquisitive, I felt different and isolated.
I have some mixed feelings around that because I have increased my curiosity, but I also have had it pointed out to me in so many negative ways that I feel a little uncomfortable about being such a curious person. That’s a word that a lot of people use to describe me. Most of the time, someone points out that I’m hyper-curious. It makes me feel different, isolated and self-conscious because it is rare that I meet someone else who is as curious as me.
If you don’t interact with a lot of people that are like you, you start to feel different and you wonder, “Is it okay to be different? Is that a strength?” I feel like my curiosity is a strength a lot of the time. When other people notice it, I feel like that’s where I mask. I try to mask it in a way where maybe people only subtly notice it about me.
The same thing goes with my ability to hyper-focus. I’m hyper-organized at times and in certain ways. It happened on a phone call. I had somebody point out how much I was working on and they use the phrase busy, which I don’t like. A lot of you pointed that out about me. They are like, “How are you able to do all of this?” That’s a very common thing but it is ironic because I feel like there is so much I’m not doing. I believe this is more related to ADHD. It is like I can hyper-focus, buzz around, sit down and do a lot of stuff, but I simultaneously feel like I can’t sit still and I can’t focus. I beat myself up a lot for not focusing. It is interesting. I’m always afraid that people are going to see me as lazy and unproductive. Clients are going to get mad at me for not getting things done.
I feel like I’m always rushing and up against deadlines, but I thrive at the same time with that pressure. I get into this mode where suddenly, I’m hyper-focused and getting everything done. I’m doing that with taxes. I kept telling myself, “This year, you are going to get your taxes done early or on time.” I have an accountant just for taxes. Every year, I’m like, “I’m going to get my things into my accountant on time so we don’t have to get an extension because I feel ashamed every time I have to get an extension.”
I have had a tax extension every year probably for ten years straight. I don’t know if there is been one instance of getting my taxes done on time, but it is fine. If you did not know this, you can get an extension and you are supposed to pay the money on April 15th or whatever the date is, and you can extend it to file your taxes on October 15th.
I felt shame. I don’t like being later or behind. I associate that with negativity. No matter how much I try to get myself to finish my taxes “early” so I can be on time, I have not been able to do it. I recognize that I will get my taxes done on April 14th. My accountant has not given me a deadline for when she needs me to finish things. When I don’t have a deadline, I will procrastinate over and over again, and I felt so much shame for that.
What is wrong with me? I’m an adult. I’m supposed to be professional, and I can’t do this until the last minute or the eleventh hour. When it is the eleventh hour, I will hyper-focus and do an amazing job. I will get it all done. If somebody says, “This is the expectation.” I will meet it and surpass it most of the time. Otherwise, if I don’t have those boundaries and that structure, I will completely fall apart and be unfocused.Many mothers feel the pressure to raise their daughters in a society that doesn't fully value women. Click To Tweet
What most people observe about me is accomplishing a lot. I have pride around that but also this Imposter syndrome. If only you knew how much I procrastinate and how much I lie in bed under my weighted blanket trying to recover from feeling overstimulated, which is also a classic trait of neurodivergence.
It is like if only you knew how isolated, alone and all of these things. This is part of the reason that I want to talk about it publicly here. Hopefully, more in my life is how many other people are masking? How many other people are feeling that shame and guilt, and feeling they don’t fit in and feeling misunderstood themselves? They don’t want anyone to know the realities in which they operate throughout their life. It is like we don’t want people to see the insides of our homes because if only people knew how messy we were as if that is such a bad thing.
Back to some quotes from the book. This is interesting and important too. The writer says, “An extensive amount of depression and anxiety surface as the result of internal experiences that don’t match up with what the world expects or how the world views women, especially if they appear to function ‘normally’ on the outside. Autistic women, many of whom have been sensitive their entire lives, but do not know that they were on the autism spectrum. The questioning of utilizing and managing sensitivity is tricky because many have been told or taught that something is wrong with them. As a result, many have experienced shame, depression and severe anxiety.”
Women As Mothers
When I read that, I was like, “Does that explain all those feelings?” I know for sure, my mother gave me the message of if I did not do something in a certain way, I was not doing it right. I can’t fault my mom for that because that’s the viewpoint she had about what it meant to be a strong woman. I’m sure my mother wanted me and my sister to be successful and not let our gender define us.
My mom always came across as an accomplished, successful, savvy woman. She had great jobs and she has always been good at money. She felt strong as she exhibited all these traits that I associated with masculinity. It was amazing to have a mother like that, but sometimes women and I imagine many mothers feel this pressure to raise their daughters in a society that does not fully value women.
