Today is a stay inside, wear hand knit socks and drink tea kind of day. I am snuggly warm. I know it is cold and wet out there. I don’t have to go out to know this. I sit here in comfort and still know. I’m on the inside looking out. It is a far different view than looking in from the outside, isn’t it?
Being left out is always painful. But is being left out always a bad thing?
Finding out I have been left out of a group activity causes my mind to explode with all sorts of conspiracy theories which then devolves into massive self esteem issues. Who needs that, am I right?
But, here’s the rub. Unless I plan on living the rest of my life inside the safety of my home, I must risk relationships and with it, the possibility of not fitting in. The choice is mine as is the quality of my outcome.
Risk And Reward
Finding a group to belong to isn’t always easy. As adults our social circles generally are found at church, volunteering, work or hobbies. Another way to feel we belong is through supporting small businesses who come to know us by name. Think about a cafe, bar, or coffee shop. Norm! (random Cheers reference for those old enough to get it)
Entering a new social situation is unnerving for most of us. We don’t magically outgrow social anxiety. I kept thinking that one day I would spontaneously feel comfortable with it, but after waiting forty years I have decided that’s not like to happen.
So what’s a social introvert to do? I’ve got some tips for you.
Test The Waters
The kind of group doesn’t matter, whatever appeals to you. Having said that, are you going to feel all cozy and comfortable the first time? Do you remember blind dates? So, the answer is probably not. Getting to know people to feel a part of a group takes time. It doesn’t matter who you are, your gender or color. Belonging takes time and the proper state of mind. And even then things don’t always work out. It is no one’s fault, it is the chemistry of personal interaction.
Generally, before I enter any kind of a new situation, I create a variety of scenarios in my head. Anyone with me on this? Do any of your scenarios turn out warm and fuzzy? Rarely, am I right? Yeah, me too. I am sure that I will not fit in, I’m not smart enough, not a witty conversationalist, I will end up sitting alone; just like high school all over again. When I go into a situation expecting rejection and negativity, that is usually what I get. Or I perceive it that way.
Those are the old messages replaying inside my head.
What would happen if instead of negativity I approached the experience with the attitude that I have something to offer and I’m going to have fun? I have just taken back the power I had previously given to the group. I’m back in control of the outcome. Who are you willing to give your power to?
All Or Nothing
It takes a very long time for the hot water in our house to reach the master bathroom shower. Sometimes, if I am in a hurry, I will hop in before the water has reached a comfortable temperature. My natural reaction is to get out. Normal, right? However, if I just stay uncomfortable for a second or two, soon the water begins to warm and so do I.
Maybe we go in to established groups with preconceived ideas and then react accordingly. We are looking from the outside in. It is cold and lonely here, but it looks so inviting and warm in there. Will they let me in? The only way to know for sure is to jump in with both feet and the rest of your fabulous self. No toe dipping allowed.
Best Laid Plans
Sometimes all the planning and work just doesn’t come together. If you gave it your best shot, call it good and go find a new place. There is a tribe waiting for what you bring to the table.
There is only one thing worse than being alone and that is being a part of something that isn’t nurturing and fun. If you have genuinely given it your all and you still feel like an outsider, move on. Unfortunately in every group there are those who feed on the power and control and the last thing they want is new blood who might disrupt the status quo. Resist the urge to lay blame or become bitter. All that does is create negativity that will infect all areas of life. I know because I have been there more than once. Negativity sucks the life energy out of everything it touches.
Be the light and others will be drawn to you.
Stay warm and keep looking up, embrace today and go find some fun.