73

Context

I'm 19 years old and I live with my mother. I completed an apprenticeship in software engineering earlier this year. I'm now working full time at the company where I finished my apprenticeship to save money for the university.

Now, to the topic. I would describe myself as an introvert. However, I don't think I'm an insecure person whatsoever. I don't have problems attending social events, interacting or working with other people at the company. I just feel more confortable alone, so I spend more time all by myself, doing research on topics I'm interested in, coding some projects of my own or just losing myself in a delightful tricky problem. And I don't have a problem with that really, the tasks satisfy me and I never feel dejected or depressed at all.

My circle of friends is pretty tight and everyone I engage with somewhat frequently, pretty much shares my mindset. When we meet, we often spend hours discussing various topics, challenging each others views, contemplating about pretty much anything what is on our minds or simply enjoying a pint of beer. We meet a few times a month and that's perfectly fine for me. In my opinion, the position I'm in right now is perfect for me. The balance of my social life and the time I'm on my own fits my mindset exactly and as said before, I don't feel generally unhappy with my situation.

However, my mother seems to be worried about me for quite some time now. And yes, I gotta say, I'm more of a calm person. I don't talk as much compared to other people of my age. But I wouldn't say I'm shy, because I don't have difficulties expressing my feelings. I just don't show them as expressively as others do. Nevertheless, my mother often asks me if I'm happy where I am now and I noticed that she's worried about me. And I understand why, I am not out as much as other people of my age and I am certainly not as energetic as other people, but as I said before, I am happy where I am now. And I tell her that every time she asks, but she doesn't believe me. I talked to her a lot about that subject and she can't or won't accept what I try to tell her.

I think no matter what I say, she always draws comparisons to sons of her friends at my age or her youth and I'm starting to get tired of having this conversation over and over again. I don't want her to keep worrying about me, when there's no reason to. How can I convince her that I am happy how I am?

12 Answers 12

53

As the parent of an Asperger's kid, there's enough on that here that I won't add to the pile. As a person who works in IT, what you describe seems to be what I call "normal".

Let's look at what you say. You have friends. You interact with them at a schedule that works for you and your interactions are satisfying. You have a job that you have a passion for. You have a full-time professional position at the age of 19. Quite frankly, I struggle to see what the problem is.

The biggest challenge is, I think, that Mom compares you to only the good stories she hears about her friends' kids. She doesn't hear about their struggles or where they don't succeed. So she's comparing your entire life, which she sees, to the parts of other people's lives that she hears about. To me, that's not a fair comparison.

How to deal with Mom? She wants what's best for you and she's looking at the wrong thing. I'd guess that you feel that you wind up defending yourself to her. So.. stop defending yourself. How? "Mom, thanks for your concern. I want you to look at the whole picture. I'm not lacking friends and I see them as often as we want. I can support myself and have a professional position. Which would you rather have - a son who is successful, employed at doing something he loves, and happy with his friends, or someone who isn't? You've got the first already - why push on it? I don't compare myself to [Bob]; I compare myself to what I can accomplish and so far, the result is pretty doggone good." And leave it at that. Refuse the comparison to others; the only standard you should measure yourself against is yourself and your capabilities.

21

I have Asperger's syndrome so I understand much of what you describe. I have an extremely flat affect and friends of mine even joke by "imitating" me by doing things like

(no expression) -This is Snark's happy face

(no expression) -This is Snark's mad face.

So, yes it is hard to convey anything if you are low-key and calm, expecially if you have a resting "sad" or "angry" face.

So, the difficulty to those around you is that the only information they have to go on is your affect.

In order to better communicate, you need to engage more by either working on your affect, going out more (even if it's just to a library) and talking more to your mother.

some patience is required on your part, as people often cannot distinguish between introverted and withdrawn. It seems that the message you are sending is "withdrawn". The way to change that is to focus on sending a different message.

Talk more, smile more, go out more (at least for now) and if someone compares you to someone else you can just say "That's fine for them, this is fine for me".

You may also want to ask your mother what she's really worried about. You can approach that the next time she brings it up by saying

Mom, we've talked about this before and I've answered your questions, what's really bothering you?

and see where that leads.

13

There seems to be two ways that you can possibly try and convince someone you are happy: one is to tell them that you are happy (and you've said this isn't working); the other is to try and show them that you are happy. The latter may require some conscious behavioral changes and this is where it becomes problematic, because you tell us you are content with your routine now and changing things is exactly what you don't want to do.

Try taking some regular time out to update your mother on your day / week. Be proactive, don't wait for her to ask you. If this seems alien to you, schedule it into your daily / weekly routine as you see appropriate. Tell her about your work, your projects, or your social life. Speak enthusiastically about them, as this will show her that your life makes you happy. It may even help her to understand forms of human interaction that she does not understand (such as this site!). I believe this may help as nothing you have said indicates she is unhappy with your choices in life but just wants to know that you are happy.