Maybe she believed that my sensitivity was something I had to get over. My way of thinking, speaking, working, accomplishing, and all of these things that I did “differently” were scary to her. Many people in life, if they see someone doing something different, they encourage them to fit in because it is truly a matter of survival.
Being A Chameleon
I don’t blame the messaging I have received in my life, but it is sad because I have internalized it. I get it. I want to take personal responsibility but that’s part of the issue too. It is always about change. Another quality I have read a lot about is how people who are neurodivergent tend to be chameleons. You become so good at changing. That’s me. I can adjust to any environment that I’m in. I feel like sometimes I have to.
I was invited to some in-person parties and I feel pretty comfortable going to some things. I was thinking, “I’m so out of practice with socializing in person.” I was starting to think ahead about how I might feel at some of these events, which is also another quality that people who are neurodivergent tend to prepare mentally for outings, excursions, meetings and appointments days before a scheduled event. That is 100% me and people often see that as a positive.
“Whitney, you are so prepared.” I hear that all the time, but it gives me a lot of anxiety. I prepare to try to relieve anxiety because I get so stressed out about socializing. I also want to do whatever I can to fit in. It is like, “Am I just preparing myself to mask?” A part of this whole exploration is, “Who am I?” I feel the discomfort of trying to figure out who I am because I have been trying so hard to fit in my whole life. If who I am does not fit in, am I okay with that? These events are coming up.
I live in Los Angeles, and a lot of people I know are in the entertainment world, either online or in Hollywood. Going to parties can feel exciting because that world is very appealing to me, but also super scary because I feel like Hollywood is so much about fitting in. I use Hollywood as the entertainment world. There is so much pressure because many of us have been conditioned to believe that we have to shape ourselves in a way to become successful. There is that layer too for me. Because I was so passionate about making videos and films growing up, I steeply studied Hollywood.
There were always rules and structure. You have to do things this way in order to succeed, and I wanted to succeed so badly. It was like, “Let me put on another mask. Let me become another layer of a chameleon.” A huge part of that as a woman working in Hollywood is about your appearance. This is a whole another tangent I can go into but it sucks.
For someone like me who can turn myself into a chameleon, I can do my hair and makeup, wear my clothes, I can lose weight and do all this stuff. I have conditioned myself to shape-shift. I experienced a lot of women being like that. This word catfish. It is a version of a catfish that is more like a chameleon. Many people in general, but especially women or people who identify as women or even non-binary, taught themselves to shape their appearance through makeup, hair, clothes, etc.
It’s this whole other person that I can turn myself into because I feel like that is the person that’s acceptable. What sucks about it is that oftentimes, when I turn into that woman, I not only feel inauthentic, but I feel like I’m being judged for my appearance, and people treat me differently when they are judging me based on my appearance. The downside is that so much in my Hollywood career was being taken advantage of. There is a whole other subject matter.
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I never knew if a man was giving me his attention because he took me seriously as a filmmaker or because he was interested in me romantically or sexually. I started to resent shape-shifting into what I deemed as an attractive woman because I associated that with not being taken seriously or not feeling like myself. Unfortunately, the times when I have not focused on my attention, I feel overlooked. Every single time I show up on camera these days, I wonder if somebody is judging me on my appearance for good or for bad.
That sucks, but many of us have trained ourselves to shape-shift in order to get what we want, but are we getting something that we want based on a lie? This is where the whole masking, whether it is neurodivergent or not, is tough and frustrating. This is coming back to, “Will I be accepted for who I am?” It is scary to let go of trying to control people’s perceptions of me.
Neurodivergence And Survival
A lot of neurodivergent people are seen as being controlling. That’s another thing that I have been shamed for. Especially men I have dated get frustrated with me because they perceive me as being controlling, but what I have read about neurodivergence is trying to be in control is about surviving. If I can’t control the scenario, I feel insecure. If I can’t control the situation that I’m in, I feel like things are not going to work out.When people don't have the words to explain to others what they're going through, they feel like nobody understands them and they end up masking. Click To Tweet
I feel so much tension, stress and pressure to make things go a certain way basically. That has made it incredibly hard for me to trust other people, and hard for me in relationships. If I am neurodivergent, I wish I had known that earlier on because I can see all of the issues I have had in romantic relationships and friendships too.
One thing I have been struggling a lot with is a particular friend of mine has wanted to speak with me on the phone. I’m going through a phase of avoiding phone calls and I struggle with them. I can’t remember if I took notes on this in the book or not, but one thing that comes up is how overwhelming communication can be.
There is a section in the book about sensory input being overwhelming. There were also people interviewed in this book. The author said, “I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment. Other people’s moods affect me. I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days into bed, a darkened room, or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.” I feel that every single day and it has been tough in friendships and romantic relationships. When I’m overstimulated, I want to retreat. Sometimes that lasts for days or weeks or even months in nuanced ways.
