I wrote you a weeks... month? I'm not sure, I'm bad with time. Anyways, I wanted to let you know that I got my fursuit (fullsuit) and I absolutely couldn't be happier with it, you're advice really helped me and I thank you for that.
Onto my actual question, well... its not easy to explain but I'll try to keep it short. I grew up in a very isolated household where my parents weren't around often, me and my two brothers pretty much learned to fend for ourselves growing up. Because of this experience I kind of forced myself to be strong and try to make everything ok because back then I couldn't afford to be soft. This unfortunately has followed me throughout life, I seem to be unable to show my true emotions. I know I'm sensitive and am often hurting, but for some reason I am completely unable to outwardly show it. I can't cry, I can't even tell people what's wrong, my instinctual response to when anyone asks me if something is wrong, is to say "nothing" and "I'm fine" or sometimes its just "Don't worry about me, I'm tough" and these are all lies. Ugh, this is already getting to long and I'm sorry for that. But there's a prime example, I feel like I'm not worth anyone's time, I'm not worth help. And this st ems from my childhood as well as other experiences I've had, because the few times I've actually opened up to people, they've left because they didn't want to deal with me. All these things have led me to just build a wall around myself and not let anyone see the real me, and because I've been doing it for the majority of my life, I'm not even sure what the "real me" is anymore. I've sought out therapy and medicine, neither worked so I stopped. At this point I'm just kind of forcing my way forward day by day pretending I'm fine when I'm not.
Sorry about the potentially unnecessary backstory. My question is this, how do I let people in? How do I open up to people who want to help me? I'm terrified of what will happen when I do, I'm terrified if I stop being what I am now, there isn't anything left. What do I do?
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I'm glad to hear my earlier response was helpful to you; thanks for telling me :-3
Yes, having a difficult childhood can certainly lead to the problems you're currently experiencing. As you say, you had to be tough to survive your travails, and now this toughness has become entrenched into your personality. Fortunately, I would not say you are suffering from an emotional or mental health issue because you do feel emotions (and I assume they are appropriate emotions); you just are unable to let them out. What we have here, then, is a habit issue. You have programmed yourself not to show emotions to other people and you can't figure out how to break this habit.
How do you break a bad habit?
One classic way to do so is to replace it with a good habit. I suggest you already have such a habit available to you now: fursuiting! When you feel the need to express yourself, do so in fursuit. Being in fursuit (and in character) allows you to reduce or eliminate feeling self-conscious about your emotions because you have a secure barrier around you, so to speak, to protect you from feeling judged. When people react to what you are doing, they are reacting to your fursona and not "you," you see. This is the same method that actors on stage use. Many actors are quite shy in person, but when they are in character on stage or in front of a camera, they have a tool for letting out their emotions.
And you don't always have to do this while wearing your fursuit. You can also do it while just being your fursona in, say, roleplaying games online. You might think this is "hiding," but what it really is, is a way for you to rehearse and exercise your emotions. Just like working a flabby body gives you stronger muscles, exercising your self-expression will improve it over time. By doing so under the protection of your fursona, you will get lots of solid practice on how to openly let out your feelings to others in a relatively safe and productive way.
Another method you can use in concert with the above is to practice expressing emotions in a private setting. While no one else is around, go into your bedroom or bathroom and practice all sorts of emotional outbursts: cry, scream in anger, laugh out loud, express passion, express anguish. It is important to do this out loud and not in your head. Talk to the mirror about what is frustrating you or bringing you happiness or sadness. You can also try doing this with a plush toy or other object. Talk to, say, a teddy bear and tell it you hate it, you love it, it's driving you crazy, whatever you're feeling inside. Let it all out.
Keep doing these things over and over and eventually you will become comfortable enough to wean yourself off the teddy bear and fursona and begin expressing yourself to others as yourself. Do this on your own schedule and don't push yourself and don't give yourself unrealistic expectations or deadlines. This could take weeks, months, even years to happen, but it will happen if you keep at it diligently.
I'm still new to the Furry Fandom and as an adult with autism I never really felt any social connection outside the Internet. After over 10 years of trying, I finally got out of Mom and Dad’s house, but it’s still not complete. The guy I know I am is still locked inside of me and is still being stopped from coming out by them forcing me to take whatever it is they what me to use, what jobs they what me to have, having everything I do monitored, and more. Not caring that this guy is his own man and that makes me feel unsafe. I need to get out; I lost almost all my friends; all my dreams have been killed by them. The only hope I still have is if I could one day wake up as 0% human and 100% something like raccoon. That's the short version. The full would be over 500 pages long.
Lance (age 35)
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Congratulations on moving out on your own and starting to take charge of your life. That is a major step and I hope it is working out for you.
Because I don’t know the degree of autism you are suffering or your health history, it is difficult for me to offer you advice on this subject. But you sound as though you are eager to take charge of your own destiny. I suggest you start by picking up the phone and talking to a professional in this area at an organization called Autism Speaks. You can find contact information here: https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/autism-response-team. Another group you can look into is Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) http://autisticadvocacy.org/about-asan/; here you can educate yourself as to what is being done politically to help those with autism assert their rights and independence. If you feel motivated to do so, you might even try volunteering there, which will definitely help you feel more empowered.
