• Coach Elizabeth Brink

Socially Different

Being "different" is really lonely sometimes. When other people didn't get me I

either looked for ways to discredit their opinion or I crumbled under the lie that I

wasn't worth getting to know.


Admittedly, I've had a mostly easy time socially. Making friends came naturally,

or so I thought. It took years for me to understand that many of those people

were not my friends. They were entertained by me, fascinated even, but they

did not see my whole self and sign up for a future by my side.


How could they have? I learned from a very young age to perform.


Before I was five years old, I sang "On the Good Ship Lollipop" to a group of

strangers on a ferry to Balboa Island north of Michigan. I remember creating

elaborately choreographed routines with cousins and friends for any adult

willing to watch.


I unabashedly loved the feeling of being seen and delighted in. In recent years, I've understood more of my drive to be known and, more importantly, liked. I wasn't a good student. I didn't stick to any hobby or activity long enough to earn accolades.


My greatest talent was talking, but in my formative years, I was punished for cultivating it.


I can admit that I'm not always paying attention. Sometimes (often) I'm bored

or preoccupied with my inner world. As one Enclave member pointed out this

week -- we can't tell people the truth about how disinterested we are in what

they're saying without hurting their feelings.


We don't want to be rude, but our brains can't be forced to turn the lights on and tune in. This is where friendship gets complicated for us.


We hear all about the connection being driven by vulnerability and belonging, yet

this is often not afforded to those of us with interest-driven brains that require

a lot of sensory input to focus.


We often feel smart, funny, and thoughtful, but performing the modern requirements of a "good friend" can leave us feeling misunderstood and exhausted.



Now, just because we're neurodivergent doesn't mean we should get a pass on

caring well for others.


But what if those who care about us started noticing how we are being a good

friend in unique ways? What if they appreciated what we do offer and helped us to

celebrate our strengths? A little benefit of the doubt can go a long way. Just

sayin'.


As society demands more of everyone's attention, those of us with

neurodivergent brains are left with very little energy to keep up the song and dance.


I've been thinking lately about what I've appreciated about my dearest friends

-- Kristen, Leslie, Kit, Emily, Gretchen, Claire, and my sisters, Sarah and Rebecca.

Here are some things I hope you can find in a friendship, too!


Qualities of My Closest Friends:

  • They accept that I get overwhelmed and overbooked and may disappear for weeks (months) at a time. I don't feel punished when I come up for air with comments like, "I thought you died! Where have you been?!" They greet me with, "I'm so happy to see you!"

  • They encourage my ideas without question, but when I don't see them through they never mention them again.

  • They let me change and grow.

  • They love me even if I don't (fill-in-the-blank).

  • They laugh at my jokes, and if they can't, they don't make me feel weird for not making them laugh.

  • My feelings never feel out of proportion when I'm around my dearest friends.

  • I can ask them questions I'm too embarrassed to ask others, and they'll make me feel like they're completely reasonable questions.

  • They never point out my typos, grammar errors, or other mistakes, unless it's something they know I'd want to know and change (which isn't many things).

  • They don't let me perform.

  • They share their whole selves with me, even if I've mishandled their heart before. They forgive and forget. I am allowed to be human.

Friendship is tricky for everyone. You're not alone if you're feeling confused about how to build meaningful connections.


I hope that you find someone who will welcome your brilliant presence into their lives and be gracious to you as you reveal your whole heart to them.


I'm curious -- what's the hardest part of friendship for you?

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