It finally hit me. I am an outsider. I’ve felt different more times than I care to count but until recently I’ve not given it much thought or embraced the notion of being an outsider.
When I was born, my older twin siblings didn’t want much to do with me as they had each other. I tried desperately to make them play with me but mostly, I was left to play by myself.
When I went to middle and high school, I was one of two black students in a predominantly white private school in the South. There were countless moments of feeling uncomfortable and singled out simply because I was different.
When I went to college and pledged a sorority, I was surprisingly blackballed by a childhood friend. After the shock and humiliation wore off, I found myself on the outside of a group of people I once considered friends.
When I got pregnant with my first child, I was not married. The pregnancy didn’t come as a shock to my now husband and I as we were in love and excited about our future together. To this day, however, there are still a handful of people who go out of their way to make their disapproval known.
When I found a really gratifying job, I was singled out and bullied because I became aware of harassment challenges that leadership wanted to bury. Overnight the environment went from friendly and supportive to isolating and hostile.
I could go on but you get the gist. I am an outsider somewhat because of experience and circumstance, but also because of my personality. Like a lot of outsiders, I spent far too long thinking that being an outsider was negative, or something I deserved because I wasn’t worthy or I did something wrong. Outsiders don’t typically feel included because we are different. We tend to live on the periphery and we are introverted sometimes even though this is not altogether by choice. We are often singled out, ostracized or bullied, and we often march to the beat of our own drum as a result.
This is the blessing of being an outsider–we learn to love ourselves despite everything and we typically have a lot of compassion for others. We’ve learned, firsthand, that being included isn’t always a good thing as it often calls for compromising values, hurting others, and not thinking clearly for oneself.
If you do find yourself often feeling like an outsider, fight the temptation to become even more of an outsider. It’s easy to think that you are deserving of being an outsider and all the experiences and treatment that may accompany feeling that way. But it’s not that simple. Sometimes it’s not about you. Sometimes it’s something bigger and not personal. Sometimes you won’t understand it, sometimes you will feel forever changed by it, and sometimes life just isn’t fair despite your intention, heart, and efforts.
I tell you all of this because everyone feels like an outsider to some degree. It’s not a bad thing but it’s not always pleasant. I could tell you that there are plenty of famous people who have embraced being an outsider—Angelina Jolie, J.K Rowling, Steve Jobs and a slew of others—but that won’t make it any easier. It does not always feel good to be an outsider.
When it does happen, the most important things to remember are:
- Always pick yourself up and just focus on moving forward. It may be confusing and hurtful but in time you will be stronger and know much more about what’s important in life.
- Please don’t be afraid of being an outsider. Everyone feels this way at one time or another. Please trust that it’s the universe protecting you in many ways and encouraging you to be your own best friend above all else.
- Being an outsider makes you keenly aware of how you treat people. The smallest of kind gestures is important as every single interaction with someone can have lasting implications. It’s important to try to leave people feeling better than you found them.