I probably do not know you personally. However, may I safely assume you are no stranger to the feeling of not belonging. At one time or another, I expect it is an experience common to all human beings.
When it comes to not feeling accepted, there are undeniable behaviors which make it crystal clear we are not wanted. Actions such as the cold shoulder, the snickering as we pass by, the conversations which stop upon our entering a room, the invitations which never come. The examples are plentiful.
I would guess maybe you are no stranger to such conduct. This type of treatment, I shall call the overt type of not belonging. It gives no excuses. The message is clear: “you are not wanted.”
The Covert Kind of Not Belonging
I believe there is another type of not belonging which while less obvious is no less painful.
This type of not fitting in makes it appear — on the surface — that you do indeed belong when, in fact, you do not. This form of rejection looks different. In this case, you do get a friendly wave and maybe a smile, you get the invention (albeit from obligation), and from all appearances, these people want to be friends.
For a while, you erroneously believe you are accepted, and that given time, this relationship will grow and blossom.
As time passes, you become less sure of your first assessment.
Acceptance or Tolerance?
Are you genuinely welcome or are you merely tolerated?
Thinking of it, you are the one who reaches out, the one who writes the letters, the one who makes the phone calls, and the one who sends the texts. You have a semblance of relationship by will alone — yours. You keep the bond alive.
Were you to cease all effort; this relationship would speedily die. No whining, no lingering, no beseeching or entreating.
It appears you are not genuinely wanted and much less needed.
This affiliation is one of convenience, and it holds no spark of life.
Your existence isn’t all that important; your departure may even go unnoticed.
Our Kind of People
These are good people. They are not evil.
They don’t hate you and they may even like you well enough. “Like” has nothing to do with their rejection of you. You just plain don’t fit. Those who reject you just do not have the breadth – as in stretch — in their circle for you.
Wholly accepting you means making room for change. For whatever reason, these individuals cannot make room.
It is as if there is a code of conduct you haven’t reached despite the fact no one has seen it fit to share the rules with you in the first place.
You fall short?
Short of what?
These people may not even know.
You get a sense you are not — nor will you ever be — one of “them;” you are “other.”
In truth, some individuals — and some groups — aren’t open to change, or they don’t have room for more. Often, they may not even know why. It’s possible, you are perceived as a threat. Fear is an influential — yet incompetent — counselor.
Crumbs Don’t Make a Meal
The bits of kindness sprinkled your way are meant to placate you, although, mainly, they are for “them.” Behaving kindly means they can look in the mirror and feel better.
These behaviors — no matter how loving on the surface — still leave us feeling unloved, maybe even asking “what’s wrong with me?”
There is no room in the inn, and that’s that.
There is little doubt that not belonging hurts whether it is overt or covert. We are wired to be part of a supportive and loving group. From birth, we long for acceptance, and when it is withheld, we feel a bit off kilter. Rejection is distressing and painful.
This situation is not of your making.
The dilemma is when we accept fault when there is none. As a result, we may be tempted to alter who we are at our core to gain entry to the “club.” The thought is that if we wear the proper masks, we will be wanted.
Seldom does admission occur and if it does, losing yourself is too high a price for an entry ticket.
Keeping you out is a matter of self-preservation, and in truth, we have all been the “other” at some point. I know I have. There are friendships I wasn’t interested in or I didn’t have time to maintain.
As I mentioned above, these are good people.
Not all relationships are meant to last nor to be deep and intense.
Superficial — sometimes — is all we can do.
As I write this blog post, I feel rejected, and I am dejected.
Apparently, while I will be tolerated with polite and friendly smiles, no room will be made for me around the campfire. I will not be embraced as I hoped I would be.
I want to cry and sulk. Having indulged in the latter, I shall now do the former.
Tears are cleansing.
I will feel my feelings and let them envelop me. I will give in to their strength.
From experience, I know I will not remain here if I allow the full spectrum of my emotions to pass through me. If I bury them, they will endure in me and poison me, they will not become invisible.
It is in darkness such emotions gain power and fester.
I will have none of it.
I will write. I will cry. I will talk. When I am done, I will choose to let go.
My pain comes from unmet expectations. My unmet expectations. These people are not trying to hurt me. I had hopes and wants they cannot meet. My feelings are a result of my desires not of their behaviors.
I know better. This is not my first rodeo. Expectations kill joy and bring pain.
I wanted to be one of them when I am not.
And, if I really sit with how I feel and I am painfully honest, I am not willing to be one of them, I want to remain me. While I like these individuals, they are not my tribe.
I choose love and I choose kindness.
It is my face whose reflection I see in the mirror. I will stand tall and I will remain “me.”
Allow me to share a quote from Bréné Brown:
Somewhere in the wilderness, there is my tribe, as there is one for you. Some of my tribe members already surround me, and they are my people. I am not abandoned, I am not unloved. I am simply not accepted everywhere.
While you belong somewhere, you do not belong everywhere.
And, that’s okay.