I have this friend who is calling and texting me a ton. I have gotten to the point where I feel almost paralyzed because I wish I had the words to explain why I don’t want to communicate right now, but I feel like I’m going to be misunderstood no matter what I say so I say nothing. I’m terrified of being misunderstood for saying nothing. That in itself, I want to explore deeper because that’s also part of masking. As I reflect on how I have masked in my life, I’m like, “The amount of times I have probably said something just to say it, is it not in a way a mask?”
Right now, I want to be left alone. I want to retreat. I even had this thought of I wish I could pause everything and retreat, but that would take so much coordination. It feels overwhelming for me to even coordinate a retreat for myself. I want to be able to retreat in a way that other people respect and understand the boundaries, and I can recharge.
I find myself recharging in little pieces here and there wherever I can get it. I’m retreating from a lot of personal communication. I’m only doing it in bits and pieces with my sister, my mother or my dad. Even with them sometimes. They call me and I’m like, “I don’t want to talk to them,” but then I feel awful about it.
I feel like they are not going to understand why I don’t want to talk to them. That puts me in this weird cycle of like, “I’m going to try to tell them why I don’t want to talk,” but then they don’t understand why I don’t want to talk to them. I then feel bad and I’m trying to accommodate them more, and then sometimes I talk to people even when I don’t want to because of the accommodation, but I feel awful. I’m drained even more than I was before, and then the cycle goes and goes.
I wonder how many people experience that. We don’t have the words to explain to other people what we are going through, we feel like nobody understands us. We ended up masking. Of course, they are not going to understand because we are wearing a mask. They perceive us in a way that’s not even the reality of who we are and how we are feeling.
When I go down this rabbit hole, I’m like, “Do we even know who anybody is? What if everybody in our life or the great majority of them are masking too?” We are all walking around wearing these masks because none of us feels understood, none of us feels like we fit in. I would be willing to bet that the great majority of people feel that way. The great majority of people feel imposters, feel bad, shame and guilt, all of these emotions. Neurodivergent are not so common.
What the heck do we do about it? I don’t know. I’m not trying to find the answer for the rest of the world. I wish I knew it for myself or even in these moments. What is odd is this friend I’m referring to is a very self-aware and understanding person, but I feel so much pressure to say the right words to this friend, to explain myself that I can’t even say anything because anything I come up with does not sound right. I’m terrified of expressing myself and being misunderstood. That feels such a major rejection to me.
Friendships are rough. This was something else when I was going through the diagnostics for autism. Autistic people tend to struggle in social situations. I tend not to rate myself as someone who struggles with that, but when I dive into them, I’m like, “I think I have struggled with social relationships more than I’m even aware of.” I have social anxiety or some form of it, but this communication has been so tough with even close friends of mine, and it is baffling to me.
There are times when I’m like, “I would rather not have any friends because I don’t enjoy being misunderstood.” I feel misunderstood most of the time, and so I find myself having superficial relationships with people or I’m masking myself so much around them. There is one of my friends, it is a different one from who I referenced before, who I grew up with and have known most of my life. I’m so aware of how much I mask in front of this friend. It is nuts, but I masked because the friendship feels meaningful to me that I don’t want to lose this person.
I don’t even know if I could lose this friend because we have been friends for so long. This friend feels like family, but I don’t think that person knows who I am anymore. I never tell this person anything about myself of any significance. I feel like anytime I share something significant about myself, this friend responds in a way that I feel like they don’t get me. I don’t want to feel that. I don’t want to feel misunderstood and insignificant, so I have trained myself to navigate our conversations in a way where I can avoid feeling misunderstood or whatever negative emotions. What is that friendship? Obviously, it has some meaning to me.
I feel unconditional love from this person, but isn’t that strange too? Unconditional means they would love you no matter what. You would think that would allow you to say whatever is on your mind. I feel like I could say anything to this person, but it is weird to try to talk through this out loud. The more I examine this stuff, I’m like, “Maybe I struggle with friendships and social situations so much more than I have ever recognized,” and this is what I mean.
Until you start to research and examine, many of us might be going through life completely unaware of what is happening below the surface. That’s why I love reading because it opens my mind. I ponder things and I’m sitting here thinking, “This feels insane.” Another quote from that book ties into some of the things that I’m saying which is, “Feeling extreme relief when you don’t have to go anywhere, talk to anyone, answer calls or leave the house, but at the same time, harboring guilt for hibernating and not doing what everyone else is doing.” That I know is a very common feeling these days.
