Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Day 195 - To all the Isolated Loners on the Outside Looking In

This one goes out to all of the people out there who are on the "outside looking in".

You know who you are. You are the ones who at some point in your life, for one reason or another, went on a path that took you away from the kinds of paths your fellow peers took. You are the ones sitting in the back row, watching the action unfold but never getting yourself into the mix. You are the wallflower, leaning against the back wall with arms folded across your chest attentively listening in but never speaking unless spoken to. You are the deep ones, with a lot to say, but somehow don't seem to have whatever it is other people have that lets them just open up and talk to people and be "social" and this drives you crazy but you'll never let anyone else see it on your face.

If this at all sounds like you, you probably think this is just the way you are, and that this is the way you are going to remain for the rest of your life - and maybe you have even made peace with it or romaticized the idea of being the "outsider" and turned it into a part of who you are even though there is still some part of you, some small, tiny spark that says "No, I am more than this and I want to connect with people" but instead of listening to that little spark, you tend to push it down and dismiss it as fantasy or wishful thinking.

I am going to tell you a very personal story - a story that I very rarely tell, but may open up some new perspectives for you, the outsiders looking in. And by the end of the story perhaps you will reconsider some things about yourself and see that the fears that come up inside of you when even considering the possibility of engaging in a social life, or participating in a group setting, or simply sharing yourself with others and being comfortable, are simply indications that some very simple steps had been missed at some point in your crazy, outsider life - steps that with some understanding, awareness, and a bit of effort can easily be recovered.


An Outsider is Born

Throughout childhood I would often move back and forth between two countries. I was initially raised primarily by my aunts and grandparents in Taiwan and then returned to the US to begin my elementary schooling.

In the beginning I spoke no English - but it was quite remarkable how quickly and effortlessly I learned by simply being immersed in the language while I was in the US. I wanted to reach out and play with the other kids in my neighborhood and at that young age I did not have a conception of judging myself or thinking about whether or not the other kids would accept me if my language skills were poor or nearly non-existent. There was a kind of innocence to me back then - something that only later on in my life got replaced - but more on that later.

Throughout the years though I would be taken out of school and return to stay for many months in Taiwan - which meant that I never fully got a grade school education and would often be absent for much of the schooling. This also meant that I would be away from the friends that I had made and the American culture that I had gotten accustomed to and identified with.

When I was around 11 years old, we left the US once more but this time we stayed in Taiwan for a year. During this year the majority of my time was spent in my bedroom, very much isolated for most of the day except for the few moments of eating with family members. I was not able to read or write Chinese, and so I did not attend school while I was in Taiwan. Rather, I simply stayed at my bedroom and entertained myself with my toys, comic books, and video games - very much in my own little bubble.

I would often see other kids from outside of my window, looking down from the several storied flat where we lived. I felt detached from them - like I was locked up in my tower looking down. The most contact I managed to establish was to throw down from my window pictures and drawings that I had made to see if the kids down below would pick them up, react to them, comment about them. I never dared to venture out by myself to meet and interact with those kids on my own.

As the year progressed I found myself spending more and more time alone, in my own mind, creating pictures and fantasies and developing a lot of internalization in the absence of social living, all of this while also going through the onset of puberty. My mind began to become far more 'active' and 'vivid' so to speak - where I would constantly participate in backchat and internal dialogue while very seldom speaking with others.

At the end of that long stay, I returned to the US to finish the 8th grade - where once again there were other kids my age who spoke English and had been raised in the American culture that I had identified with. But this time however, I did not have that same point of "innocence" that I had when I was a child. This time, I had judgment and fear and comparison and all manner of fears and anxieties in dealing with other people after my period of relative isolation. Gone was that child who fearlessly went out to play with the "foreign" kids despite having no common language.

