Bodie is back on her high school campus teaching a two-week class. In the 20ish years since graduation, Bodie became a successful college professor and podcaster. But, back then, Bodie was an outsider. She wore goth eyeliner, didn’t date, and was close with only a few peers. The other kids, Bodie thought, had perfect families and cookie-cutter lives, unlike her.
When invited back to teach, Bodie accepted the gig, hoping for the ego boost of experiencing Granby as a success story (and to quiet the unending questions in her mind about who had killed her old roommate). With the benefit of an adult perspective, Bodie recognized that her peers weren’t as privileged as she’d assumed. And she started questioning whether other people rejected her or if she created the conditions for her exclusion.
When a person feels that they don’t belong, a cycle develops. The self-described outsider wants friends. She is invited to spend time with a potential friend. She accepts the offer but worries so much about negatively standing out that she has a bad time. Or, she rejects the offer to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Either way, she feels lonely and still desires friends. When another potential friend comes along, the cycle repeats.
Here are tips to overcome feeling like an outsider.
Do Things That Scare You: Spend time with others. Let them see the real you. With enough exposure (repetition), socializing will be less intimidating.
Don’t Assume a Spotlight: People inaccurately assume they are frequently in the spotlight, thinking others notice and judge every word and behavior. Mentally recast yourself as a background player. The little mistakes you can’t let go of? They mostly go unnoticed.
Fact-Check Your Thoughts: Thoughts reflect feelings and perceptions, which aren’t always backed by data. Instead of thinking, “I’m different than everyone,” check the facts and investigate your similarities.
Redefine Different: We are all unique. Instead of wishing to be just like everyone else, celebrate your differences. Try to notice and appreciate diverse attributes in others, too.