I realize you feel as if your parents and others are trying to control your life, but I’m sure that what they are trying to do is protect you and help you because they care about and love you. The best thing you can do is learn more about the organizations listed above, set goals for yourself as to what you wish to do with your life, and make sure that those goals and wishes are communicated to your parents and anyone else involved in your life.
Moving to a New Home Can Be Scary
I wasn’t really expecting to have to ask for help with this, but as it turns out, my emotions have surprised me, and I find myself in need of some help.
As you may or may not know, I’ve recently become a property owner for the first time, aged 23, with a little 1-bedroom house that’s big enough just for a single rodent. And, despite being a bit frightened of total independence to begin with, I’ve actually grown quite excited about having my own place. I’ve already been envisioning ideas of how to redecorate it to be something all my own (well, as much as it can be, given it’s Grade II listed), and also being able to plan life to my own needs.
Despite this, part of the reason I’ve had to get a place of my own is because my mum has been trying to sell the family home so she can downsize to something cheaper. The reasons for this are complicated and would need a letter all their own if I even attempted to explain it, so let’s just say this decision is for the greater good. And, less than a week ago, we’ve managed to find someone who’s made an offer for the house. That doesn’t mean its outright sold, but the chances of us officially selling are highly likely.
So now, pretty much being given the official word that I’m going to be moving out, a few fears have struck me by surprise.
For one thing, there’s the matter of adjusting to my new life in my new home. It might sound rather daft, but I think the thing I’m going to miss most about this house isn’t the memories of what I’ve done here or how big the rooms are, but it’s the layout of this place. I have my little routines attached here, like how when I come home from work, I instantly walk through the kitchen and utility room to my downstairs bedroom/office and check my updates on my tablet, which I usually leave by my bed. And, being autistic, any sort of change often becomes a stressful event, so repetition and sticking to routines is very much a comforter for me in a world where things can become so chaotic and disjointed. With my new home, it’s going to be a whole new routine of how I live my life, and I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be able to adjust to this place. When I went to the USA for my first ever FurCon, I gave myself over a year to book things and mentally prepare myself for the journey. All I’ve been given for adjusting to my new life is 12 weeks!
For another thing, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to support mum during the move. This was essentially her dream home, and she’s put her heart and soul into making this place both her home, and her business (we run it as a Bed & Breakfast). So, now that it’s going to be switching hands and that she’s going to have to remove all her belongings and will pretty much be barred from entering this house ever again, this is going to be a big emotional hit for her. She told me from the day she put this house on the market that she was going to cry when the time came that she’d move out, and I really don’t know how I’m going to be able to comfort her when that day comes. It always hurts me deep when I see her in pain, and again, 12 weeks isn’t long for me to prepare myself for this!
I should probably make it clear that this isn’t the first time either of us have moved. We moved to this place some 14 years ago, essentially moving countries in the process (England to Wales) to start anew. However, in those 14 years, in one way or another, we both have grown attached to this place. I have with my routines and habits, and mum has put her heart and soul into making it hers. And, now that those attachments we’ve grown are going to be broken, I’m not sure how either of us are going to be able to cope.
Sorry for making this somewhat two questions in one (I know you have your “One Question per Letter” rule), but I guess what I’m asking in general is how can I be able to cope with this move, both dealing with my own stress and my mother’s?
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, Papa Bear!
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Well, yes, in a sense this is more than one question, but they really are all related; they are all about the attachment to things. Buddhism teaches us that the attachment to things is the source of pain, and this is very true.
I’m familiar with what you and your mother are going through. I’ve moved several times after being attached to homes and it can be gut-wrenching. The move from my 1865 brick Michigan home to a kind of crappy apartment in Palm Springs was a huge hit on my heart. The Michigan home was a place I loved and the last place my wife and I lived together, as well as where my beloved dog Keisha spent her life and died. Moving to California was very much like moving to another country; it is culturally extremely different from the Midwest. I remember moving my stuff into the apartment. It was October, and a flight of Canada geese flew overhead, just like in Michigan, and I wept with homesickness.
But I got over it. And now I love my new home and have absolutely NO desire to return to Michigan, believe me.
Humans love the familiar because it is comforting. Familiar surroundings and routines give us a base of stability in a chaotic world. Big life changes like the one you are going through, too, are especially challenging when you are autistic.
Let’s address you first, and your new little house. The first thing I would suggest is to try and transfer as many familiar things to your new home as possible. Also, try and arrange it as close as possible to how you have it in your current home. The more familiar objects in your house the better. Right now, I bet, when you looked at the new house and decided to buy it, it didn’t look anything like your house now, and this might have made you a little anxious. Try to imagine it with your stuff in it. Picture this every day until you move there. Figuring out exactly where to put chairs, photographs, tchotchkes, and so on. You might try taking a paper and pencil, drawing out the floor plan, and writing in where you want things. A good mental exercise that could calm you. Keep in mind not only the objects, but also the paths they create when you walk between them. Try to make these paths similar to the current ones (although the multiple floor pathway is not an option). It won’t be exactly the same, of course. But you can make it similar. Paint the walls a similar color. Even put in light fixtures and light switch plates that match the current home.
As for your mother, I’m guessing she is doing this move for financial reasons? Or perhaps the current home is just getting too much to maintain. Remind her, please, that the house is a home not because of its walls and windows and doors but because of who lives there. I’m reading between the lines here, but is this may be more about your moving out and her being alone than the house itself?