From that point on, I felt it was always a matter of having to "catch up" with everyone else - everyone else who had lived a more stable life, had a more well rounded education experience, had spent time socializing with others while I did not. I felt constantly awkward and judged myself for feeling awkward, which only made me act more.... awkward. Oh, did I mention I was also going through puberty? Yeah that didn't help my sense of confusion.

My voice was soft, quiet, sometimes quivering. I was often nervous and anxious and by hands and arms would shake like a caffeine addict going through withdrawal. My body was small, scrawny, and in some ways underdeveloped in comparison to others who had more active childhoods. It was hard to speak up, to ask for things, to seek assistance - the last thing I wanted was for more people to see this awkward, scrawny kid that I had become.

And thus, a loner/isolationist/outsider was born.

I, Outsider

I never felt that I could relate to other people. The things that they were involved in and interested in didn't seem as interesting or appealing to me. But this was also due to my own judgments about myself not fitting in and telling myself that I would never be accepted and that those things were just "not for me". I would for instance attempt to play sports with the other kids but because I never learned the rules of the sport or watched any sports on TV, I would make mistakes or do things that put my team into a bad position. I never quite got the hang of working within a team and did not understand how many of those dynamics worked. When the team I was on would tell me that I was no longer allowed to play with, I would simply internalize it as "That's okay, I don't like this anyway".

I focused more on my own pursuits and was a very introverted person, though of somebody were to reach out to me and speak with me I would have plenty to say. It simply did not move myself to engage with or open myself up to others. From High School on, I would live out this pattern of being a lone wolf so to speak - doing my own thing, not wanting to bother with friends, social outings, sports, or anything having to do with a normal life - which included going to school, going to college, earning a degree, getting into a career, settling down and having kids and a house, etc. All of that seemed strange to me and I told myself I wanted no part in it - even though within me a part of me always did.

I struggled with understanding HOW so many other people in my life seemed to be so good at... well, life. How did they manage to get into relationships, have children, get careers, move on with their lives? Why was it so difficult for me to develop those things? How can others so easily and effortlessly just seem to walk into a crowd and instantly make friends and be an "insider"? The answer eluded me for a long time - because the answer was always RIGHT IN MY FACE and I was too busy being an "outsider" to recognize the simplicity of it.

Fear as an Ally

I realized that my 'shyness' and aversion to social situations was not something bad or something to be ashamed of - it was the natural and logical defense mechanism for the kind of childhood I grew up in. I had abusive parents and did not establish communication or sharing skills at home. I did not spend my time with other children to learn/practice socialization skills. I did not participate in the things that the 'average' person would have participated in - and yet I was COMPARING myself to other people as though I had lived the lives they had.

I also realized that FEAR is simply a lack of understanding or relevant skill. It is a defense mechanism where we are trying to prepare for anything and everything because we do not know what to expect within a new situation, or when we are in a situation that involves things we don't understand and/or have not yet developed enough skill with. So within FEAR we try to compensate for our lack of awareness or skill by heightening everything - making everything MORE than what it is in case we miss something.

So when I looked again at the social situations where I find myself staying in the back rows, making myself scarce and barely present, but yet still wanting to be "part" of something and "contribute" something, I realized that what is holding me back is not fear itself, but what the fear was showing me: that I did not understand how certain things worked within social situations. And the reason I did not understand how certain things worked in social situations was because I did not have as much experience as others have - and simply had not developed the skills or learned the techniques due to my rather isolationist lifestyle and early childhood development.

BINGO! So I realized that I spent so much time comparing myself to other people who have had totally different lives compared to my own, and then judging myself for not being like others. All that I lacked was the will to go out there and DO it - the same way that my much younger childhood self simply decided to GO outside, play with the other kids who I wasn't able to communicate with, and just have fun and figure it out as I went rather than already shooting myself down for not being able to already do something I had not learned or practiced.

