Thursday, October 17, 2013

How to Cope with Being a Nerd

Hey y'all.  So I was thinking about how hard it is to be a nerd.  It is pretty hard.  People make fun of you, they expect you to care about fashion and social standards, and no one seems to like or understand the things you like.  And no, nerds aren't "in style".  They never have been and they never will be, because most of the world's population is not composed of Rationals (think Myers-Briggs typology), but rather those that don't care to read Alexander Solzhenitsyn, would rather attend a party than solve a puzzle, and don't believe in their own intelligence, and thus suspect everyone who does.  With those things in mind, and also the fact that nerds have lots of nitpicky personality traits that make us annoying to be around (apparently), it kind of stinks that our intelligence in the community is rather like a box of powdered sugar: useful from time to time, but most of the time it sits in the cabinet, and no one is interested.

Now, note that I'm not talking about geeks.  Geeks are not nerds.  There are a few differences between geeks and nerds, mine being that geeks deal with physical things more than ideas.  However, another valid definition is that geeks are surface, while nerds are deeper.  In this I mean geeks like video games, cartoon cats with mustaches, Star Trek/Wars, and comic books.  Nerds like computers, philosophy, history, and travelling in space.  And so, looking through pop culture, which is more popular?  Cats with mustaches or philosophy?  Exactly.  Nerds are not "in".

The basic problem with nerds is that we are so desperate to speak of things like history and science, but the more social and populous personalities would rather talk about parties, clothes, and who's the best at beer pong.  This is technically fine, as we nerds prefer having fewer, stronger friends, and being as we're a minimal part of the population, that's exactly the kind of friends we're going to have. That, and we feel more special if we have fewer competitors.  Hey, we ain't perfect.

Still, it also means that we have to cope with a world where people aren't like us, and where can't expect people to be like us, because they find philosophy as boring as we do their stuff.  I very much despise blaming others for our own issues, and one way people blame themselves is by having self-pity, by saying that they are a special little snowflake and nobody appreciates them.

Still, we have to live with ourselves.  So, here are a few ways in which us nerds can cope with our social issues and stop feeling like a half-used box of powdered sugar in the cabinet.

1. Don't think about how much it sucks being a nerd.  Force yourself to think of things you do well.

I know that sounds contradictory to what I just posted, but I was simply observing the plight of nerds. What I mean by this is that one should not lie in bed and wonder why you're not like anyone else. Y'know what?  You're you!  You don't get fooled by other people's bull, you're not entrapped in the fantasy created by celebrities, and you can actually debate topics of importance.  And you can write self-important blogs.  Or write essays in class that both irritate and entertain your teachers.  And you'll get along better in China, because Confucian Asians see calm, intelligent people as culturally appropriate.

See, when you think negatively, you lose your confidence and people don't appreciate you as much. Confident people are better liked, in the West, anyway, and you'll be able to get through your day better.

So yeah.  Stop reading this right now and write a list of five things you can do that others have trouble with.  Doesn't matter what it is.  We're just thinking of fun stuff, and the first five things you think of.  Here's my example list:

- Create stories based on colors and painting.
- Taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi.
- Come up with things to write on the fly.
- Detect themes and character motivations in stories.
- Can do well in Economics without trying too hard.

2. Work out a cryptogram.

Seriously.  This is the stuff.  Cryptograms are puzzles where there is a quote by some famous muckey-muck and each letter of the alphabet is replaced by a different letter.  You then guess your way into figuring out what the original statement is.  It's fun as mess.  It helps to intuitively notice how letters are used.  For example, most words don't begin with vowels, a single letter word can only be "a" or "I", and the letter "e" is the most commonly used letter in english.

So why do I recommend it?  Because it's an intelligent use of your mind, especially the intuitive. You'd be surprised how possible it is.  It also ties along with my last point, because it's a talent I can do to not only prove my ability, but test my confidence.  I've noticed that every time I feel confident about my ability, I do well, but when I doubt, I fail.  I've also noticed that my subconscious mind is really good at figuring out things, probably more so than my conscious mind.  It's really weird and fun.

Okay, you don't have to do a cryptogram.  You just have to find something you like to do and are good at, and then do it.  Whenever you feel depressed, remember that you can do things and do them well, despite how the chemicals flowing in your brain protest.  Besides, the chemicals in your brain are controlled by your thoughts, and if you fight them by doing things that make you feel talented, the chemicals leading to depression will stop being produced over time.

But in case you really want to do a cryptogram (it's seriously fun), here are two from a cryptogram book of quotes.  One's by St. Augustine, and the other's by Confucius.



Try it.  'S fun stuff.

3. Get some dang sunlight.

Okay, I understand that you would rather work on your thesis than take a hike.  Yes, I know that Starcraft is fun and you need to stay up late to play with the Koreans.  I'm sure your new story is nice, but if you stay in your room all day and not get into the light, you will feel like poo.