I’m not sure where your and your mom’s new homes are, but hopefully they are not too far apart that you can’t visit her. I know you are concerned about your mom and being there for her, so try to be there for her. During the move and soon after, you should visit often, but over time it would be healthier to gradually make the visits a little less often. Let her transition into this new phase of life slowly as you transition into yours.
For both you and your mom, focus on the positive aspects of this new phase in your lives. For you, this will be more independence and more self-confidence; for her, it will hopefully be less stress and a more peaceful, simpler life. Also, keep in mind you still have each other in your lives; that won’t change.
Life is about change. Change can be scary and nerve-wracking, but eventually we adjust to the new circumstances, which will, hopefully, make us stronger.
I've been a follower of your site for a while, and I've just had this issue that's nagged me for quite a while.
So, I got into the whole furry culture when I was pretty young, and I remember an author that I got pretty into about when I was finding things out. Kyell Gold. So, he wrote this pretty cool book series, "Aquifiers," which I thought was great and cool and awesome.
Too awesome, though. I read the book when I was young and impressionable, and later in my life, I started feeling lackluster because I'd begun comparing myself to this book. I'd begun to wonder if there was something wrong with me, because I hadn't experienced X or Y like the main character in that book did, or if I wasn't going through the same experience as this certain character did, and if that indicated something wrong with me.
I get little reminders of that book sometimes. Like a lyric of a song, or a certain picture, or a scene, and I'll think back to all the imagined experiences that I missed out on, and I'll just be so glum and sad. I know it's unhealthy and irrational to compare my IRl life with that of a fictional one, but I just can't help it. My life is fine and okay and, rationally, there's nothing that I should be feeling especially sad about, but I still do.
Anyway, my big tiff with this all of this is that I don't feel like I can progress with my life, because I keep having these feelings of shame over these imagined instances that I missed out on. Did I just imprint on this book at too early an age, and I'm just fucked, or should I just try to forget things?
You're a good fella.
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Before I continue, a little more information would be helpful. What, exactly, do you feel you have missed out on? What is there in the book that you envy and wish to achieve? In short, what is the disconnect between what you find in the book and what is going on in your life?
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Okay, so, the main character both falls in love and realizes his passion for his career his senior year of high school. I know it's this grossly idealized version of real life, but I just feel embarrassed over not having met someone yet, or how I'm still fumbling around over what I want to spend my life doing. I think all of it boils down to younger me, after having read that book and internalizing it, setting myself on this "Perfect Road" to happiness, and the gradual frustration over real life not matching this vision in my head.
I wrote you a long while ago and you mentioned this term I hadn't seen before. Weltschmerz. This sort of overall weariness over reality not being comparable to the desired or imagined life. That seems kind of fitting.
Anyway, thanks for the reply. This is kind of a weird issue for me to try and find support for.
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The idea of Weltschmerz still applies, and I'm sorry if my last letter to you didn't have the effect of sinking in. My advice would be the same: the world of novels and movies and television are idealized versions of reality. Even the ones that are about tragedy tend to make that tragedy idealized and even romantic (e.g. Les Miserables), because the people who suffer in them tend to have noble goals and purposes so that even their horrible stories have meaning for their lives and the lives of others.
As furries, our hearts often long for worlds where we can become amazing warriors, or lovers, or crime fighters, or simply live in a beautiful fantasy environment of some kind. But we recognize (hopefully) that these things are not real.
So it is with even a simple stories of finding love, such as the one you mention by Kyell Gold.
Every person's story is unique. Some people find love early on, some later in life. At 51, Papabear has had two and is working on a third: my first love whom I married at the young age of 22, my second whom I met in my 40s, and now this one. One thing about love: it is never too late to find it. As long as your heart is beating, you can find the love of your life. Here is a fun article you might enjoy on that topic.
I've said this to others who write to me, too, and not just about love. Many are frustrated about their careers or just not being able to find their bearings in life. One thing that I find true, especially among young Americans, is that they are too damn impatient. They act like it is all over if they haven't achieved their life goals by the time they are 25. Part of this is our materialistic, youth-worshipping culture that lies to us that "we can have it all" in our twenties and that you are a big loser if you haven't yet.
Don't you buy it. It's all a lie created by Corporate America to make you buy stuff and enrich the top 1%. They tell you you can only be happy if you have all the latest electronic gizmos, own a great house, get married and have kids and have a huge salary. It is all designed to make you a tool. Don't believe me? What do you do when you feel depressed that you haven't found the love of your life yet? Buy food? Booze? Romantic movies? Seek counseling? Go back to school to earn a fancier degree to get a better job to make you more suited as a mate? Buy nice clothes? All these things buy into the system if you do them for the wrong reasons (keeping up with the Joneses, we used to say).
I cannot stress this enough: don't compare your life to other people's lives, and certainly don't compare it to fiction or to the pressures of a neurotic society.
What is important in life is not money or things or even having a true love. What is important is becoming a self-actualized and enlightened being who knows who and what he/she is and who is a caring individual. These are the only things worth striving for. All else is vanity.
That said, I certainly do not dismiss our inherent need to be loved and to love in return. Love is still important. But the more you stress about it, the less likely it is to happen because any potential mates around you will sense that desperation, which is very off-putting (you have no idea). Instead, work on yourself. Work on being a good, kind, and worthwhile person.
