Feel weird? Out of place? Different? Well, you’re not alone. So many of us feel like we don’t belong, or like we’re outsiders looking in on a world where others seamlessly fit in. Does this sound familiar? Perhaps you’re at an event or a party and you look around and think, “I don’t belong here.” Or you’re meeting a group of people for the first time and trying to connect, but in your head there’s a voice that tells you that you are just too different.
This isn’t something we often talk about. Instead, we try desperately to ignore this part of our experience, and try to avoid situations that might stir up this feeling.
Growing up and throughout my adult life, I often felt different. Weird, even. Sometimes it was because of my interests (I was an avid reader: when I was a kid, I had a book with me at all times). Other times, it just felt like I didn’t get the memo on what was cool or how to fit in. One year when I was in the fifth grade, the girls in my class told me that they were all going to wear black for Halloween. I got to school in baggy black sweatpants and my brother’s XL black sweatshirt worn inside out, with bright blue eyeshadow on and my hair in pigtails. I was mortified when I saw all the other girls in feminine, form-fitting black clothing, with expertly applied make-up that made them look like they were in their twenties, and not the tweens that we were.
After a few more failed attempts to fit in, I tried to embrace my weirdness instead of fighting it. I continued to wear boys’ clothes, and used peroxide to turn my hair a bright orange color. However, there were still moments when I didn’t want to be different. One of the girls in my class once turned to me in the hallway in front of a large group of other kids, and mockingly asked why I always wore clothes that didn’t fit. I felt my face turn red, and couldn’t assemble an answer. I was so embarrassed that I bought some form-fitting jeans to wear for when I felt like fitting in. However, as the weeks progressed, I ended up rarely wearing them. Something in my 12-year-old self knew I was enough, and that I didn’t have to try to be something I wasn’t.
As an adult, there are still times when I feel weird, out of place, and different. I still have moments when I walk into a room of people and immediately want to leave, because I feel convinced I don’t belong.
In my years of practice as a therapist, I have worked with countless clients who have had, and continue to have, similar experiences. They feel different and alone, and they’re usually torn between pretending these feelings don’t exist, or desperately trying to fit in by becoming less authentic versions of themselves. When working with these clients, I am reminded of my own experiences, and the times I decided to embrace my weirdness versus the times I have tried to blend in. I have found for myself and for my clients, when we begin to embrace and integrate what makes us different, life seems different too. We like ourselves more, and we can enjoy authentic relationships instead of superficial ones. Our sense of self changes, and we are able to really connect with who we are, instead of who we think others want us to be.
What if you were okay with all the things that make you weird? Can you imagine what would be different in your life? If you’re ready to explore and maybe even embrace your weirdness, give us a call. We would be glad to help!