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Just about everybody feels alienated at some point in their lives.
For some, it’s during high school when all the popular kids are doing one thing, but their interests lie elsewhere.
For others, it may be in adulthood. Their political leanings, religious beliefs, or life priorities might differ completely from the majority of others around them.
In some cases, the person might feel like they’re on another planet completely.
They don’t understand how everyone around them can act or feel the way they do. Their behaviors might not make sense, their hobbies are meaningless, their values feel “wrong,” and their goals don’t matter.
This can be really difficult to deal with, especially if you’re in a very close-knit community. People can be cruel at times, ostracizing and ignoring those who don’t think or behave the same way they do.
And, as you may be experiencing right now, that can be devastating.
There are many ways to deal with feelings of alienation, from determining where they arise from, to sorting out how to stay connected with others while living true to oneself.
Let’s dive in.
1. Determine whether you REALLY want to fit in.
Firstly, ask yourself where the feelings of alienation that you’re experiencing are coming from.
Do you really want to “fit in” with those around you? Or is there pressure to do so from others?
You might be feeling like there’s something “wrong” with you because you don’t think or feel the way others around you do. Your life goals may be completely different, or you may have beliefs and ideas that make others uncomfortable, simply because they’re different.
So, be really honest about whether you really want to fit in with those around you so they accept you into their midst. This will determine your further actions.
Do you want to masquerade and be something you’re not? Do you have enough courage and strength of will to be completely true to yourself?
Or, would you feel more comfortable walking the middle path – being “normal” enough to keep others comfortable, while still celebrating who you really are?
2. Find common ground.
If you want to feel like you fit in, then try to find common ground. No matter what circumstances you’re in, you’ll be able to figure out something in common with at least a few others around you.
Let’s say you’re really into fitness and healthy living, but the people around you love to watch sports instead of playing them. They don’t like to exercise, and might even make fun of you for doing so.
That’s a really strong indication of where these people are at, emotionally and mentally.
If your feelings of alienation arise from people being critical of you, it’s likely that they feel insecure around you. You may very well be a natural leader, which makes them feel small. So they want to shame you into being like them so they feel better about themselves.
Heavy drinkers and drug addicts are famous for behaviors such as this. They have to have everyone in the crowd doing what they’re doing so they can feel normal. After all, it’s a lot easier to beat someone down than to raise them up.
Once you recognize this behavior, it won’t affect you as much.
Instead, try to laugh it off, or redirect the energy somewhere else. What do you folks have in common? Do you like pizza? Are there movies or games that you all like?
Okay, so make plans to meet up after your workout and their TV sports marathon. Head to a quiz night at a bar. Meet them on ground that they’re comfortable with, and they’ll lower their defenses toward you.
3. Listen more than you speak.
Many people find themselves feeling left out and alienated because they’ve shared too much about themselves.
They might have been open about their political views without realizing that they were surrounded by those who voted for the other side. Or they might express spiritual ideas that unnerve or even frighten others.
Take time to open up to people, and learn to practice the art of small talk.
Ask others about themselves rather than talking about yourself too much. Learn to observe little details, and then ask friendly, non-prying questions.
For example, if you run into someone you know at a cafe on a weekend and they’re dressed nicely, comment on that. They’ll might respond with something like “Oh yeah, just coming back from church…” which gives you an opening to inquire which one they go to, etc.
Practice active listening and mirror back what others say. From there, you can determine how much you’re willing to share about yourself. If you have things in common, like kids or favorite books, etc., build upon that.
4. Take up a common hobby or interest.
Chances are that at least a few people around you have a hobby or interest that you might like as well. You might brush this idea off immediately, but consider that there’s always a middle ground, as mentioned.
Take up an interest in one of the things that is popular in that crowd, providing that it seems a sensible idea to you at the time.
For example, let’s say that you’re really into Medieval history, but the folks around you like to spend their weekends hunting. What might be a middle ground there? How about archery? If there are a few people in your group whom you sincerely want to get to know better, see if any of them would be interested in trying it out with you. There are undoubtedly archery ranges nearby that you can visit.
Alternatively, are you really into plants and nature, but those around you like shopping and makeup? How about mentioning a DIY perfume or body care product class? Tap into the source of their interests (e.g. anti-aging or celebrity-endorsed natural products) and use that as a springboard for socializing.
If you can find a way to integrate yourself with others, without losing your soul, then go for it.
5. Find your tribe.
On the other hand, you may determine that you really can’t bear to do anything that those around you are into. Their views and interests might go beyond “uninteresting” to you, into the realm of appalling, offensive, or downright hurtful.
In cases like this, when you’d have to be completely untrue to yourself just to be accepted, it’s better to forge your own path.
Keep to yourself for the time being, and seek out others who think and feel the same way you do. And there will be plenty of them.
Law of averages dictates that there are many people out there who share your interests, spiritual beliefs, lifestyle choices, and political views. There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet. You’ll undoubtedly find others like you somewhere nearby.
Do some web searches, find some local groups, and be brave! It’s wonderful to meet new people, and you’ll feel amazing when you connect with others of like mind.
Even if the groups and communities you feel you belong to aren’t all that local, you can try finding online groups and forums where you can express yourself. These can then turn into real life meetups later on.
6. Lessen your desire to fit in and belong.
Most people suffer more than they need to because they want things to be different than what they are.
If you’ve been dealing with feelings of alienation, you might be asking yourself why you can’t just be like everyone else. Why do you have to be different? Or why can’t you be happy pretending to be like them?
Nobody can ever be truly happy when their entire being rails against their environment.
Practice a degree of dispassion toward being left out. This means not caring as much if you’re left out from groups or activities you don’t really want to be in at all.
If you absolutely don’t want children, do you want to spend Saturday afternoons surrounded by them? Or if you’re an atheist, will you be happy attending fiery religious lectures? Probably not.
Instead of subjecting yourself to people and situations that will make you feel left out and miserable, celebrate yourself instead. In fact, there are often more advantages than disadvantages to situations like this.
You’ll have more silence and time to think to plan the next steps of your life. More opportunities to put time toward your cherished pastimes and hobbies. There will be fewer demands on your attention, and more time for you to spend seeking out those you actually fit in with!
Life is vast and varied, and a lot of people want to render life experience and perspective into limited niches and bubbles. That’s absolutely fine.
What’s not okay, however, is judging others for choosing to see or experience the world differently.
If you happen to have a pastime, perception, or lifestyle choice that’s not hurting anyone, and yet you’re shunned for it, don’t worry. Stay strong in your own beliefs, knowing that you’re following a path that might be a bit more challenging, but is purer and more honest than if you were just following the herd.
Additionally, know that things will get easier as you get older. A lot of self-confidence in being “different” comes with maturity. Over time, you’ll get much more comfortable with not placing too much importance on whether you fit in or not.
You’ll be able to navigate social minefields without feeling like you need to sacrifice essential parts of yourself in order to be accepted.
In time, you’ll be able to look around you and not be bothered at all. If those you don’t really like or connect with don’t want to include you, that’s their loss.
They’re choosing to stay blinkered and stagnant, while you’re celebrating countless other amazing facets this existence has to offer.
Lastly, remember that when it comes to being included and spending time with others, quality over quantity is the way to go. One good friend or partner is immeasurably more beneficial than a hundred mediocre acquaintances.
If you feel outside the crowd, then rejoice: it’s because you’re exceptional.
After all, it doesn’t take much effort to wallow in the frog pond. It takes a big heart and massive strength of character to see a bigger picture.
Still not sure what to do about your feelings of alienation? Speak to a counselor today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one.
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