If you do that, all the other things in your life will eventually fall into place. Just be patient.
He Wants to Overcome Shyness
I live in Utah. Salt Lake City. (yeah I've been raised mormon but I'm gay, I don't believe, complicated family stuff I don't want to talk about because that's not the point)
A couple weeks ago I was able to go to comic-con FanX with a friend and they also got to hear about me and the furry fandom. They totally approved so that was like... amazing.
Anyways. So at fanX there were actually a lot of local furs. Heck there's even a video they all made advertising AWU here in October.
When we went to the City Creek mall across the street for lunch we ran into most of them going to get lunch. I was super nervous but my friend managed to urge me to get a picture with a group of them. It's actually my favorite picture from the entire convention too XD
Thing is I was like... super shy and didn't say anything. And I kinda regret it. We even had lunch nearby them and I was just like... awkward the entire time. And then we even walked back to the convention center. right in the middle of them. I still didn't say anything... I wanted to but didn't want to be cringy. Not to mention they all seemed a bit older than me.
And now I'm here writing this out for no apperent reason other than to feel sorry I didn't say anything.
I tried looking up furmeets and such but I feel like... super nervous to go to one. I've flaunted the idea of sneaking off to AWU in october but again... I'm like worried I'd be one of the youngest people there, and not in suit, and just awkward and not talking to anyone...
how do I get over this...???
Dave (age 16)
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I apologize for the slow response. Life has gotten in the way of my column lately.
First question I would ask you is whether you have Asperger's or some other form of autism, which would, of course, explain your shyness. If not, it would just then be normal shyness, which is something I certainly can relate to, having been in the same boat at your age.
Perhaps it would help to tell you how I got over being so shy: it was while volunteering as a zoo docent that I overcame this problem. Being a zoo docent is great. You learn a lot about wildlife and the science involved, and you also get to handle and work with some pretty interesting critters. I was quite passionate about animals, and once I had confidence that I knew what I was talking about (thanks to the education programs at the Detroit and Potter Park Zoos), I felt comfortable talking to people about wildlife and conservation, even large audiences.
Shyness is really born out of lack of confidence. When you were with those people at the con, you felt self-conscious because many of them were older than you and you were unsure of yourself. You probably felt they all knew more about comics and other things and that you couldn't add to the conversation--you might even set yourself up for mocking if you said something wrong.
It helps a lot, then, to know about what you speak. If you go to Comic-Con, and you know a lot about Batman, the X-Men, why Whiz Comics #2 was significant, and who people like Stan Lee, R. Crumb, and Art Spiegelman are, then you will feel comfortable talking with others about these topics. One way, then, to overcome shyness is this: become well-versed in your preferred subject matter--whether that is comic books or the furry fandom or steampunk or whatever. Know your topic, but be cautious not to be a know-it-all. People don't like you if you act like you know everything and only your opinions are valid.
There is another way to approach and talk to people, and it is kind of the polar opposite of what I just suggested. Instead of chatting merrily on a level playing field with those around you, be okay with not knowing as much and, instead, ask questions! It's a great way to start conversations if you ask people about themselves and the things they enjoy. Compliments go a long way, too (e.g., "Wow! You sure know a lot about the DC multiverse!") Play the role of the interviewer, asking questions of those who are older and more experienced. Along the way, you may find some things you have in common ("Maybe we could play League of Legends sometime?")
So there you have two approaches to overcoming shyness and striking up conversations. Give them a try!
I have come here to ask you for help on a problem that has been haunting me for years and I hope you have the answer if not, don't worry I can't find it either. I would like to know how to get rid of self-esteem issues because it is very irritating for others whenever I constantly tear myself down and can't seem to treat myself with respect (as I have been told by said others) and to be honest these self esteem issues are causing some suicidal thoughts. If you can help than it would be very much appreciated and thank you for using your probably precious time reading all of this and/or I am sorry if this was too short. (First time doing any of this; sorry if I missed anything).
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Sometimes I think that low self-esteem issues are an epidemic in this world. So many furries who write to me suffer from low self-esteem, including yours truly. I completely understand how overwhelming this can be and how difficult it is to overcome.
While I would not say that I am completely over my self-image issues, I can honestly say I am not as bad as I once was. Here are some things that I have done to fight against depression and anxiety caused by a low self-image.
1. Stop comparing yourself and your accomplishments to those of other people. This is the single most liberating thing you can do for yourself. You have to realize that there will ALWAYS be people smarter, more talented, richer, better looking than you are (as well as the reverse), so it is really quite pointless to always try to do better than the Joneses. Instead of worrying about others' status, simply focus on being a better and happier you. That's all that really matters. How? Well, you set goals for yourself and work towards them, but don't worry if you have setbacks or stall once in a while. Just keep trying.
2. Stop worrying about what others say about you. Don't seek validation from others, especially those who are overcritical of you because they are trying to put you down to boost their own self-esteem (i.e., e.g. bullies). I always consider the source. If I am criticized by someone for whom I have no respect (a troll, for instance) I have learned to disregard this as unimportant (hard lesson to learn because criticism hurts, but you can do this). If you are criticized by someone you respect, first reconsider whether that respect is deserved. If not, then reevaluate that person's role in your life. If it is deserved, then try to see if that criticism was meant to be helpful. Sometimes, people we think are being overly critical are honestly trying to help us. The best way to figure this out is if the critic dishes it out in a kind and loving matter and, hopefully, also balances criticisms with compliments.
