“When we talk about communities, we seldom discuss the margins. But for every person nestled comfortably in the bosom of a community, there is someone else on the outskirts, feeling ambivalent. Ambiguous. Excluded. Unwilling or unable to come more fully into the fold.” – Adam Mansbach
When I was growing up, it was the days when Physical Education was a team sport of some kind. I was not known as athletic. I was more of the bookish type. So each time teams were chosen, my stomach would be full of pure dread. Almost always I was picked last or second to last. The moments waiting were interminable. I hoped for that second to the last spot. I had no illusions I could hope for better. No one ever knew the pain it caused, except perhaps those who suffered with me. But we never spoke of it.
I can’t really blame my classmates. I was a liability and not an asset. They wanted to win. So did I. Logically I knew even then that I wouldn’t have chosen me either. But that little girl cried inside. She wanted to be chosen.
The grown-up me understands I was simply never properly taught sports. No one ever taught me the skills it took to succeed and kept teaching me until I “got it”, or at least improved. PE wasn’t really designed that way back then. Teaching PE wasn’t quite the same as teaching academic subjects. There wasn’t the pressure to see your students improve. Or at least that is how I remember it. I believe they thought “It’s just a game.” But it was much more for some of us.
Those PE experiences have impacted my whole life. I’m still that little girl, afraid to be chosen last.
How does it manifest itself now? I am super-sensitive about being left out of things. I want to be included. I hate to not be invited to the special moments of friends and family. I want to share the joys and sorrows. Like that little girl, I can hide it. In fact, I can hide it much better than she could. Unlike that little girl, I understand it on a deeper level. But still, it’s one of my great vulnerabilities.
I’ve received “saved the date” cards for weddings to which I was never invited. I’ve had good friends that never sent a wedding invitation to me, though verbally saying I was invited. I was invited to a party and a few days later a note went out that mistakes had been made and people were invited that weren’t intended. I never received the second invite. Obviously, I was one of those people. Not major deals to most people. Many would laugh it away. And yes, the logical side of me was fine, and could even see the humor in it. The emotional side of me - well, I still remember it happened, don’t I?
I am generally inclusive. In fact, the fear of leaving people out is one reason I hate to plan things. But I tend to stick to small circles. That's my introverted nature. And I don't want to make lots and lots of phone calls. OK, I don't want to make any phone calls. Each one would be a possible rejection. I often just put a post on Facebook. "If you want to do this with me, let me know."
Social media makes this fear of missing out (FOMO) worse, though. Pictures of all of the events that you're not invited to scroll through your feed. Usually, I'm OK with it and enjoy seeing what people have fun. I understand a lot of the dynamics of the invite now. You're around when the event is spontaneously planned. You have a skill that is needed. Only so many people can attend or it becomes a circus. It's for couples only. You're not part of that particular circle. There are assumptions based on your past acceptance or decline of invitations. You live too far away. There are many reasons.
- Logically I know I am not going to get invited to everything.
- Logically I know that we're all busy and most don't keep a laundry list of folks to contact at hand.
- Logically I understand that sometimes you just want to be with specific people for certain reasons.
- Logically I know it is just how things panned out.
- Logically I know it often isn't personal and if it is, it can be for many different reasons, some having nothing to do with me.
- And logically I believe strongly no one should feel under any obligation to invite me to anything or feel guilty if they don't.
But yet there is that little girl inside. She just feels. And sometimes she reacts emotionally, knowing it is irrational, until the grown-up woman talks herself through it all and understands it's all OK.
I try to avoid cliques in my adult life. I enjoy spending time with different groups and different types of people and I do. I have friend circles that are formed at times and for reasons, and when we get together I don't include others so I can focus on those particular people. I am sure that there are sometimes people around that see it, don't understand the whys behind it, and feel left out. I don't want to walk everywhere handcuffed to others and yet I know people who expect that. I don't. Nor do I want it.
As adults, I don't think we should let ourselves sulk because "my feelings were hurt." Even if they were. Adults need to deal with it. Often that means putting it in perspective. Often it means realizing that our feelings have less to do with the actual event, but are a culmination of all those times we were excluded in the past. We need to leave it all in the past and go on. It makes our lives happier not to dwell on such things.
But sometimes we also need to walk away from those who make us feel that way on a regular basis and find new circles. Or possibly we need to look at that circle, realize its limitations. appreciate its positives, and add more circles to fill out our lives.
It is a natural and healthy thing to want to be included and to be a part of everything that captures our interest. We don't need to feel guilt because we do. Most of us crave inclusion. It's human - and we're very, very human. It's a good thing to be a part of a group or community.
As for me, I hope I don't get so wrapped up in my own inner needs that I am not noticing others. That I don't notice that uncomfortable and unconfident child in them and let them sit on the sidelines or fade from view. I pray I always have eyes for those people. I admit there have been times where I noticed, but due to my own selfish needs, I ignored them. I'm trying to be more aware of that in me.
I read an article that said a lot of what we think of as depression is simply loneliness. That would seem to be easier to solve, right? But so many have never developed social skills. Others think they always need to be the invited and never the ones doing the inviting.But we can't always expect others to be our social directors. Sometimes we have to do the work, not just for ourselves but for others.
Grown-up me realizes that there are a lot of people in this world. I want to hang out with many of them, and I believe many woukd enjoy hanging out with me. I don't have to waste my time concerned with those who don't. Sometimes I need to be the one making that happen. I need to be an adult. I need to teach that little girl of my past how to be a grown-up, participate in life, and move on when things may not go my way. Inviting others to do things may go against my nature, but adult me can do hard things that don't come naturally.
One of the things that COVID has brought to our world is more isolation. Many were already self-isolating because it is so easy these days. COVID has made it imperative for some to stay home at all times and away from people in public.
The Health Resources & Services Administration says that loneliness is the health risk equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In older adults, it increases the risk of coronary artery disease by 29% and a 32% increase in strokes.
Many people feel that pang of not being chosen, even if sometimes it is due to their own behavior. We can improve our social circumstances. We don't have to wait until someone picks us..We can pick ourselves and make our own team.