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Since I can remember, I have often felt on the outside of things, that I didn't see things the same way as everyone else – I just didn’t fit in. What was on the outside just didn’t match the inside. Sure, occasionally, I felt part of the group, but somehow I was still left with a feeling of fraudulence and disconnection.
I often thought I would just get over it, or something was off with me. I didn’t understand that it went a little deeper, nor did I know how to dig down for healing. And even though I know better now, this feeling of not fitting in still pops up.
Whether it is church, a school function, a group meeting, even a birthday party – whatever – there are times I walk in and immediately feel like I don’t belong. That somehow I am not authentic enough. I haven’t passed the litmus test to be in the room. Or that somehow, everyone is in on a joke that I somehow missed. And that’s ridiculous.
I forget that I actually belong.
And it’s not every time. Sometimes I love groups, and I can’t help but think how I am just rocking the social thing, wondering how there was ever an issue for me.
But the times when I feel as if the world is in on some big secret, and somehow, I missed the boat, make me want to run and hide. Yet, I now have the awareness (when I remember to bring it forward), that just because I think it, doesn’t make it true.
Eventually, these thoughts go away. I am able to correct my thinking, as I have learned to do over the years. However, the thoughts can still push their way in, leading me to believe that somehow I am the outsider.
And in reality, we all can be outsiders in a way. No one has the exact same experience or views. That’s the point of groups, of get-togethers, of community. We have a common goal, we can learn from each other.
Fighting the role of the outsider is fruitless. We can own our uniqueness, welcome what makes us different. Being too chatty, too shy, too emotional, too closed-off, too loud, too quiet, too rich, too poor, too highly educated, too little educated, too big, too little – we are not too much to exist.
And sure, there are those people here and there that want to highlight our insecurities, furthering the feeling of estrangement. I just figure if I’m that much of a concern to them, they have more issues than I do. That was certainly the case whenever I was on the flip side of the coin. But for the rest of the times when so much negative talk is coming from within, not externally, I have to remember a few things.
I have to remember that no matter what the rules, the social expectations, I may be presumed to follow; I have a right to be there.
I have a right to be here.
Sometimes I have to say that again to really kick in.
I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HERE.
Years ago, I often didn’t feel I had any rights. That somehow my opinion, my needs, didn’t count. I was too emotional or too needy, and I was just lucky those who did stick around put up with me. I felt the rest of you had it figured out. The problem is, that when I told myself I didn’t belong, I was making the assumption that everyone else did belong and I had to somehow change myself.
Yet, there was another part of me that was very strong. It lived deep down inside of me. I knew my feelings were valid. I just didn’t know how to bring that part – that strength - forward.
And as I get older (and of course, wiser), I realize how much everyone is working through their own "stuff". It may be substance or drug addiction, divorce, child loss, disordered eating, depression, anxiety, perfectionism, trauma, PTSD – whatever challenges our happiness in life, we all have something. Equally, we all have a place in this great big world, no matter how alone we may feel at times.
I remember in my early days of sobriety in the city, I would attend different support groups. Now, keep in mind, I was a 20-something young women from the suburbs hanging out in not the best places of the Chicago. But there were meetings there. I would go; sometimes the only person under 25, (35 or even 45). Sometimes my skin color set me apart, my gender, my language – at times all of the above. But I still went. For me, those experiences only solidifies the point that not belonging is much more of an inside feeling than what is on the outside. On this inside, we are much more alike than different.
It is amazing the miracles that can happen when we believe in ourselves, when we believe in our worth.
I found my strength - because I pulled it forward and believed in me.
I try to keep these times of strength in the forefront of my head – especially when I feel out of place at something as simple as a family gathering. I’ve come a long way and my thoughts can kick me down, but I must remember that I, too, belong. We all do, especially when we focus on what brings us together than what sets us apart.