I see this addressed all the time on TikTok. The relief I feel when that happens is so strong. I also feel disappointed when people cancel on me. There is this combo in there. Maybe it is not even disappointment. Maybe it is the frustration because I have to gear up so many days in advance before I socialize. It is frustrating when someone cancels last minute because I’m like, “I have done all this work building up to seeing you, and now you have canceled on me.”Until you start to research and examine, you might be going through life completely and unaware of what's really happening below the surface. Click To Tweet
That feels like wasted energy or something like that. Along the same lines, neurodivergent people tend to feel overwhelmed and exhausted by all the steps involved with doing things. That’s why conversations, outings, and all of these things can become so tough. Neurodivergent people tend to feel very paralyzed. I feel that all the time and recognise that.
I have started to notice how I think and I often think in steps. Some people think, “You are so organized. You have planned everything out in such a progressive way.” I’m like, “Yeah,” but I think that’s a coping mechanism because I need to highlight text in order to consume it properly. I need to reread things a bunch of times. I need to say things out loud. I’m a very verbal processor if you have not noticed.
All of that stuff helps me and my brain to understand things, consume them and get through. My work needs to be very clear and broken down. If I don’t have that, I feel like a complete wreck. At this moment, I feel vulnerable. Simultaneously going through this book and sharing this out loud, I know that I’m not alone. I know that I’m not as isolated and different as I feel, but I feel the weight of how all of these ways of operating have been shamed and seen as abnormal, bad and wrong.
That conditioning makes it tough to share. I feel awkward. It comes down to feeling misunderstood. I’m not to say this entire experience and discussion that I shared can be summarized in that, but that’s at the root of my vulnerability. Maybe it is the pain of going through life feeling misunderstood all the time. It hurts. You think you get used to it. In a way. I have but it is still painful because deep down, what I most wanted is to feel understood.
As a result, I’m on a mission to help other people feel understood and they fit in. That’s why I share. I want to feel close and connected with people on a deeper level. I want to embrace others and open up spaces that are as free of shame as possible. That mission of mine is growing stronger. That is the reason why I do this show and have the Beyond Measure community. If you don’t know about that yet, it is a private but technically public and free community that you can join. It is private in the sense that you have to register as a member and it is not searchable. On the internet, you can’t see into the community until you become a member.
It is not exclusive and you don’t have to apply to get in. It is not about meeting criteria and it is not paid at this time. If you are resonating with the things that I shared and you want to be able to find a place where you feel more understood, accepted and less ashamed, that’s exactly why I made Beyond Measure. It brings me great joy when people join.
Every Saturday, we have group calls and they are one of the very few places where I feel fully embraced. I can’t say that I don’t mask in there. I would like to work on less masking, and I think I do a pretty good job. It feels very similar to this show. The way I show up here is the way I show up there. I imagine that I still feel like I have to put on some act or something in there, which is so interesting, but that’s me.
Deep down, I feel so embraced by the members. It has attracted incredible people. It is one of my greatest joys. I’m trying to bring it up as often as possible to invite other people like yourself in there to have deep conversations and do it in an exchange, not just you reading. I invite you there so that I can get to know you and hear about your experiences.
Let’s say Beyond Measure does not feel right for you or you don’t feel comfortable joining a community. That’s fine. I do want to remind you. I love hearing from our audience truly because it helps make this less about me and more about us. The community is at the core of everything that I’m working on.
If you would prefer another method of connecting, please email me or message me. If you have not gathered, I struggle with communication. If you don’t hear back from me, please don’t take it personally. It is probably just me feeling overwhelmed, overstimulated and struggling to communicate. I have noticed for years that emails, text messages, DMs and phone calls are very daunting because I want to say the right thing back because I want to be understood. It feels a lot of pressure for me to even write the simplest message.
I try so hard not to come across as superficial. I want every person I talked to to feel valued and understood, so I get really in my head and that’s why responding to people is so tough. I wish that I could magically communicate better. If you do message me and it either takes me a while to respond or I never respond, please know that there is a 99% chance that I have read your message because I take it all in. It is just that responding to that I can’t guarantee.
Know that I want to hear from you. I’m taking you in. I see you. I hear and value you deeply. Beyond Measure has been an easier way for me to communicate because we do it mostly through live video calls and I feel comfortable there, oddly enough. It gives me an opportunity to hear from you and respond in real-time that I feel like I don’t have otherwise.
With all that said, thank you so much for reading and for being part of my life. I value you beyond measurement truly. I will be back with another episode. I think every episode is juicy, but it is an episode based around trauma, talking to and learning from people who have gone through big challenging illnesses, grief and hard times. The guest shares amazing lessons and takeaways. I loved that conversation. I will be back with another solo episode. Bye for now.
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