3. Reassess how you criticize yourself. Usually, we are too hard on ourselves, even downright mean in ways we don't deserve. For instance, people have told me I am good looking, but when I look in the mirror I see all kinds of things that I criticize about myself for ("I'm going bald, I'm out of shape, I have bad skin...." and on and on). Instead of looking for BAD things to say about yourself, look for the GOOD things and focus on those. Reinforce them daily ("I am a kind and loving person." "I love my dog and take good care of him." "I work hard and am doing okay financially." "I have nice eyes and a nice smile" etc.)
4. If you see something you don't like about yourself but it is fixable, fix it. Not happy with your body? Exercise. Have crooked teeth? Get braces (I had braces in my 40s!) Think you're not very smart? Go get some books and start reading, for Pete's sake! Think you have no talent? Pick something that interests you and start working on it (e.g., I'm taking piano lessons).
5. If you see something that you can't fix that you don't like, give it less value in your life and make it a low priority. Are you short? Well, you can't fix that, can you? But it really isn't something that defines who you are inside. When you describe yourself, either make that one of the last things you say about yourself or don't even mention it. Are you kind of a klutz? My family and I constantly joke about how uncoordinated we are. None of us is going to be a graceful dancer, but we manage. Can't sing on key? Then don't go on "The X Factor." Know your limitations, but don't define yourself by them
6. Surround yourself as much as possible by people who love and support you for being you. This does not mean having a herd of "yes men" around you a la Donald Trump. It means that you need to recognize the people who are a positive part of your life and hold on to them; at the same time, get rid of those people in your life who bring you down (and, yes, that can often include family members).
7. This might seem a bit weird, but eating right and exercising regularly can actually do wonders for your self-esteem because when your body feels better you feel better, too.
8. Do little things to treat yourself. It doesn't have to be much, just something fun and happy that makes you feel good and worthy of doing something nice for yourself, especially if you achieve a goal. You can, say, buy yourself a new shirt. Get a delicious ice cream cone. See a movie. Or just go outside for a nice hike and enjoy nature. Any little thing you enjoy. Try to do at least one thing every day or two.
9. Get out and socialize when possible. Human beings have an innate need to be around each other. On the other hand, isolating ourselves and being a hermit can often make you depressed and lonely, which then feeds into your low self-esteem. Be with people.
10. Get a pet. This might not be an option for everyone (say, if you have housing restrictions or allergies), but there is nothing that makes one feel happier than the unconditional love of a favorite pet. If I have had a bad day and come home to see Ernie the Wonder Dog so absolutely excited to see me walk through the door, you bet that makes me feel good. I love cats, too, though I don't have one right now. But when I did, I loved how they would curl up on my lap and purr and just look so content and happy because they were cuddling me.
So, there are 10 suggestions for helping your self-esteem.
Hope it helps!
I'm going to be a little more serious today.
I've recently been feeling very down because I've been so jealous of other people's lives and social lives. It hurts me deep inside and makes me feel like I've done nothing and wasted everything that I've done. I work so hard but people don't notice that. I just want to live a normal life. I only have 2 good friends and that makes me pretty depressed. One of my friends is foreigner and her parents don't even know about me and they won't let her EVER go with anybody. My other friend is a bad girl. I say this because she cusses and gets Fs. Teachers tell me to get new friends but I truly can't. No one is as trustful as they are. My mom works all day until 9 so I never get to see her. Middle school is coming up and I don't know how I'm ever going to survive. I feel like a failure. It kills me everyday.
Please help, Papabear!
Cici (age 11)
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There is a lot going on in this letter, not just one question. The issues include: 1) you are jealous of other people who, I guess, you feel are more accomplished than you and have better social lives; 2) you don’t feel you get the recognition you deserve for working hard; 3) you want a “normal life”; and 4) you worry you only have two friends, one with whom you can’t socialize openly and another that people say you should stay away from.
To really get a firm grip on what caused all this, Papabear would need to sit with you on the couch for many hours. So I must talk in generalities because I don’t know all the information for your specific problems.
Regarding jealousy: Jealousy is an ugly green monster that eats the soul. You must remember that there will always be someone who seems more accomplished, richer, smarter, better looking, more skilled, more admired than you. Therefore, it is fruitless to play the comparison game. It’s a true cliché that the only person you are really in competition with is yourself. Be the best Cici you can be. More importantly, be the best person you can be. Be kind and considerate and helpful to others in the world—from people to animals to plants to the planet itself—and you will have much to feel proud about. Also, examine why you feel jealous of these people. Are you being realistic? Perhaps they are more popular because they are shallow and focus on their appearance or just pretend to like others and are afraid to be themselves. Perhaps they are rich because mommy and daddy gave them unearned money. The list goes on. I can only speculate because I don’t know who these people are or why you envy them. Remember, though, jealousy only hurts you. Set your own goals and work towards them and don’t worry about what other people are doing.
I don’t know what you mean by “I've done nothing and wasted everything that I've done.” If you’ve wasted what you’ve done, then the first part of that sentence is not true because you actually have done something. Anything you do is something you can learn from and grow from, so it is never a waste. Mistakes are just as valuable as accomplishments if you learn from them. Set realistic goals for yourself, and then try to meet them or even exceed them. Take it one step at a time and don’t be discouraged if sometimes you have to take a step backward.
