“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.” ― Wayne W. Dyer
I got an unexpected and sweet message from an old friend from high school the other day. They were writing to apologize for things that went down in high school.
I told her that I was happy to hear from her and we should get together but that I didn’t really think about those days anymore. I had never really held anything against her anyhow—it was just so long ago.
That was true, but then I started realizing that that thing has never really gone away. Whether it’s about me or them, I still grapple with that feeling frequently, that feeling that predated high school.
It’s been with me ever since I can remember, and it keeps happening. Recently it’s been coming up for me at work, before that it was to do with a group of friends in Vancouver…even just the other night (in a small way), and even with family.
There’s this feeling of being left behind, squeezed out…not so much rejection as just plain not noticed or invited, not a part of things: the last chosen in gym class, the quiet one playing alone in the corner of the playground.
I’ve never really stood out. I’m average: average grades, average looks, average intelligence. Awkward at first, sometimes. Nice, but nice doesn’t get you far. Always in the audience and never on stage. Watching, listening, cautious about speaking. Unless I’m particularly comfortable and/or well-prepared, I freeze up when they call on me.
It’s aways been that way.
Lately I’ve been better about acknowledging this and letting people know that I’m this way: I need to know I’m invited, even if I don’t show up. I’ve been pushing myself to show up more too.
I work hard. I work well. But I’m not a type-A-extravert-high-achieving-leader and never will be. I’ve struggled with not being that my entire life and now I accept it. But when people try to push me in that direction I just retract the other way. It’s an almost visceral reaction to the sense that someone doesn’t accept me the way I am. That they want me to be someone else.
This post isn’t about blame and it isn’t a pity party—it’s more of an exploration: I’m 36 years old, there is nothing wrong with me. I recognize my own role in the way this feeling comes up now.
But it still strikes me now and then, that it hits me so hard. Why is it that when I feel I don’t belong my automatic reaction is to run and hide, to just shrink back further?
It’s difficult for me to express myself at times, which makes me seem less exciting than the other people in the room. I have always valued interesting over beautiful, but I’ve never been good at making something interesting and and showing it off. Jumping into the middle of the room and telling a story, a joke, doing a dance.
I don’t always love living life in the shadow, but sometimes that’s just where I have to be.
I also may seem insecure—which of course at times has been and is true (as it is for everyone)—but the thing is that at the end of the day I am not. At the end of the day I always have to drop those feelings and know I’m okay.
Still, I’m tired of going there. I am tired of feeling small. I’m tired of feeling like other people want me to be different. I don’t want to have to explain myself or apologize for somehow not being more.
If I feel like I’m not ‘acting’ in a certain way, I feel de-motivated to participate. I love working/being with good people, but I don’t like the rah rah rah.
I don’t want to be pushed. When it’s already difficult to stay healthy, balanced, happy…this can tip me. Then I hide.
For the most part, I have to be alone to create/work.
As this actually what is happening, or am I maybe a little bit jealous? For sure. I remember feeling envious of those people who naturally stand out ever since I can remember—this is part of what was going on in high school, too. But now it’s not so much about that.
Fundamentally I’ve gotten past a lot of actual envy. What pisses me off the most is when I know Im’ okay like this, but I get the feeling that other people wish you were like her, or at the very least different than you actually are.
These are my own feelings, not theirs. Maybe they think I’m less than them, maybe not. But it’s not about them at all. Never was. It is about the people who genuinely do accept me, reach out, care. Who receive me and accept me and hold me. Who let me be when and what I need to be.
Sometimes though I’m just quiet. I want to sit back and stay behind the scenes and work or read or observe.
That’s who I am and I don’t want to feel that I’m somehow lesser for being me.
To some extent we all evolve and I’m definitely pushing myself to take risks and be more extraverted. But at the end of the day I will probably still be that shy girl playing alone in the corner of the playground. I will come to you when I’m ready.
I want to hold your hand, for real, to be up front and bold and creative and really show myself. I want to so badly sometimes that it hurts…but it might just take some time.
And I need to know that that’s okay.