I hope you're ready for this, since this probably will be a bit unclear... Before I present my problem, I think that you should know a bit about me, since my personality voids possible solutions to my problem. I'm a perfectionist, a self-criticizing and self-conscientious fur who has recently came out furry at the start of August. I do not plan on attending meets or conventions (I'd rather deal with more pressing matters) and I only know 1 other furry IRL. I use chatrooms, but to me, it does not feel like real communication. I am also a “grammar hawk,” a Pokémon fan, a Professor Layton fan, and an Ace Attorney fan. I also like playing chess. Also, I have a disability (I don't pay much attention to it) and I'm generally quiet, although I'm a social person due to my personality.
Now, when I came out furry, most of my friends were surprised (after all, I was giving out the smart and mature impression to people) and generally, I received a positive reception. However, one of my friends who pretended to be supporting, backstabbed me and insulted me using social media. He has promised that he will not do such again (although he still is mean to me) but he is forming a group of friends who constantly pester me when I'm trying to concentrate on my studies, since I have exams to do for the next few years. I have discussed this problem with friends of mine, who replied with "stay positive and ignore them" but due to their persistence and the fact that I am so self-criticizing and self-conscientious, I am finding that impossible to do.
Consequently, this problem is making me feel “uncomfortable in my own skin” and shy. Also, it means that I'm too preemptive about doing anything furry-related. (I also cannot buy a fursuit, they're too expensive in my opinion!) So, I'm currently looking for more subtle furry stuff, but that's a topic for another letter.
Sorry for the very long letter, but I am afraid that this problem will only get worse (and the anti-fur group will only get bigger; they've started being mean to my non-fur friends) and my reputation will only get worse. I thought that my disability was bad enough....
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Yours is a situation I’m familiar with. When I was in elementary school, for some reason (I still don’t know why) this one kid started picking on me, and he then recruited others to start making fun of me. It kept building until the last few months of my sixth grade year became a living hell. Boy, was I glad to go to another school the next year!
Kids can be like this. They spot a weakness in someone (a disability, lack of skill in sports, awkwardness of any kind) and they exploit it to make themselves feel like they are somehow superior to their targets. It is the most reprehensible kind of behavior and it happens every day in school yards all over the world.
If this is getting to the point of bullying, you need to make some adults aware of it (school administrators, parents). Every state in this country either has a law, a policy, or both against bullying. Go to StopBullying.gov to learn more about this.
Part of the bullying results, probably, from bullies seeing you have low self-esteem, which is a sign you have a weakness they can attack. People like you and me usually get self-critical because, well, we’ve been beaten down by others since childhood. Parents, peers, teachers—most of them make it their job to make you conform to societal “norms,” and if anyone deviates from those norms you can bet they are going to squash your individuality and make you feel bad about yourself. This is, of course, “for your own good.”
You need to stop being so self-critical (you already know this is a problem). Being self-critical can be harmfully addictive in a number of ways. First of all, it gives you an excuse not to do stuff or even try to do it (“I’d probably screw it up, anyway”); second, it gives you a false sense of noble humility (“Look at me, I’m not egotistical like those people; I’m a very humble person”); third, it is a way to elicit complements from other people (“Oh, I’m so stupid” to which your friend says, “No you’re not! You’re smart!” as you smile inwardly, feeling validated in secret.) None of these practices is healthy for you, mentally or emotionally.
To stop being so down on yourself, start by making a list of your good traits. Post them in a prominent place in your bedroom or bathroom and read through them every day. Then, if you find yourself, during the day, saying something bad about yourself, stop yourself and think of one of the positive things on your list.
Fortunately, you may have stumbled upon a solution for your problem with friends. The ones who have turned against you are not your friends. Why are you still associating with that one guy if he is “still mean” to you? I wouldn’t put up with that, and neither should you. Don’t be so desperate for friends that you’re willing to be a punching bag for someone else’s emotional issues.
Time to replace those sorry excuses for friends with other people, and perhaps those people could be furries. The first thing you need to know about furries is that you do not need a fursuit to be a furry! Eighty percent of furries don’t have one! It is a common misconception. But if you ever do decide you want one, you can get partials fairly inexpensively, or even find a used one. Anyway, that’s not important. What is important is that you find some friends with whom you can relate. Reading your letter, I bet there are a lot of furries your age who would get along swell with you, disability or no. It’s really a mistake, therefore, to try to go “subtle” on the furry stuff. Furries are anything but subtle LOL.
Papabear’s prescription for you, therefore, is to go forth and become pawesome with some furries. You’ll have to start online to find people, but hopefully there is a furmeet or some such near you that you could attend, or maybe go to a furcon (take your parents, since you’re underage).
While furries, like any other group, aren’t perfect, you’re more likely to find people like yourself with the furry community. It helps a lot, when looking for friends, when you share interests, and the love of furry movies, comics, art etc. can bring you together.
In addition to furries, you can search online for people who like chess, Pokémon, video games, etc. For example, there is a Facebook club for Professor Layton fans at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Professor-Layton-and-Co-Fan-Club/545901585419955 you could join. The more groups you join like this one, the more of a chance you have of locating someone near you who likes what you do.
Your friend who advised you to ignore the bullies is essentially correct. As you go through life, you should try and learn the skill of pruning your friends list. Cut off the dead or diseased branches and you’ll have a healthier plant and more beautiful flowers. You might even try grafting new species onto your plant and achieve something extraordinary.
Hope that helps! Stay furry!
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