As for #3, I don’t think there is such a thing as a “normal life.” I don’t even know what that means. Everyone has a different life and a different story. Each life is unique. Normal is a myth. If you try to live your life by some artificial or mythical standard of “normal,” you will always be disappointed. Live the life you were meant to live that is unique to you, not some bizarre society standard.
Friendships. Friendships form because two people like each other for who they are. If you like these two people and they like you, then that is all that matters. If you wish to make more friends then the way to do that is to socialize with people, especially doing things that you have in common. Take an interest in their lives and who they are and they will reciprocate if they like what they see in you. Here’s a nice article with some helpful advice on making new friends: http://www.succeedsocially.com/sociallife.
Finally, your mom. I’m sorry she has to work so much and you don’t have much time together. How about on the weekends, though? Unless she works seven days a week, there must be some time there. And, if she is busy doing things around the house, spend time with her by helping her with household duties. Although this isn’t “fun time,” it is still “together time,” and she will appreciate the help, believe me. Then, those things will be done more quickly and she will have time to do something more relaxing with you.
And finally finally! Don’t be so hard on yourself. Start by not saying things like “I feel like a failure.” When you start to say something negative about yourself, stop. Pause. Then think of something you like about yourself, such as “I’m doing better with my classwork” or “I’m doing better making friends” or simply “I’m a good person who cares about other people.”
In summary: stop comparing yourselves to others, set your own goals and work towards them, and stop being so down on yourself.
Hope that helps.
Hi there, Papa!
Before we'd begin, I'd like to apologize in advance if someone before me has already asked this question: as a furry, how do I go about making friends in a society that is presumably intolerable to my hobby?
I am about to go to high school, one that's religious and strict and uniformed. There's no way out of it. My parents have made up their minds. They figure that since my older sister (who attended there previously) took a liking to the school, that I would as well. But frankly, I'm the opposite of my sister. Analytical, logical, judging, academically intelligent? No. Think imaginative, idealistic, perceptive, emotionally in-tune. Ballet, AP classes, student leadership with friends? Nah. Try art, meditation, and hiking through nature alone. We have the super intelligent, friendly, and funny computer science nerd, and the overly-artistic and weirdly antisocial "hippie" furry girl. And this girl's being sent to a strict, dare I say it, posh Catholic school with high expectations and low tolerance for anything that is considered "weird."
I know that people aren't always going to be as accepting and open-minded as I am, but I am currently being plunged into a strict world with strict, uptight, unaccepting people. I remember once bringing up a conversation with one of my potential future classmates and sprinkling in some of my hobbies and interests (excluding furry). And just from that, they were appalled. As were the other students I tried to connect with. They didn't even have to speak necessarily; I could tell from their body language and facial expressions that they were very uncomfortable, maybe even freaked out that I do things like meditate instead of shop at the mall, and draw and write stories instead of doing sports or extra academic classes. Granted, these were not art students. But then even when I spoke with more artsy students like me, they thought my ideas were far too weird, and that my creative and pondering imagination had no off-switch. I suppose that's true, but I never really wanted to hit an off-switch. I like my imagination. And yes, I tried very hard to appeal to their better nature and to make a connection, but nothing really worked. Either I'm too weird for them, or they're too sophisticated for me. I don't know.
Needless to say, I didn't dare bring up furry.
So I was wondering if you had any tips or pointers to reaching out to these frankly intimidating people. Usually I'm able to connect with most people in an instant, whether or not they like me. I have this weird ability to tell what people are like when I meet them from the way they move, talk, behave, etc. I get vibes from them. I call it my "Spidey-Sense." But I am embarrassed to admit that I was unable to connect with any of these people. When I spoke to them, all I could see and hear and feel was pretty generic. I couldn't really detect much personality in these people, no offense to them. They just didn't seem to really care, you know?
I apologize. I sometimes have trouble describing what I mean. It would be so much easier for me to communicate if my heart and mind would speak for my mouth.
Anyways, I'm just not sure what to do. I'm already a weird person, with or without the furry hobby. I had so much trouble just speaking with these students and staff, I have no idea how I'm going to try to make friends. Please, if you have any tips or pointers or suggestions, they would be greatly appreciated. I'm open to any ideas.
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Let’s set aside the whole furry thing for a moment because what we are talking about here is bigger than just your interest in things furry: it is about the conflict between our need to be accepted by others and our need to be our true selves.
A wise man named Henry David Thoreau said, “Be yourself—not your idea of what you think somebody else's idea of yourself should be.” Human beings strive to assimilate because they are social creatures who find strength and comfort from being part of a group. Unfortunately, when that group’s standards differ from one’s own, an inner conflict arises—a dissonance in the soul that makes us deeply unhappy. This is what you are going through right now.
The problem starts because your parents are treating you like your sister, even though the two of you are very different individuals. A good place to start, then, would be to approach your parents and ask them if they would consider sending you to a different school. Explain to them that you feel your sister’s school, while it might be quite excellent academically, is more designed toward mathy, sciency types, but you are more artistic and would like to go to a school that is more geared toward the arts. I don’t know how open your parents are to talking to their children, but I’m wondering if you have even considered letting them know how you feel about this school? Perhaps, if they are open minded, they will listen and, not knowing before how you felt, will try and find something else for you. If so, then perhaps problem solved.
