How do I get out of this swamp?

A letter writer longs to feel “normal”. Our elder reassures him: It’s OK to be different.


Dear EWC

What should I do? How do I get out of this swamp? Nobody understands me? Nobody feels what I’m going through. I’m lost, I’m aimless, meaningless, I live, I can’t believe in the beliefs and traditions of my community, and I also can’t find a suitable place for me in the world. I feel lonely and alienated. I try to integrate with others, but I’m different. I can’t understand why this happens to me. I want to be a normal person like others.

OmaSue replies

What an interesting and aware person you must be! You can see the whole of your community, understand the beliefs and traditions practiced by the community, and see that you have a different way of seeing the world. You sound just like me!

I also never quite fit in. I could not accept easily how other people worshiped in church or agreed with social norms. I always felt like I was peering through a window into the “normal world” and felt very much the outsider. But now that I am older, I have learned that what I was seeing was not quite the truth about other people and the world.

You see, most people, societies, and communities operate almost in an automatic fashion. Many people go about their days, doing the things they think they should do and perhaps internally, struggle the same as you. Most people will not really want to talk about these types of internal conflicts. It is far easier to simply go on with the show, so to speak. 

You say you feel lost and aimless, yet you have arrived at a place where you can see and embrace your personal beliefs. It is OK to be different! You are normal! We are not supposed to be exactly like others in this life. We each have unique attributes, gifts, and talents that we bring to our communities. I would like to hear about what it is you believe in, what your strengths are, and what you love to do!

Let me give you a personal example. Everyone I know eats meat (beef, chicken, pork, etc). I do not for personal reasons. When I was younger, I was embarrassed by being different. But now, on the rare occasions of going out to eat with others, I don’t care what they think. I live my life according to my personal beliefs. 

Being normal is not a fixed attribute. Normal is a very broad range of human behavior. I would take a bet that you are thoughtful, considerate, aware, and intelligent. I would imagine that you want to have a unique career. I also imagine that you want to make the world a better place.

Being by yourself, being yourself, is a much better place to be than living in a fashion that makes you either dislike yourself or makes you feel like a hypocrite. Have you heard of Shakespeare? Hundreds of years ago he wrote, “To thine own self be true.” Does this make sense? It means that we must honor ourselves and be honest with ourselves. It is better to be a bit lonely than to live a lie. 

Embrace and love yourself. Do the things in life that you love. Be compassionate, honest, and open. Accept others as you accept yourself. Love others as you love yourself. Be a friend to others and they will be a friend to you. 

I would argue that many people feel like you do. They perhaps can suppress and hide those feelings in a way not easily seen. You are struggling with the fact that you feel different. I would like to challenge you to accept that you feel different from others in your community. There is a place for you and there are others who feel like you do. You must listen carefully when speaking to others in order to really hear how they feel about their lives and their community. It is a huge assumption to think that other people are “normal”. Feeling different from others is “normal”. Being yourself is “normal”. 

You will find a place where you feel comfortable being yourself. It is very helpful to allow others to be themselves, to listen to them carefully, to accept others as they are, and to accept yourself as you are. 

As you find your confidence, it may be appropriate to speak to a trusted adult or a counselor. Talking about your feelings will help you to sort out what you are going through. But again, what you are feeling is perfectly normal. Life is sort of a “swamp” of different situations, different problems, and different people. We just need the tools to help us navigate through what feels like a swamp.

I hope this is helpful!

Article #: 479110

Category: Other

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