I received this email from “Sheela.” She writes:
Thank you for your efforts.
My problem is that, most of the time, I agree to disagree with the person I am in conversation with. This is especially true in my close relationships. Within the social circle, I have a name as a person who gets along well, and I am considered a balanced, mature person. But whenever I am with my husband, children, and friends, I sort of always tend to see things from the opposite perspective of what they say. I doubt this is to get a balanced viewpoint or to show my superiority.
I also realize that in most of the cases, I don’t have a specific view point or clear side.
My opinion is too open. So, I feel that I am sort of confused and lack clarity on who I am and what I am.
And mind you, I am a middle-aged married , mother of two grown-up boys, who was working until very recently, and I am well-read. Please help me to understand myself.
Thank you for taking time to email.
Right away, I noticed that you and I have a lot in common. For many years, and even sometimes now, I tell my family that I feel like a stranger in this world. I feel as though I think much differently than those around me, even when people agree with my ideas. Sometimes it seems as though everyone gets something that I just don’t get.
I often feel like I am having trouble explaining myself or that people think they understand me when they actually only see the surface of who I am and what I think. In the past, I have found myself very frustrated by all of this, even to the point of mild depression.
Another interesting thing you said is that you are a middle-aged woman. I am always encouraged to hear that women in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond are still questioning things around them. What this says to me is that you have not settled for an explanation of who you are, and you have not given up on learning about yourself.
I think there are more women in this world like this than we often realize, but like you, we think we are alone because the women who feel this way don’t talk about it. We are often afraid to speak up about our questions, afraid to contest the standards of those around us. So, we just keep our mouths closed, believing that if people really knew us, they would reject us. It can be a very lonely feeling.
You seem to be saying that, because you don’t think like everyone else around you and because other people can’t understand you, you don’t understand who you are. Please, never confuse an open mind with a lack of understanding of yourself. Instead, your open mind is part of you.
Your analysis of things around you is part of what defines the woman you are.
I always remind myself that those who think they have the answers are the furthest from the truth. The more we think we know, the less we actually do, because we have closed ourselves off to possibilities and have settled for limited knowledge.
There is a lot to be said for a person who is surrounded by like-minded family and friends yet still disagrees with them. I have been accused of arguing for argument’s sake. People have often told me that it would not matter what they say, I would disagree with them or that I merely want people to think like me.
But that certainly isn’t true.
I think that I, like you, simply don’t want to settle for the status quo, the “common sense” explanation for things, or the popular opinions. All I want (and I would bet you feel the same way) is for people to question why they feel the way they do about things. I often find that the best conversations I have with friends or family aren’t with those who agree with me. Instead, the best interactions are with those who evaluate why we disagree.
Take pride, Sheela, in the fact that you ask questions and have difficulty choosing a side. You are a critical thinker, and the best changes in life can arise from our questions we ask about ourselves, our lives, our relationships, and the world around us.
Don’t let your question about the norm or about your differences of opinion be a source of stress for you. Ease your mind by remembering that your differences of opinion are indicators of your ability to think for yourself.
Thank you again, Sheela. Thank you for saying the things that so many of us are afraid to admit. And I admire you for challenging the norm.
Keep seeking. Those who don’t seek truth are guaranteed to never find it.