Also, rather than introduce new behaviour that is artificial, think about how you could maybe carry on your routine in a way that is more transparent or noticeable to your mother. Whenever you take time out to do something for yourself, even mundane things like making yourself a drink, see if you can let your mother see you taking care of yourself. People who are depressed / unhappy often neglect themselves. By way of illustration, if you have taken or intend to take a driving test, you have to go out of your way to demonstrate to the examiner that you are doing certain things - for example you don't just glance in the rear-view mirror with your eyes, you deliberately crane your neck so they can see you are doing it. This is kind of what I'm suggesting here - just go out of your way to show your mum that you are enjoying life.

7

Often, people lie about their happiness just not to be bothered. Just stating your happiness could not be enough; you could try to lead your mother to see the reasons of your happiness. You may try to get her more involved in your life - nothing extraordinary, mainly some more communication.

Try to talk to your mother about the things that you do both alone and with your friends that make you happy. It's not necessary to do it extensively every time; sometimes, just dropping a comment here and there might work.

Mom, yesterday night I went with my friends to this great pub and we talked about [insert really interesting topic here] for hours! It was really great!

Or

Did you know that [insert topic of research here]? Yesterday night I was so caught up in reading about this that I spent three hours on it!

Also, get your mother to know your friends. If she will see with her eyes that you don't feel lonely and how you are with them, it might be easier for her to believe you. Once she knows them, talk about what you appreciate about them (e.g. John is a great listener, Jack always has a fresh perspective on things, you can always rely on Laura etc). In this way, she'll know that you're not alone and you have a "social cushion" around you.

4

When people insists on refusing to listen to my answers, I generally like to put the ball on their court and have them find an answer.

You ask me whether I'm OK, and I said "Yes". Then you asked me whether I'm OK again, and I said "Yes" again. Then again and again. At this point, rather than asking me whether I'm happy, try asking yourself why you don't believe me.

3

Like SnarkKnight, my sister also has Asperger's, and our mom asked her the same questions yours does for you. She is also a 20-something software engineer still living with our parents!

My sister could be on vacation having the time of her life, but if she doesn't force herself to remember to smile as wide as possible when our mother is around, she would be convinced that my sister is depressed and that the vacation was a failure and everything was ruined.

The thing we did that helped most was:

When our mother brought it up, my sister would smile. Then she would say

I am very happy, mom. I know you're concerned for me, and I appreciate it, but this really is my 'happy face'. I promise that if I WASN'T okay and perfectly happy, I would tell you.

It took a couple tries, but it did help. For my sister, it was just a case of our mom being worried for her, and wanting to make sure she was having as much fun as everyone else. With enough reassurance that she was okay, and that if that stopped being true she'd tell her right away, our mom backed off.

Additionally, it helps to talk about what you do do that makes you happy. If you spend time researching a particularly tricky problem, tell your mom about it and how happy you are to have solved it for yourself. Even if your mom isn't interested in software or know anything about it (like mine) she will probably appreciate your enthusiasm and that YOU are interested. If you go out with your close group of friends, say something when you come home like

We had a really great time. All my friends were there, and we just sat around for hours having fun over a pint.

Just showing that the few things you do are perfect for you and are enough to make you happy enough to tell her about it will probably ease her worries.

2

Instead of waiting for her to ask, once in a while tell her you are happy. Not exactly those words, of course, but how much fun you had with this or that activity alone or with friends.

Also tell her your plans for the future and talk to her without being prompted. If you see something interesting that you would normally share with your friends, share it with her, even if she could not possibly understand it.

She is trying to be a good mother, just because you tell her you are happy doesn't mean you are, many "happy" people out there have killed themselves.

Since your happy doesn't fit with what she expects, she worries, and if you think of it, it rather makes sense. She has to make sure. And no matter what you do, maybe she will never be.

Another thing that can help is to make her meet your friends. If they are like you she will see there are other versions of happy.

Finally, a question: Have you been always like this? Or maybe you have changed recently (months, years) That could also be the reason why she worries. If you did change, think why, and how, and that could give you a clue as how to make her feel better.

1

As a mother she will always worry about you and that's because she really cares about you. The best thing to do is psychologically convince her. Some of the things you can do are

  • make nice jokes that will make her laugh
  • tell her about your new project and how excited you are about it
  • show your intelligence by solving metaphors

and so on.

1

You seem to be happy in your "own world", that's the most important. Happiness isn't a "one size fits all" type of thing and many people, including parents, don't seem to understand that.

Why don't you tell her: "Mother, the only thing that makes me unhappy is you constantly asking me if I'm happy and comparing me to others!"

She may get the point...

0

You might be an ISTP. It's the Meyers-Briggs type mostly likely to be..

..misinterpreted by others as an actively antisocial attitude when in fact ISTPs are simply uninterested in engaging in group-related small-talk.

Once upon a time I recall reading that one of the types is commonly and mistakenly perceived by others to be unhappy or depressed, when in fact they are not. I think that type is ISTP, but I'm having difficulty confirming it with some quick Googling. Considering your story, though, I am nearly certain that whatever that type is (it may not be ISTP!), it's very likely your type.

