I struggled socially in high school.
In earlier years, I’d always had a close group of friends and pleasant associations with other peers. Friendships faded and new bonds formed, and somehow by my junior year, I no longer had a close group.
I had a few close friends, but they had moved on to different groups. I enjoyed spending time with them one on one, but when I hung out with them and their friends, I felt like an outsider. People were kind to me, but I felt intensely lonely in those situations.
Now I understand that everyone is trying to find where they belong, in high school and beyond. The loneliness I felt so intensely that it hurt, sometimes, was probably felt by many of my peers, despite my perception that everyone else had thriving social lives.
I so desperately wanted to be included, but I believed the lie so many of us do: I have to wait for someone to include me.
In reality, we can flip it around and seek to include others instead of waiting to be included. What stops us is the fear that we’ll be rejected, that no one will want to be included in what we’re doing.
So we seek approval and inclusion from others instead of giving that precious gift to someone else.
I’m not in high school anymore, but I still default into that mode sometimes. I feel on the outskirts, waiting for an invitation, insecure and uncertain.
I put myself out there much more, inviting others and initiating friendships, but I feel vulnerable when I do. I play crazy head games with myself about whether a newish friend is just accepting my invitation as a courtesy, not out of genuine interest.
Lurking unconsciously in the depth of my heart is the memory of when these deepest fears became reality in a truly Mean Girls-esque experience in college. I’ll tell you the story sometime, but sadly, eight years later, I’m not ready yet.
I snap myself out of these moments of insecure anxiety: Everyone wants to be included. You are an initiator. You are an inviter. Make space for someone else to belong.
We risk rejection every time we initiate. It’s a universally understood risk, and safety can seem like the worthiest goal if you’ve been hurt before.
But here’s the truth:
The risk of emotional distance is > the risk of rejection.
It’s safer, but it’s lonely, and lonely hurts.
A disconnected life might not give people a chance to hurt you, but it doesn’t give them a chance to love you, either.
Question: Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong?