(Hint: It has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you)
When was the last time you felt accepted, like you truly belonged?
Would you feel comfortable going into a room full of strangers and hanging out by yourself?
I can say I would, but not for the reasons you might think.
It’s definitely not because I thrive in that type of environment (um, HELL no). In fact, it’s the exact opposite. I could do it because I’m a professional at making myself invisible in a crowd. I mean like Houdini-level disappearing.
It’s a trait I learned early, out of necessity.
When I was a teenager my family moved around a lot, I went to 3 different high schools in 4 years. And trust me, if there was one place I definitely didn’t want to stand out as an awkward teenager, it was high school.
Fortunately for me, I’m 4’11 so all I had to do to was keep my head down, hover on the outskirts of large groups, and avoid eye contact. I could go all day without anyone even noticing I was around.
(That sounded a lot less sad when it was just in my head).
Anyway, to say I felt like I didn’t belong would be an understatement. As far as my brain was concerned it was a concrete fact.
Looking back it’s easy to see how my lifelong pattern of not belonging was developed:
- I didn’t believe I would be accepted so I acted small and invisible to avoid attention
- By avoiding attention (and thereby, connection) I made sure I was by myself all the time
- Being by myself all the time guaranteed that I wouldn’t fit in, which proved my belief that I didn’t belong
See what my brain did there?
I used to think hiding and playing small served me. And maybe it did when I was younger, in unfamiliar surroundings with no knowledge of how to protect myself. I wasn’t able to make choices for myself back then so naturally I felt powerless.
And I know my brain was just trying to keep me safe by convincing me to stay hidden.
But now I’m a 55-year-old adult woman, and I am no longer powerless. I get to make decisions about where I live and how I decide to show up. I get to choose what circumstances I put myself into and which ones don’t serve me or my goals.
But changing old patterns and beliefs definitely isn’t easy, they don’t go away just because we grow up.
One of the things we need to learn as adults (and that I continue to work on) is how the feeling of acceptance and belonging doesn’t come from circumstances outside of ourselves.
In the case of me as a teenager, it was my thought “I don’t belong” that lead me to feel like I didn’t belong, which made me act like I didn’t belong, which lead me to “un-belonging myself”, if you follow.
It’s the same for us as adults.
If we show up believing that we don’t belong, that we’re somehow less than the other people around us — at a job, the gym, or a party — then how do we act? And what will be our end result because of those actions?
Our belief in ourselves has to come from ourselves. The call needs to come from inside the house, as they say.
No one can make us feel accepted, or unaccepted, it comes from our beliefs first.
“Our sense of belonging will never be greater than our own self-acceptance”
We can decide ahead of time to accept ourselves and “belong” ourselves, no matter what happens outside of us.
It takes practice, but I’m willing to do it.
And you can too, I promise.
Discover What’s Possible
I hear from a lot of women over 50 who want to make friends but don’t know quite how to get started, so I created a free pdf “3 Simple Ways to Make Friends in Your 50s”. You can grab yours here https://skilled-trader-6387.ck.page/eff75275a1