So, if your personality type indicator corresponded to that type (for now let's assume it's ISTP unless someone corrects me), I think the solution here is to do some light reading about personality types and then have candid, appropriately-timed conversations with any concerned parties explaining that this is actually a common misperception of your personality type, and that there is A) nothing wrong with you, and 2) it makes complete sense that they might think there is, but D) you're all okay, and hey that's okay too!

Aside: Hopefully someone out there appreciates the Buzz-inspired ordered list. :)

  • My girlfrend is an ISTP and fits perfectly the OP's description. On the other hand I have INTP friends that also fit perfectly. So I think it's not conclusive. – Daniel Dec 14 '17 at 18:42
  • @Daniel, I think the difference would be this: Are the INTP friends frequently perceived by others to be unhappy? Apparently for one of the types, which I seem to recall is ISTP, this mischaracterization is more the rule than the exception. – elrobis Dec 14 '17 at 18:52
  • 1
    That's a good point. In any case the MBTI is a great tool to understand and explain to others that not all people are equal or have the same interests. – Daniel Dec 14 '17 at 19:10
0

Primarily, I'd suggest that you work on having fun with your mother a bit more often. Whatever interests you and your mother have in common, explore those things a bit more often; and also try some new things. Get out of the house together a little bit more often.

Once you've made some progress with this, you can start to put the focus on rewarding her when she makes positive remarks. You can also non-dramatically withdraw when she starts giving you a hard time. You can occasionally tell her how you feel about her niggling, e.g. "I feel uncomfortable with these comments. I get the impression you're questioning my social choices. Whether my choices are good for me or not, I'm not likely to change them when I'm feeling criticized about them."

You could also do your introversion thing outside the house a couple times a week, at, for example, a library -- but without providing specific information about where you're going or who you're seeing. (It doesn't have to be a library -- it could be a quiet hotel lobby with comfortable armchairs, or an airport with wifi -- someplace where you can work on whatever you like, with a laptop.)

(At your age, you need not share details of your social life with your mother.... It's optional!)

These ideas come from workshops I've participated in about "I" messages, as well as reading and personal experience. Here are some resources:

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/i-message

https://www.verywell.com/what-is-positive-reinforcement-2795412

(By the way, I believe it's possible and even common for a person to be somewhat introverted, without having Asperger's Syndrome; and my answer doesn't assume that you have Asperger's or that you don't.)

-1

I was made aware by comments (and ultimately the deletion of my answer) to shape my post, which I want to do in order to add an aspect to the canon of answers that I think deserves attention.

(...) but as I said before, I am happy where I am now. And I tell her that every time she asks, but she doesn't believe me. I talked to her a lot about that subject and she can't or won't accept what I try to tell her.

I think no matter what I say, she always draws comparisons to sons of her friends at my age or her youth and I'm starting to get tired of having this conversation over and over again. I don't want her to keep worrying about me, when there's no reason to. How can I convince her that I am happy how I am?

I think that this is a very dear goal, but I am afraid it is impossible to be accomplished in this way. I'll outline reasons, shed light on the possible source of your mother's worries and complaints and suggest two steps to optimise the situation.

Seen from a neurobiological viewpoint, in communication a "sender" is able to control the output (= message, verbal and non-verbal behaviours), but the meaning of this message is generated within the "receiver", the "sender" has no direct control over this generative process of the "receiver". This is due to the self-organising abilities of our mind-body-system.

So her attempts to change your behaviour are invitations - and those can be accepted or denied, and you deny them.

The same is true for your goal to change her behaviour.

In my original answer, I tried to shed some light on her possible underlying motivations that may bring forth her actions such as worrying, sharing her worries with you, comparing you to other people and deriving a difference between them and you in order to motivate you to decrease this difference.

I basically wrote that parents tend to have expectations for their children that are not always conscious to the parent himself. Perceived differences between expectation and behaviour of the child may lead to worrying and the urge to reduce this difference by trying to change the child's behaviour.

Such expectations can vary widely, often they include...

  • a decent education
  • a decent job to be able to make a living
  • finding a partner
  • have children
  • include the parents (then grandparents) in the activities of caring for and rearing the offspring.
  • being taken care of by the child when the parent is sick/old/in need of care.
  • etc.

As these are the parent's expectations, the parent is responsible for adapting these in case they cause unwanted side-effects like constant worrying, discontent or even frustration, depression, aggression.

What you can do is to explain your viewpoint calmly, which probably won't change her expectations much, so don't judge your success by the measure of her stopping to complain. You may even daringly ask for her motives and express sympathy for her feeling this way and stay with your way of living.

Moreover, you could move to an own place. Thus you would increase privacy and your mother won't be able to interfere with your lifestyle at the extent as she does now. Moreover, you would experience the situation of taking more care of yourself, which will probably teach you valuable skills that you didn't need to that extent until now.

protected by Community Dec 15 '17 at 9:07

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.