When You Feel Like Your Boring Past Hinders Your Conversations
Some people feel hobbled in their conversations because they believe they have a boring, sheltered, uneventful, unsocial past. They think they don't have a proper supply of old experiences to draw on to help their interactions flow.
They may think they can't talk about:
- Things they did with old friends, because they didn't have many growing up, or their social circle wasn't very adventurous
- Interesting trips they took, because they never traveled anywhere
- Childhood hobbies, because they didn't have any noteworthy interests as a kid
- High school or college relationships, because they weren't dating back then
They may also feel ashamed because they made choices that caused them to miss out on a facet of life experience:
- They didn't have many friendships as an adult because they focused on their career or raising a family
- They didn't have a romantic relationship because they were too shy, or threw all their spare time into their work
- They didn't travel much, because it didn't interest them, they couldn't afford it, or they were too anxious to venture far from their home city
- They didn't do any of the stereotypical fun university things like partying, road trips, and so on, because they kept to themselves and studied
Worries about having a dull, barren past can affect people at any age. People in their mid-twenties can feel self-conscious about not getting up to much in high school and university, when it seems everyone else has colorful stories about going on Spring Break. Older adults can look back on the past couple of decades and feel embarrassed they put all their energy into their job or family, and didn't take part in any hobbies or hang out with friends.
While having a plain, unexciting past isn't ideal, all else being equal, it's also not the social death sentence you may worry it is. Some people can get too sucked into the belief that all their conversations are doomed to fizzle out because they don't, say, have a history of rollicking vacation adventures they can regale everyone with.
You likely have more to say about your past than you think you do
I'll take your word for it that your past wasn't super-exciting. However, you're probably exaggerating how sterile and uneventful it was. Even if you lived a fairly sheltered existence, you still did many things worth mentioning. It's just that you're putting too much pressure on yourself to be uber-interesting and censoring all the reasonable things you could bring up:
- You still had some hobbies and interests, even if they were low key, commonplace ones like watching movies, reading, or going on walks, or supposedly lame ones like playing the clarinet.
- You still probably did go on some trips as a kid, even if they were to local attractions, or to the same vacation home every year.
- You still had plenty of interactions with your family, classmates, and co-workers, even if you didn't have a vibrant social life.
Plus, even if you were incredibly sheltered, and truly never went on any vacations or watched any movies as a kid, that's actually novel and interesting in its own way.
Even if your past is pretty dull, there are ways to spice it up or go into detail about the material you do have to work with
Fine, you didn't visit every country in Europe as a kid, but you can get some mileage from the stories of the cottage you went to every summer. You can talk about how you liked going on little canoe trips, or tell a story of that time you caught a snake and were flabbergasted that your mom didn't let you bring it home with you. You could even be open about how boring it was to you as a ten-year-old, and joke about how you watched the same movie over and over because there was so little else to do. Yeah, there may not be as many anecdotes to mine from it as a childhood spent traveling the world, but there's enough to chat about.
This point is not meant to reinforce your sense that your past is a terrible deal breaker, and so you have to lie about it and put lipstick on a pig. It's about realizing what you have to work with is fine, but it may require a little more positive spin or workshopping.
People probably won't judge you for your boring or one-dimensional past as much as you think they will
This is particularly true if you seem comfortable with your past, and talk about it in a matter of fact or casual way, like you know it's not the most thrilling personal history, but you don't see anything wrong with that. You're also unlikely to be judged if you just offhandedly admit your parents sheltered you, or that you were a homebody as a kid and wish you did more in hindsight, or that looking back you were too focused on advancing your career in your thirties. People understand these kinds of things happen.
What's more off-putting is when someone talks about their perfectly acceptable, if uneventful, childhood in an overly guarded, self-conscious way. If they just stated they mostly hung around at home as a kid, no one would care. But by being cagey everyone can come away with a sense of, "What was that all about? I was just asking what they did for fun in high school and they were so vague and evasive. I had to drag the simplest answer out of them."
By a certain age most of us realize and accept that other people have areas in their life where they struggled or didn't make the ideal choices. Some weren't very social. Others stayed with an abusive partner too long, worked too many hours, got caught up in alcohol or drugs, and so on. We're usually willing to cut them some slack.
How people perceive you is more about how how likable you are in the present
And when I say "likable" I don't mean you have to be super charismatic, just personable enough for the person you're talking to. Think of your favorite celebrity or artist, someone who just just seems so awesome and admirable. Would you really care if they said they didn't do any extracurricular activities as a kid, and just sat around at home and played video games? When you're insecure about your supposedly lifeless past you can believe everyone is ready to pick it apart, but most people don't really care that much.
This insecurity often has an irrational emotional component that comes from unhealed child wounds
Some people worry their past is too boring, but when they get an explanation of how it's not that big a deal they feel better. Others can get the same reassurances, but the words don't really sink in. They may acknowledge the explanation intellectually, but on an emotional level it just feels deeply true that their childhood curses them to be a shamefully boring loser.
This deeply held self-image is probably from unresolved upsetting events they went through as kids where they were made to feel unworthy, flawed, or not enough. As an adult they're still carrying this around, and certain types of conversation, or the thought of them, can bring these feelings to the surface. If you address these wounds you may then be able to approach discussions of your "boring" past from a more grounded, adult headspace.