I often will spend my lunch break at work, sitting at my desk reading my Kindle. Since free time at home isn’t always as free as I would like, finding a respite at work is the next best thing. Recently I was re-reading some saved passages from, Beyond Surviving, by Rachel Grant. I’ve also done some podcasts with Rachel, which you can check out here.
In this book, one of chapters talks about Loneliness, and why survivors often times feel like we are alienated, alone on an island, and just plain don’t fit in with everyone else. This got me thinking about my own life, and about other survivors that I’ve talked with who struggle in this area. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself, I Just Don’t Fit In.
Feeling like you don’t fit in isn’t only about being a survivor of course, but these feelings can be compounded when you factor in how damaging any type of abuse is to not only your self-esteem, but also the ability to interact with others, ask for help, and our daily emotional state as a whole.
So why don’t we fit in? Is it that we simply do not or is it more of a mindset that we just don’t think we do? Is it really a case of others not wanting to be around us, or is it us thinking that they don’t want us around?
It’s imperative to take the time to analyze and break down those questions, not simply taking them at face value, because the answers you come up with can be easily misconstrued and skew your judgment about your self-perceived acceptance by others.
As survivors, we often times live in a world of extreme thinking. We are either way over here or way over there; unable to find peace in the “middle or gray area” of everyday life and decision making. This mindset can cause us to over-analyze so much that it becomes very easy to convince ourselves that nobody wants us around.
As extreme thinkers, we tend to feel like if one person or one group of people don’t like us (whether it’s true or not), then that must be the case for everyone. We unknowingly judge others based on the actions of a few. We don’t mean to do it, but our conditioned selves*, as abuse survivors, can perpetuate that mindset.
So, if you feel like nobody likes you, or couldn’t possibly like being around you, the situation of feeling like we don’t fit in can then turn into a blame game.
We blame others. It’s unrealistic to think that we can get along with every single person we come in contact with. Nobody gets along with everybody, all the time. There are just too many personalities in this world and too many factors in daily life that would allow such a thing to occur. Even the most likable, lovable, easy going, open minded person on the planet is going to have a bad day from time to time and if you unfortunately catch them on that bad day, it can end up reinforcing those negative thoughts we’ve been harboring about not fitting in. We think “they intentionally wanted to invalidate us”, but in reality it’s quite possible that they didn’t meant to and didn’t even realize something they said was hurtful.
We blame ourselves. A good example of this situation might be when you attempt to join in on a conversation with a group of friends or co-workers. For whatever reason though, you just can’t get a word in or your comments are met with less than the enthusiastic replies that others did. Suddenly we are thinking that we just don’t fit in, and our opinion doesn’t matter. Then we start blaming and invalidating ourselves, and again reinforcing those negative thoughts of being an outcast.
They all get along and laugh together, their lives seem so normal. Why can’t I feel like that, why can’t I just let things go and be like they are. Why am I so broken and unlikable? Why doesn’t my opinion matter?
All too often, rather than keeping an open mind and not prejudging, we decide it’s better to just not try. Just stay away from others and be secluded in our home, that way we don’t get hurt, right? After all, if we take a risk we could be invalidated yet again. People might not like us and that would just add to the continued erosion of what little self-confidence we have left.
How about this for an alternative: What if taking that risk, opening up ourselves to the possibility that we might just get along with someone and they might like us back, actually comes true? What if we continue to try, in small steps, and it starts working out in our favor with new friendships and other new relationships? What if you try and go out for a night with the guys, or have a girls night, and you actually enjoy yourself and others enjoy your company?
Or what if we try, and maybe it’s not a picture perfect experience? Well, that doesn’t mean the attempt was a total failure; nor are you a total failure. Simply use it as a learning experience, and try again another time.
Sure it’s a calculated risk, but if we can start to embrace stepping out of our comfort zone just a little bit at a time, it can have a positive chain reaction that leads to increased self esteem and self-confidence. There will still be times when it seemingly blows up in your face, and you will have to fight that urge of sliding backwards and thinking that you’ve just undone much of the progress you’ve made so far.
The reality is, you haven’t undone that progress. Don’t give in to your conditioned thoughts that tell you to simply give up and stop trying. You are a survivor, and as a survivor our healing journey is about trial and error, and about never giving up. Remember friends, Embrace that YOU ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR and that YOU CAN DO IT.
*Our conditioned self, refers to a learned response based on past stimulus. Ex. How we react, respond, and treat ourselves based on past trauma and abuse or other significant influences and impacts on our lives.
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