So - these days when an opportunity to do something new with a group or with new people in general comes up, I make it a point to push myself and remember the young child version of me that was fearless - because fear was totally unnecessary - and yes now and then certain social situations are still uncomfortable, but I do it regardless and each time I do, I become more natural, more skilled, and understand more how those particular social dynamics work - and you know what? The fears subside. And the plus side of it is - all of the depth that I had developed over the years now has an outlet, and boy have I got things to tell you.

For now, if any of you relate to my story of  being an outsider or isolationist or experience fears or nervousness or even if like me your body/hands shake visibly and other people can see it - what I can tell you is that NOBODY ever judges you as much as you judge yourself. Seriously you might be offended at how little space you take up in other people's minds. Get yourself out there - slowly but surely. Start showing up at meetings. Then start participating a bit. Then keep doing it. And once you see that you have survived this horrifying socialization, SEEK OUT opportunities to express yourself and participate and come out of your comfort zone - and prepare to be surprised at how helpful people can be if you simply ask for support or spend some time to get to know them. 

And for those who know of people who are isolationist but you can see them hanging around, kind of lingering, just barely there, know that it is very likely that they really really want to participate more but are not yet equipped with the skills to come out and engage with you. Sometimes they just need you to reach out to them first so they can see you aren't going to immediately judge them, and it takes the pressure off of them to have to break down the walls that they have been living behind for potentially many years - and be patient! These people can be very deep and like any deep body of water, it can take a while for things to surface - but when they do you may be surprised at what treasures and richness these deep people carry inside.

For more perspective, check out these interviews from EQAFE:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Joe Kou MIXLR - Late Late Night Rantings of a Human

Mixlr Audiocast - Joe Kou : Late Late Night Rantings of a Human

Here is my first foray into live audio broadcasting, done at an ungodly hour of morning while I have had some things rattling in my mind and keeping me awake. This will be a launching point for more audio recordings to come as I familiarize myself with the Mixlr process.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Day 194 - Joe and the Great Big Scary Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes Chapter 2

Day 194 - Joe and the Great Big Scary Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes Chapter 2

 Here is where we left off from the previous chapter :

"So, I had the choice of moving up into a higher level of the company I was working for - where I had gotten comfortable and already knew much of the procedures and business model and developed relationships with people, but would be taking a slight pay cut with little room for growth, OR leave the company and take an offer from a former co-worker who had gone into a totally different business where I would be working 12 hour graveyard shifts but would potentially double my salary with room to grow, but no guarantee that I would be a good fit for the job.

So, how did I face this point and how did I come to a decision? Which points did I consider within my process of picking one position over the other?"
for the full chapter, see it HERE.

CHAPTER TWO - Making a Decision

In facing this choice there were some very interesting things that were coming up for me - and within me I experienced conflict for a few days while I found myself going back and forth between the two options with both sides seeming to have their own army of lobbyists in my mind. Back and forth went the internal conflict until I realized that there was only one reasonable and practical thing to do in a situation like this: To write it out and look at it without the energetic and emotional charges. 

In writing it out and really sitting down with it all I saw how, as things tend to be, deeper and more complex than it appeared on the surface. There were actually many layers of fears and doubts and anxieties behind each option, and in facing one dimension I was also facing all of the others in quantum time - where multiple layers and dimensions are brought through into one single moment right here, right now (See "Future of Consciousness: Quantum Time Compression" for explanation on how/why this is now occurring more frequently)

While there were multiple layers and dimension to the issue I will share here the two main themes that came through: 

On the one hand I was wanting to remain within the same line of work because I was already familiar with it and had already established some professional relationships with people, and it would allow me to remain employed with a decent enough salary and not have to step out of my comfort zone. It would also give me a bit of an ego boost because I would technically then be the "boss" of the boss I had been working for. 

The drawback here would be that I would not be making more money than what I was making, and would technically have more responsibilities - which I did not like because for a long time now one of my goals was to be able to earn more so that I can consider working less and going back to school, or at least if not going to school being able to save up money. 

