I want to change my gloomy, passive personality

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a first-year high school boy, and I’m worried about being so gloomy and passive all the time. I want to change.

I often take things negatively, and I’m not good at communicating with others. I also have a hard time talking with friends smoothly.

I remember enjoying talking with many friends when I was a first-year middle school student. Now, even if I manage to talk with them, I can’t expand on the topic at hand and often tend to just keep silent.

When I was a second-year middle school student, I was teased about my body. Maybe that traumatized me.

When somebody tells me something meant as a joke during small talk, I take it seriously now. Due to my response, friends have started coming to me less than before.

I think they don’t like me, which makes me even gloomier.

Honestly, I just want to talk and hang out with my friends. I have no idea why I’ve become like this. What should I do?

F, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Mr. F:

It’s just plain unfair for anyone to be bullied over physical appearance because it’s not something you have much control over. It’s also very sad to be teased about what we are most worried about. I understand it must have been tough for you.

But I nevertheless want to suggest you do two things, which are completely different.

One is don’t paint yourself into a corner by defining yourself as a “negative thinker” and that something was “traumatic.” As long as you talk about yourself using such language, you share the same mind-set as that of the other people and probably will not change your situation or find a way out.

So why not face and define your solitude by using your own vocabulary. It’s not easy, but you need to figure out who you are and what you stand for.

The other, which is the complete opposite of what I just mentioned, is I suggest you get bored with how you are now as soon as possible. What I mean by this is you should become avidly interested in other people’s ways of living that are obviously different from yours to open your heart to yourself. You can either be attracted or opposed to other people’s ways, but ardently listen to these people, rather than thinking of yourself.

Neither is easy to do. But if you seriously want to open one or two windows in your life, you probably have no option but to start with them.

Kiyokazu Washida, philosopher

(from June 17, 2015, issue)Speech

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