Am I really telling you something you don't know?  Of course not.  It's something you your head.  This bit of knowledge has not yet hit you in your gut yet, but you really, really need to go get some exercise and be in the light.  Take a walk.  If you can go to a store or something without driving, then do so.  I've found that having somewhere to go can make me go on that ever evasive walk.  One time I went running and stopped a headache I had.

Treating your body right is what enables your mind to think.  It makes your stress fade and causes inspiration.  So try little things to get your energy up, like jumping on a mini-trampoline when you're watching an anime or something.  'S what I do.  Well, not nearly often enough, but you know how that is.

4.  Go find out your Myers-Briggs type.

The Myers-Briggs personality type test is an excellent test, one that leaves most other personality whatnots in the dust.  It explains your general personality without cramming you in a box, and its personality definitions really show the potential and potential flaws of each personality type.

The reason why I bring it up here is that it will help you understand why you are the way you are. When you figure out your type and read about it, you suddenly realize that you're not a failure -- you're exactly what your personality type is supposed to be, and that you are useful just as you are.  \When a friend of mine read about her type, her reaction was, "I found out what was wrong with me: nothing!"

So the way it works is that there are eight personality traits in four pairs.  You pick the aspect which is more like you, and the combination of four dominate traits (technically everyone does all eight, just some more than others) creates a personality profile that is shockingly accurate.

It's --
Extrovert vs. Introvert -- whether you feel recharged around people or alone.
Intuitive vs. Sensor -- whether you "intuit" information or gather it from direct observation.
Thinking vs. Feeling -- whether you decide things more by thinking about it or by feeling things out.
Judging vs. Perceiving -- whether you feel better having decisions made and thus make them quickly, or you prefer having your options open and delay on making choices.

Really, those are just basic descriptions.  You can get more information by reading Please Understand Me by David Keirsey.  There's two editions of the book.  I prefer the second, but the first is good too. You don't really need both.  Or you can investigate online, and here's a good website to start off:  It's easier to search online when you know what your profile is.

Now, if you don't feel like your profile is right the first time (sometimes you don't understand yourself or the questions they choose are confusing), then just read a similar profile.  The one that is most correct will jump out at you, and you'll feel a lot more comfortable with yourself after that, because you'll know you're not broken -- you're exactly right.

5. Create an identity for yourself.

This is a lot tied in with the last point.  See, knowing your MBTI works because it teaches you that you have a baseline, with strengths and weaknesses.  However, as a personality test, it can only talk about general groups, and not specifics.  While those around you may be able to give you advice, you are the one that lives with your own spirit; you know who you are best of all, short only of God. Therefore, you must take on your identity.

Note that you should only do this when you feel good about yourself.  Taking on a negative identity will put you in a downward spiral that will kill you.  Absolutely do not do this when you are sad. Cheer yourself up first. Everyone has a purpose and a skill set, and thus has the potential for great good.  Therefore, take your above "I'm good at this" list and your MBTI, and then start doing some thinking.

Also, the book What Color is Your Parachute could also help.  Don't bother grabbing the most recent edition, just whichever is cheaper.  After all, the philosophy is the same in all of them, and for the purpose of discovering more of your abilities, any year is fine.

So the short is, compose a list of things you're good at.  Compose a list of things you like to do. Compose a list of things you already do at work and seem to do with competence.  And above all else, when making this list, try to avoid the negative.  While being rational about one's level of ability is good, your identity should be based on your positive aspects, not the places where you hate yourself.

6.  Don't accept everything everyone says about you.

There are people, both detractors and friends, who say stuff about you that is not healthy.  The detractor part is obvious, but just to remind you, ignore those that make fun of you or say things angrily.  Angry people want you to hurt, so they'll say things just to get to you.  You might from time to time think that they have a point, but don't take what they say to your identity.  Angry people automatically forfeit any ability to make rational observations.  If you did something wrong to make them angry, apologize, but any comments they make on your character should go right out the window.

There are, however, those that aren't angry with you that make statements on your personality. Sometimes these are just absentminded comments, and sometimes they're the judgemental panderings of someone trying to "help" you.  Or they're someone who is psychoanalyzing you for their own fun, and making guesses based on what they see in you.  Or it's your parent.

For example, someone I care about once told me that people with my personality don't tend to have a lot of friends.  This wasn't intended to hurt my feelings, but it did.  It felt like she was saying I'm trapped in a vicious cycle of never being close to anyone.  While it's true that nerds like their topic of choice over social life, but we are still social beings who want to discuss our ideas with others.

Let me tell you something: just because someone says something about you doesn't mean that its true. And even if it is true, it doesn't mean you have to listen to it.  It's like depression.  When you continually make your mind think of how horrible everything is.  And when someone says something negative about you, you can potentially let yourself get tripped over things, especially if you're an overthinker.

So the first thing you need to do when someone says something iffy about you is determine in what manner the person said it.  If they were angry, ignore it.  If they were judgemental, then consider if it was something important enough to be judged on.  Like say, you're not wearing in-style clothing. This is not relevant, so ignore it, or say something to the effect of "I'm not a slave to fashion" and walk away.