If not, and they make you go to this school anyway, then I suggest you look at the broad picture: it is more important to be who you are than it is to assimilate (unless you are a Borg, who are such charming people, yes?), even if that means you will be friendless. Going back to Thoreau, he once said he would rather sit alone on a pumpkin than sit with a lot of people on a velvet cushion. It’s better to reject the materialistic trappings of society and be an individual.
The number one reason I hear from furries as to why they are unhappy is that they are not allowed to be themselves. Being a furry is just one facet of your unique personality. Ultimately, however, the only person who can make you be or not be yourself is … you. When you think of it, who are the people considered most admirable in our world? It’s people like Benjamin Franklin, Rosa Parks, Nikola Tesla, Allen Ginsburg, Jackson Pollock, people who went against the norm and fiercely, courageously insisted on themselves. And the people who epitomize what society supposedly wants? The rich and famous like movie, music, and sports stars? Have you ever noticed how much American society likes to trash these people? And when you ask them, they often say that they were at their most unhappy when they were the richest and most famous (great example is the Beatles).
We only have one life. How many of us lead lives of “quiet desperation” (Thoreau again). People frantically try to gain approval and worry about obtaining things that society deems valuable (houses, cars, money) and die having wasted their talent, their hearts, their souls.
Turquoise, thank you for writing ol’ Papabear and giving me this opportunity to address youngsters like yourself who are standing on that precipice in their teens years. You have a choice here of accepting what others say you should be and do, stepping forward, and falling into the abyss—OR! You can give yourself the power to grow wings and fly safely above the expanse.
Keep it in perspective, hon. We are here to find ourselves, to grow, and to love. All else is vanity. That is my advice to you.
Apologies in advance for the inevitable disorder of this letter, I struggle to get my thoughts onto paper in a well-structured way. Here goes...
I'm, apparently, a wonderful person, according to a few people. I wouldn't categorize myself anywhere near that because I am in fact distant and a little hostile in most situations. I'm told I'm a great listener, and I give great advice, and I have many traits of an empath (that's one thing I can agree on). Since getting involved in the fandom these things have been made very apparent through my interactions with the people I've met.
Sometimes I just ... have to help. Often it doesn't even feel like it's me doing it. I'd compare it to a deep spiritual urge. For quite a long time now I've been the shoulder to cry on, the adviser, the helper etc. etc. Which is fine, I guess. But if that is who I am, why does it feel like something that's been forced on me?
This is hard for me to admit, even with anonymity, but this urge to help has cost me over £3000 of my own money, from helping a total of 5 furs who were in dire situations. On top of that are many hours of advice, counseling, emotional support, and being on hand almost 24/7 in case emergencies arose. I should add that these people were complete strangers to me when I first assisted them.
So, I've established my compulsion has cost me a lot of money, but considering that one of these people erased all trace of their situation after receiving my help (presumably to cover the whole thing up), one of them proceeded to credit two of their friends with a big sentimental journal, while staying deathly quiet about my many contributions, and one of them managed to indirectly tank my relationship, then lead me on as a dating backup afterwards, I've also lost a lot of time, happiness, and emotional well-being. I daresay I've even lost emotional stability. It all messed me up pretty good.
Nonetheless, after all these things passed I continued to do my thing, albeit not on such a grand scale. A helping hand here and there, slightly stressful but manageable.
But lately, I've been experiencing a shift in perspective, and it frightens me. Reflecting on all these things I've done, and what people have come to know me for, I began to observe the way a lot of my friends interacted with me, and the way I interacted with them.
And I realized, things are very one-sided. Not just with one or two people...I'm talking about most of them. I can see that a lot of my friends don’t love me, they love what I do/did. I notice I'm the one they come to when there’s a problem, but not the one to enjoy everyday fun with. People start conversations with me to launch straight into tirades about their problems, people hint at their financial worries hoping my empathy will kick in and I'll be forced to help them, they talk extensively about their passions and interests and who they are but you know what? Not one of them know the same things about me, because they never ask, and they never care. It has become apparent they just need a dumping ground for their mental and spiritual detritus, and clearly I am that dumping ground. Nobody knows or cares what I am outside of the benevolence that they benefit from. Nobody looks into me how I look into them.
When I'm vulnerable I get to thinking of all I've done, and how nobody will do the same for me should I ever need it. And it scares me. Don't get me wrong, I don’t give with the expectation of return. What scares me is how unknowingly willing I've been to put myself at risk for the sake of others. Literally this whole thing is a hole I've dug myself into.
So, I guess the rambling has to end and it's time for the questions.
Is unbridled generosity good? Is benevolence necessarily a good thing? Did I do good things, or misguided things? Would it be wrong to blow these people off? To hurt them even?
I'm sorry if it's difficult to make sense of this, like I said I struggle to get my thoughts onto paper, and there is a LOT here I had to leave out for the sake of length. Feel free to bin this one if its a bit too tricky, just a shot in the dark really. An outside perspective may be all I need.