On the other hand the second job offer would have a much higher earning potential nearly double what I had been making and would allow me to save up a good amount of money relatively quickly and may provide a way for me to be able to walk away and consider other options later on having saved up enough money to transition.

The drawback on the second option was that it would require me to work 13-14 hour graveyard (afternoon into early next morning) shifts, which effectively would prevent going to school and would be a job that would require that I step out of a lot of comfort zones and have to acclimate to a job that can be quite stressful and taxing as well as face the point of no longer being in a position of authority or management that I was used to. 

You may have spotted the common root that was lurking within both decisions - which is that the fear and resistance of stepping outside of my comfort zones was a central point: the point of not wanting to have to step beyond my comfort zone.

Realizations of Opportunity

So here is where the REAL decision comes. Because ultimately it was not so much about wanting to make the 'right' choice about which job to take or which working environment to be in - but rather the REAL decision was who I am and who I decide to be in the face of these two options, and which option I see would be the most practical and effective in terms of me directing and moving myself to achieve my fullest potential.

What I realized here was that there was in fact no "right" or "correct" choice here to not look at it in such a limited way. But rather to consider this a kind of "decision point" within my life that is asking the question : 

"Joe, in light of everything that has happened up to this moment, who do you decide to be and how will you engage or create yourself?".

Ah, now it begins to unfold more - and within this perspective of looking at the decision before me not as a 'test' to see if I get it right, but rather seeing it as a point of self-creation and direction I realized the following:
No matter which job I chose, I would have to face the point of not wanting to step outside of my comfort zone - and in order to address this of course I had to define and specify what this comfort zone is, and what I am allowing myself to fear which is keeping me dependent on remaining behind the comfort zone. 

For me, this comfort zone was about having to be vulnerable and open to new people, to new experiences, and to be willing to be humble with myself and take responsibility for my weaknesses while finding ways to better utilize my strengths. To in one moment be open to new things while also letting go of the old and having to take full responsibility for whatever comes.

Defining the Problem 

Rising up and facing new things head on is something that I have developed quite a resistance to throughout myself, as one of the main patterns that played out in my childhood and young adult life was that of feeling disempowered and having to 'make do' with compromising myself and protecting myself from the 'outside' which included anything new or anything that did not come from people that I depended on to make decisions for me such as my parents. 

For many years I developed layer after layer of defenses to essentially protect myself from the things I had not learned to address which over time became more and more automated - to a degree where such defenses became such a constant and consistent part of my decision making that I eventually stopped noticing it and simply determined that it is who I am and who I always was. Almost 'instinctively' I would create positions for myself where I would be 'safe' from having too much responsibility or having to take on new challenges and whenever I did find myself in a situation where I would have to step beyond those fears, I would immediately and conveniently create a way "out". 

And now within this moment of opportunity before me I began to see more clearly my role and responsibility within the decision I was about to make - do I allow my memories and my past experiences to define me? Do I continue to defend my limitations for fear of what challenges I may face beyond them? But perhaps most important: 

Do I accept and allow myself to believe that my comfort zone or my fears and limitations are concrete, unchangeable, and more substantial than the potential that I can be and become in regards to this decision before me?
And so from that starting point I looked again at the choices - 

To continue with a job that would not greatly contribute to my earning potential but would be comfortable and easy and allow me to accept a lesser version of my potential.

Or to unconditionally allow myself to face the new challenges as they come within the new position, understanding that I will have to face fears and doubts and to instead of judging myself when I run up against the walls of my comfort zone, rather see it as an opportunity to find ways to expand and step beyond it - to allow myself to attain a higher earning potential than I ever had before and with this to expand and be able to do more, contribute more, and come closer to reaching my utmost potential with the time that I have left - or at least having pushed myself to try and be willing to challenge and contest the walls of my self-limitations rather than giving in automatically. 

I chose the latter. And with it came new challenges and indeed the barriers of my comfort zone rose quickly to greet me. Though that is a story for another chapter.