In my last blog post, I wrote about trying to be more vulnerable. I want share my thoughts and feelings about a variety of topics on this blog, in the hopes that some of you can relate. So with that in mind, today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind a lot lately, which is the idea of feeling left out.
In the spirit of vulnerability, I’m going to start by sharing one of my most vivid childhood memories that deals with feeling excluded. In fourth grade, I had become very close with a girl in my class. We would wear matching outfits to school so we could be “twins”, and were attached at the hip for most of that year. Then suddenly, my friend started spending time with another girl. I noticed the two of them walking to classes together and playing on the playground without me, and I started feeling jealous and hurt. I was worried I was losing my best friend.
I remember one day in particular, we were walking to PE class. I saw my friend and her new bestie walking in front of me. I tried to catch up with them, but they turned around, looked at me, and walked faster to avoid me. Not only did this make me feel even more sad, but it also made me angry. In fact, I still remember exactly how angry it made me feel, and I would argue to this day that is the angriest I have ever felt in my entire life. I was so angry that when we were running laps in PE class a few minutes later, I ran behind Friend Stealer and pushed her down! Or rather, I attempted to push her down. My skinny, weak self only managed to make her stumble.
Moving on to current times, I think social media has only made it easier to feel left out. I recently checked Instagram, only to see some of my friends hanging out without me. Granted, I already had plans that night, but I still got that familiar pit in my stomach when I saw their Stories. Social media makes it so easy to see what other people are doing at all times, so it’s easy to feel left out or get FOMO. When situations like this come up, I notice that my first internal reaction is similar to how I felt in fourth grade. I start to think negative thoughts like, “am I losing my friends? They probably don’t want to hang out with me anymore.”
Now, I want to be clear that deep down, I don’t truly believe those kind of negative thoughts. When I try to take my emotions out of it and just look at the situations logically, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation that does not involve people purposefully excluding me. But that’s the thing about emotions, isn’t it? You really have no control over how something makes you feel. The only thing you have control over is how you choose to react. Luckily, as an adult, I have gained the ability to stop myself from outbursts like pushing someone down when they exclude me. I no longer feel the overwhelming anger building up inside me, but I do still feel the sadness.
When I experience situations where I feel left out, I choose to focus on the positive side of things. I remind myself of all the friends who are making an effort to spend time with me. Instead of letting the negative self-talk consume me, I attempt to change the narrative in my head. I think about all of the fun times I’ve had with friends recently, and remind myself that those fun times aren’t going to end just because a few people hung out without me. Sometimes by just thinking a little more logically about the situation, I’m able to make myself feel a little better.
It’s fascinating to me how, although we undoubtedly mature as we age, we still face many of the same emotional struggles as we did when we were kids. We just learn how to handle them better. Instead of pushing someone down, I’m choosing to get my feelings out in a blog post, and focusing on the positives in life. Yay for being more mature than my fourth grade self!
Do you have any childhood memories of feeling left out? Do you still have moments of feeling that way now? Let me know your experiences in the comments!