-Manul (age 23, UK)
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If you’re looking for “an outside perspective” you’ve come to the wrong place because this bear has been EXACTLY where you are—in spades. We are both empaths and we are both people pleasers. I, too, have lost many thousands of dollars helping people. All told, I would say we’re talking $35,000 to $40,000. During that time, I have been used, insulted, and even had a lawyer sic’d on me with possibilities of a lawsuit, and one furry accused me of being a secret police officer who was trying to get him locked up in a nuthouse. Seriously. Sometimes, apparently, such people don’t even realize they are being butt munches. I recently had a writer tell me that my belief that I was an empath was “silly” and he had no clue he had just insulted me. All this for trying to help people. As they say, “No good deed goes unpunished,” right?
So, I guess ol’ Papabear beats you when it comes to feeling like a fool. But, really, it is a matter of learning how to control your empathic abilities and also to learn how not to be a tool while still enjoying helping others. Actually, one powerful device I use is this column. Here, I am free to help and give advice, and because I don’t know the people who write to me, I do not expect their friendship, compensation, or even gratitude (although it’s wonderful to get a thank you letter), and I don’t feel compelled to help them with money or other material assistance. It is, so to speak, a buffer. I get amazing satisfaction from writing “Ask Papabear.” Not sure how you might feel about it, but hey, you could try writing a column or blog, too. Since you’re in the UK, you could have a more British/European perspective that would make your column unique.
Be that as it may, another thing you need to learn is when to say “no” and that it is okay to decline helping someone--especially when that involves someone asking you for money or other material gains at your expense. That’s pretty challenging for people like you and me to do because we want to help others, but the first rule of helping others is that you have to be healthy and happy yourself, and that means being kind to yourself before you are kind to others. For example, you may have noticed I haven’t been writing this column as much lately, and the reason for that is because I only write it when I am not feeling under the weather from my grief over losing Jim. Some days, like today, are good, some are bad and I don’t write on those days.
Here is some good advice on being an empath that includes learning how to shield yourself and cleanse yourself: http://paganandproudofit.com/empath.html.
The other thing to learn is which people are friends and which are not. Don’t expect everyone who asks for your advice to become your friend and, therefore, don’t be disappointed when you learn they just wanted your advice. I dearly hope that at least a few people you know are true friends. A true friend is someone who is there for you as much as you are there for them.
If you learn to do these things in your twenties, you will be about twenty years ahead of yours truly and will be blessed. Being an empath is a gift, and if you learn to be one properly you will no longer resent it (like you’re kind of doing now) and learn to realize that this makes you a special person who is a rarity among human beings, most of whom suffer from tunnel vision and selfishness.
I hope this helps.
I have a few friends at school and on FurAffinity. They like me and I like them. School is mildly hard, but my parents help me through it and push. My parents are getting a divorce, but for some reason I have not been affected by this very much. I love them both and they each help me in their own ways.
But there is one other thing that I struggle with. I always feel as if I have to keep pushing myself, always, and I have to let go of some things that I value such as kindness in order to "man up" for the real world, and if I don't do it right now I will never be completely successful. But if I do keep pushing myself and going through life that is always moderately challenging, I will lose some kindness. Is this normal? And what should I do? Thank you, "high paws."
NickHusky (age 19)
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You speak in generalities, so I will as well. You are at a critical time in your life that will, indeed, do a lot for molding who you will become as an adult. And you are undergoing the kind of family and social pressures that our society deems fit for a male; that is, you should be “tough,” “man up,” hide your emotions, be strong, etc. etc. In other words, as with almost everyone else in the mundane world, you are being asked to put that mask on and hide who you really are inside. The threat here is that if you don’t do this you will be, as you say, unsuccessful, which means things like have a high-paying job, acquire lots of material possessions, breed, pay taxes, and die quietly without troubling society or rocking the boat.
Papabear says, “Poppycock.” The brave man (or woman) isn’t the one who hides emotions but the one who is emotionally honest, who cares about the world and feels compassion for others. Success--real success—in life is not about wealth, fame, or power. These are the things that give mundanes (pardon me for saying this) boners because the majority of people are shallow, self-centered, and materialistic.
And you know what else they are? Unhappy!
This skewed viewpoint causes people (and you are in danger of this right now) to do things for the wrong reasons. They get college degrees because they want a high-paying job. They select a career because they want to make a lot of money doing it. They even choose a spouse because they are “the right people.”
Here’s my challenge to you: go to school because you love learning; get a job because it is something you love to do (if you have a job you love, you will never work a day in your life, as they say, because your job will be fun and fulfilling); choose a mate—whether it is someone similar to you or not—because you see into their heart and fall in love.
You love your parents and they are trying to help you. That’s a wonderful thing. Although I don’t know your parents, I suspect they are like most parents: they are scared for you, they don’t want you to be poor, and they want you to be accepted by society. But Papabear can tell you something here: he gets more letters from unhappy people because they are too busy trying to please their parents or someone else instead of themselves. Consequently, they don’t learn who they really are, and so they go through the motions of life without really living.
Let you in on a very secret secret, Nick: the truly happy person doesn’t define success by money and material things but, rather, by his or her ability to discover who they truly are as a person and to search for, and even discover, what life is really about for them. Each person must find his or her own path. While I can’t define that path for you because it is a personal journey, I can tell you that if you seek a pot of gold at the end of the journey you will have wasted your life.
Your job, Nick, is not to “grow up,” or “man up,” but to discover who you are. I have high hopes for you because I can see you value kindness. Please, I beg you, don’t sacrifice your heart just to be part of the swarms of mundane society. Be a kind person and you will find more happiness than you ever imagined.
Thank you for your letter.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.