DISCLAIMER: This is no expert advice on how to cope while feeling left out. This write-up and the person who wrote this is in no universe in favor of hurting oneself. It is a humble request to take this article as a lesson and absorb all of its good parts, except the one bad. Focus on all the better and positive ways to deal when you are left out. Happy reading.
To: The ones who are feeling left out
From: Someone who has felt left out
One fine day, you just scroll your Instagram and you see a frame you were supposed to be in, but you are not. Or maybe you get to work, and everyone is talking about that cool trip or that birthday party they came back from the day before—and no one even asked if you wanted to go.
These episodes had a way of bringing me back to my high-school mentality. There was a time when most of my friendships felt uncertain. Everyone around me looked like they were having more fun than I was. And as much as it hurts to feel excluded by one’s childhood friends, I would argue it feels even worse in the workplace. You know, friendship is not what you are supposed to be there for anyway.
There you are, just trying to get your work done, have someone to talk to at work so you can go home content and come back to work happily the next day. But you are excluded and nobody bothered to even ask you about that.
This gives a pause, your stomach plummets and you may shed a few (or many) tears too.
Oh boy, feeling left out hurts!
Why does feeling left out feel so painful? Why does it affect us so much?
I already have a whole bunch of insecurities—the ones that come with no expiry date. Feeling left out was only adding to those feelings. When you think you are not enough and get rejected at the same time, there might be nothing that can make you feel otherwise.
People who love you will tell you that you are enough, even that you are more than what they ever wished for. But at that particular moment, nothing is soothing. Nothing really proves a thing—except for one thing—you have been rejected and you are feeling left out.
The feeling is powerful in some and some may give it very little thought. I, for one, have the desire to belong. So, I overthought the rejection. I was confused. Some days they’d like me, some days they would not. It was grey. I did not ever think of rejection or the neuroscience of rejection before. I felt guilty—I still do not know what that guilt was all about. And the next thing I did was searching for closure.
I overdosed on some pills and thought that maybe I will sleep through this guilt. Hurting myself made sense as I didn’t feel my existence mattered. What I did, however, is not the right thing to do. It can never be. It is the worst thing you can do to the people who actually love you. I just built myself another guilt of troubling people who actually cared for me. I realized it later and I am guilty. I am sorry to everyone whom I have hurt while I was hurting. And I’m thankful that they were there.
The first step towards making things better is to acknowledge your feelings and dealing with feeling left out.
Feeling left out is normal
Trust me, it is absolutely normal to feel left out and getting hurt because of it. It is normal to feel sad.
The sense of belongingness gives us a sense of security. It validates our being. I needed that validation too. Especially, when I could not think of a reason I did not belong. Also, when everyone around me had more fun than I was.
Ah! Not very soon in my life I had to deal with this feeling. But now that I have had, I want to help anyone who has ever felt left out and did not know what to do about it, like I did not a month ago. How I wish I did.
Well, I know now.
Do not judge yourself
Part of acknowledging your feelings is to stop judging yourself. Allow your emotions. Give yourself permission to feel whatever feelings arise. It is human to feel sad, jealous, lonely, anxious or even angry. It is part of being alive. Sit with whatever feeling you have. Do not judge your feelings and do not criticize yourself for having them. You can write about them. You can draw them. Just do not judge them.
What went wrong in my case was that I judged my worth according to the situation. We, humans, value our worth through our relationships or our belongings. However, nothing but your inside is what matters—not your possessions, not your relationships, just the relationship with yourself.
Reach out to someone or maybe the Internet
The first thing someone desires the most once they feel left out is to connect with someone. Bonding over the same feeling is soothing. You may go out for lunch with someone who you think will understand you and you both may talk about how it feels. It works. If there is no one available at the moment you can feed the desire of connecting and read some real stories on the topic on Quora or Reddit. There are thousands of people who have gone through the same.
I personally hate troubling people over my feelings. I do not reach out at the right time. It just does not feel right to share my feelings and seek sympathy. I feel like I am burdening someone with my nonsense. I am working on it though. If that is the case with you too, know that once you share your feelings with someone, you feel LIBERATED. It feels like it is not even your responsibility anymore. It might take just one friend to get back to normal and it is never too late.
Talk to the person who caused you the feeling
In my case, I had to speak into the void. Nobody seemed to understand or even notice what I was going through. Nobody knows till date how I felt or how I feel about being left out.
I just could not ask because I did not want to force it. Because I may already have shown the interest to be included. I did not want to hold any grudges but I started casually telling how I do not ‘like them’ in off-topic conversations. I hoped they might understand. But it had gotten worse. However, if that is not the case with you, you can walk up to them and ask them politely about why they had to leave you.
Be honest with yourself
I might have not shown my interest to the right people. Instead of speaking to the void, maybe I should have been vocal about it to someone who could actually understand why I am feeling left out. I always showed that I did not care, which most probably was true until I was prey to this whole groupism thing where I realized everyone around me was happier than I was.
I misunderstood some people. I certainly am guilty of evaluating a situation on the basis of assumptions. But actions, at that time, were louder than words. So I did what I did. Some people, however, taught me that no matter how good I was to them, they’ll always end up being opportunistic. We all are bad in someone’s story and so is that person in mine and I’ll let that go. Be honest about your feelings too. Do you really want that person back in your life?
I shifted my mindset from ‘feeling left out’ to let’s ‘leave some feelings behind’
Once I hurt myself, I was not the same person again. I asked myself, “What else do I have to lose?” I’ve learned to open up myself to opportunities now. Maybe I will be hurt and end up meeting the wrong people, but I won’t know until I do it.
“Recovery” was not about returning to how I was before the “illness”. There was no going back. I became something completely different than I was before. And the change showed in my friendships too.
I spent most of my life thinking:
I don’t need anyone. Or them doing anything for me. If I want flowers, I’ll plant them. If I am hungry, I’ll cook. If I have problems, I’ll solve them.
Then people would say to me:
“I found a flower you might like. But you have your own garden, so I figured you wouldn’t want it.”
So, now I have changed my attitude to:
I don’t need anyone to save me. But if someone wants to save me, I’d value that help. I have my own garden but there are still beautiful flowers outside of it and I’d love to see them. I can cook, but not always, so if someone wants to cook for me, I’m grateful. I am strong, but I’ll still be strong if I accept love and support.
Do not be hard on yourself because you shifted your mindset
My Mom told me:
“As weird or as strange as it may seem, you might have hated someone, criticized them behind their backs and then one day you might have started liking them, found comfort and happiness in the same person. And vice versa. It happens.
At times, we develop thoughts that are far from reality. Some people keep on forcing thoughts in our minds, telling us they care about us when clearly it’s only in their heads. There are people who never announce us of those things, and still have warm feelings for us.
With time, as we let the guard off, change our perspective, and know that there’s nothing to lose, miracles happen and we see the truth.”
So did I. So will everyone.
To getting over feeling left out,