DEAR HARRIETTE: I have constantly been labeled as "weird" or "socially awkward" by my family and peers. These terms are not ones I view as positive, and I don’t like being associated with them. I don’t know what specifically makes people view me as such, and I struggle because what I think of as normal obviously turns people off in a way.
I try to compare myself to others to see what I do differently from them. I also pay attention to my nonverbal mannerisms, but I cannot pinpoint what the issue is. Some people complain that I don’t smile, but when I do try and smile more, I am viewed as creepy or too happy. Some people think I am too quiet, but when I make the effort to talk, they express disinterest. No matter what I do, it is never properly received by others. This oftentimes leads to me being mocked and made fun of.
I am tired of feeling like something is wrong with me. This causes me to not want to interact with anyone or go outside at all. But I know that it is unhealthy to stay hidden in the house all day. How can I adapt myself to be accepted and to gain some confidence? -- Social Outcast
DEAR SOCIAL OUTCAST: A lot of people are socially awkward. Even though you may feel alone, know that you are not. It doesn’t help that your family members participate in this name-calling.
Go outside of your comfort zone to associate with a new group of people. Think about what interests you. What are your hobbies or areas of interest that can take you outside of your home? Look for events in those categories so that you can go where like-minded people gather. When you and those around you are interested in the same subject, conversation will naturally lead to that topic rather than to an analysis of your behavior.