I'm a 27-year-old man.

I feel like a lot of the baggage I am carrying stems from moving around a lot and not really being able to find communities where I belong, as well as being pretty unpopular socially in my teens/early adulthood.

When I get closer with someone (e.g. starting to see them romantically) and our relationship becomes deeper, I want to be able to open up about those things about me, even if just to provide context to some of the more immediate feelings I am experiencing etc. But I always get that feeling that by doing so I am (a) being unnecessarily whiny, (b) I "reveal" myself as actually a friendless loser.

I know that once that other person knows me enough they are likely to not see me as that loser. But how do I make sure they know I'm not bringing up those unpleasant experiences for the sake of indulging in self-pity but rather because I think it provides valuable insight into who I am?

  • 1
    Hey BobsYesUncle, welcome to IPS! Could you tell us a little bit more about what you have tried so far, how the conversation want and what makes you feel the other person think you are just "whiny"? Or maybe you have never open-up yet? If you didn't, could you tell us more about what you thought of doing and why you thought it would be perceived as "whiny"?
    – Ael
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 5:37
  • 8
    Its a good question and I up-voted it. I think a lot depends on the way that you tell the story, if you sound like Eeyore,it probably won't go too well . In addtion "I do this/think this because..." only works for so long, because the potential partner will want to see you moving beyond the past. Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 10:11
  • Could you describe some more context around when you start to discuss these issues with someone? Such as, when a relationship might have developed to the point that you want to open up this way, are there natural prompts you use to bring it up, and what, specifically, (if anything) you expect that sharing this knowledge to do?
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 16:03
  • @Upper_Case : Reading between the lines, "I want to be able to open up" shows an urge, and "provides valuable insight into who I am" is another reason.
    – anki
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 17:27
  • @ankii Both reasonable deductions, but I'm interested in a direct report from the OP since no one else can give as good a report on his preferences and intentions. The specifics on how and when the OP tries to communicate this aspect of himself are very important to the stated goal, and (I feel) the question doesn't contain enough information for that information to be interpreted reliably enough that I would use it to inform an answer.
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 20:06

2 Answers 2


Well, the justification for my answer is basically I have a similar background (wasn't popular during teenage / early adulthood, and also didn't have many friends growing up) and I'm simultaneously going through a move to a different job in a different company and different country and through a romantic relationship development, so my advice would be based on what worked for me and what didn't in the past, and also what's working now.

Justification is not an excuse, and the line between them is really thin

Don't get me wrong: knowing why you are the way you are, or why you react the way you react is good. It helps you deconstruct habits and behaviors you don't want to keep.

Bringing this up too much if unprompted makes you look like you're trying to come up with an excuse or shifting the blame, especially when the other part is not interested in the details or the context, and you indeed come across as whiny.

If you want to know why, it is because the other person can't do anything about it. This is why we get annoyed at spam mail, some push notifications and other unwanted bits of information that we received without requesting (little bit of insight from my therapist).

Bottom line: just say what you're feeling in that moment. You don't always have to provide a justification. If the person asks why, then you disclose the reason as much as you feel comfortable disclosing.

Recent example - this Friday I had to come forth with my cynophobia to my S.O. because we were getting close to an unleashed dog of a considerable size and I felt the onset of the panic attack. I just mentioned that I have cynophobia and I really needed to cross the street to get more distance. A few hours after, curiosity kicked in and I was asked more details since I tolerate small dogs rather well and then I filled in the blanks behind the phobia, giving the full context.

Unload and be at peace with yourself

This is the intrapersonal part that should not be addressed at IPS, but I'll add to the advice anyway. You mention a lot of baggage and feelings of loneliness and also worry about not meeting someone else's expectations. This is something you might want to look a little bit deeper, maybe with professional help (therapy is good for the soul, really).

The past more often than not doesn't matter. Who you are now is the relevant part

  • “This is why we get annoyed at spam mail, some push notifications and other unwanted bits of information without requesting”, I quite disagree that having an ear and a bit of empathy to listen to someone who finds you close enough to talk to is equal to spam mail where a possible scammer is trying to sell you something. Where’s humanity going...?
    – Neeku
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 23:05
  • @Neeku It is just the illustration of the cognitive pathway the information goes through the brain. Humans are cognitively lazy, and this is one of the ways bias happen. Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 13:11

One way of many...

"Make" it okay

I was in a similar place about that age and some still to this day.

When talking about a disappointing part of your own past, I have found that being "at peace with it" is the sugar to make the medicine go down for those who hear. Yes, they do need to know, but you don't have to bleed on them, so to speak.

Be happy and upbeat; a little self-depreciating humor helps also.


"Yeah, I was kind of a loser in high school, then I grew up."

"I didn't find my peer group until I was older. Maybe it's my talent set: more with marketable skills, less with fraternizing."

"Oh, did I have a hard time in school! [laughing] I didn't even know what a friend was. Today it's... different."

You've genuinely got to be happy when you talk about your past. Look at the bright side; if its hard to find one, ask a good friend to show you. If you need help being happy with your past, consider Frank Sinatra's song My Way:

And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing to think I did all that!

Don't dwell on it in conversation, just mention it and move on. Once you're happy with your past, you will tell it like it is happy, then it will be okay because you "made" it okay.

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