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.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I did not get a chance to join a sorority in college, and I feel as though I missed out on an experience. I know that there are graduate chapters for people such as myself, but I hear that it is difficult to get invited to join. I really value camaraderie and networking, and I feel like joining a sorority would give me a sense of purpose. What are some ways that you know for women in my situation to join one? -- Sorority Bound
DEAR SORORITY BOUND: Believe it or not, joining a sorority in grad chapter may be easier than when you are in college. At least this is true for some sororities.
In general, many people are interested in joining sororities, often more than there are spaces to join. I say this not to discourage you, but instead to prompt you to cast your net a bit wider. There are many women’s organizations that offer a strong sense of camaraderie and sisterhood with the added bonus of public service. Do research in your areas of interest to learn what organizations are active where you live. You can look up female-focused not-for-profits and sororities for starters. Find out what feels like a match. Prepare your resume and application materials carefully. Find sponsors when needed, and go for it!
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)