Being different can be very challenging. Other relationships in your life will give you the support and help you need to get through this and other challenges you face in being different. It is important that you surround yourself with people who accept you and are supportive of you. My support network of family and friends was really what kept me going through my difficult times. One experience stands out in my memory. I was in the high school choir and we were on a tour, performing in several locations throughout the Southeast. We ended the tour at Disney World, a place where everyone is supposed to be happy, but it didn’t turn out that way for me. I’ve mentioned how it felt like my size made it so that I couldn’t seem to get a girl to like me. Well, it just so happened that every one of my closest friends had recently found girlfriends shortly before or during the choir tour, everyone but Robbie. I was so glad that I at least had one friend to hang out with and not feel like an unwanted third wheel. That all changed for him, however, as he experienced some “magic” in the Magic Kingdom. During our day at Disney World, he got together with and even kissed Summer, one of the most beautiful girls in the choir.
Sure, I was happy for Robbie, but I was also devastated because he was my only single friend left and the only one with whom I felt comfortable hanging out with; now he too had a girlfriend! I’ll never forget the irony of being completely miserable and all by myself in what was supposedly the happiest place on earth. ‘What is wrong with me?’ I wondered as I ended up just sitting alone at a table by the ride Thunder Mountain. The minutes passed by ever so slowly as I waited for what seemed like an eternity for 10:00 p.m. to arrive, when we were supposed to make our way back to the bus. Finally, when the time to go had come, my solitude ended as we all boarded the bus. Robbie was beside himself with the excitement of his first kiss; however, he noticed I did not look so happy. I can imagine that most people would not want to come down from such a magical high to sit with and console a miserable friend, but that’s just what Robbie did. We talked for hours, until late into the night about the challenges I was facing due to my difference. After my talk with Robbie, I was comforted and felt so grateful to have a friend who was willing to listen and be there for me.
Those we interviewed described five ways that you can receive support from friends and family including: acceptance, permanence, closeness, validation, and love. Seeking to be around those who give you these and other kinds of support can be vital in coping with the challenges you face.
The rest of this post has now been published in my book Standing up for Standing Out: Making the most of Being Different in Kindle or hard copy.The book includes experiences from 74 people I interviewed who share their struggles and coping strategies on the topics of relationships, belonging, standing out, self-acceptance, working against labels, gaining understanding and compassion, and personal growth. Check it out!