Secondly, how upset are you?  If you're really angry or sad, then leave it aside for the time being. Don't take your anger out on the other person, but just think about something else until you're calm. Don't focus on their upsetting words until you can be clear-minded and logical about it.  Otherwise you'll just make yourself more angry than you were in the first place.

Third, is it a true statement?  I must emphasize again waiting until you can calm down.  This part can actually be fun if you can separate your emotion from the incident.  So, afterwards, look at this incident and decide if it's outright crap, true, or just a playful estimate by someone who doesn't know any better.  Seriously, cut people some slack.  Extroverts especially tend to process information by speaking it out, which means talking is a vital part of their thinking process.  Which means some of their ideas are a bit half-baked.

Anyway, if it's not true, ignore it.  If you've heard other people make the same statement before, then you need to figure out why people are saying it.  If you know for sure it's true, then immediately start thinking up a solution, either by correcting your behavior or avoiding situations where you, for example, lose your temper.  If you find a way to calm your spirit, then your spirit won't act out and cause people to think weird things about you.

There is actually a time and a place for ignoring comments that are true.  For example, chances are people are going to call you strange or unusual.  Instead of taking this too much to heart, be amused by it.  After all, the people who really change society are always a rarity -- it has to be that way so that society is stable.  When someone says you don't fit in, shrug and find your peeps.  It's okay not to fit in with a certain group. You just have to find people that are fun to be with, and then your social skills will be good enough to be friendly with others.

Also, if they say something about you that follows along with your depressing thoughts, definitely ignore it. When they say things like "you're always saying sad things" or "you're the Eeyore of the group", then make sure these things amuse you instead of hurt you.  Don't take them to your core. Even if they're true and you believe them, they will destroy you if you continue to listen to them. Seriously, I met a guy up in Canada who worked himself into an extremely stubborn depression, and well...bro was freaky.  Trust me, you don't want to go that way.

7. Actually make friends.

Yes, you can have friends.  It's an absolute lie that you have to be alone, because no one was designed to be.  There are people out there who you don't get along with, and if you don't, or continually feel inferior in their presence, then find other people you feel equal to.

One of the weird things the nonsocial do is refuse to hang out with their genuine peers, as they feel like the popular people are "better" than themselves, and thus anyone similar to their nonsocial self must be not that great.  This is a lie.  Don't perpetuate it.  Granted, don't force yourself to hang out with anyone you don't like, but give people a chance to show how interesting they are before you write them off.  Find people that are fun and relaxed, or share an interest with you.  Or single yourself out and create a depression for yourself that medicine can't touch.  Seriously, mind over body works in negative ways too.

8.  Believe in God.

That's right, I went there.  No, I'm not going to mention some smarmy bullcrap about "faith" being powerful -- faith is only as powerful as the thing you have faith in.  And no, I'm not going to say all religions are the same and one is as good as another.  That's narrow-minded and inaccurate.  I'm going to say that finding God has so enabled me to find my identity and believe in my purpose, that it seems pretty silly to deny him.  After all, there's no benefits in atheism.

Thing is, God created all of us.  Therefore he knows what we're good at, and he has a reason for putting us on this earth.  We are his beloved little critters, and turning to him when we're sad or hassled by others reminds us that they don't get to decide how precious we are.

"We must realize that that faith in God is the only refuge for people who are deemed unnecessary." 
- Brian Ivie

“…but I had learned in my years of imprisonment to sense that guiding hand, to glimpse that bright meaning beyond and above myself and my wishes.  I had not often, not of bodily and spiritual weakness, had seen in them the very opposite of their true meaning and their far-off purpose.  Later the true significance of what had happened would inevitably become clear to me, and I would be numb with surprise.  I have done many things in my life that conflicted with the great aims I had set myself – and something has always set me on the true path again.  I have become so used to this, come to rely on it so much, that the only task I need set myself is to interpret as clearly and quickly as I can each major event in my life.”
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

As a writer, I greatly adhere to anything Solzhenitsyn says, because he was a writer in a time and place where even a page of his works could have gotten him killed.  And yet he survived all of it, and died in the 2000s.  While he may seem a lucky specimen, he himself never felt more in control than when he first published his USSR condemning works, as described in The Oak and the Calf.

The important thing to remember is that Solzhenitsyn did not earn his fame and career through his own merit, or from anything good -- he was put in prison for eight years for a crime he didn't do. Without this period, he would have lived in absolute obscurity, never to rise above the Soviet way of life. In other words, all good things work out for those that love God.  Or heck, even before then. Solzhenitsyn wasn't a believer when he was first arrested, and through the prison camps he found God and himself.

So letting God have control will do you well.  God doesn't hate you, and even if it seems like your circumstances are unnecessarily bad, they may ultimately bring you to a height you never would have otherwise reached.

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