A topic has been rumbling around way down deep for months now. I keep pushing off writing about it. It’s the raw stuff. The vulnerable details. The things that might make some people reading a tad uncomfortable.
This one is super long but worth unearthing.
In many small ways throughout my life, I have felt I didn’t belong.
Don’t get me wrong, I have an amazing family, both immediate and extended. Nothing was glaringly wrong. No one pushed me in a corner.
But along the way, there have been many times I felt just outside of some imaginary circle.
Let me give you some examples.
I was born in Maryland and my immediate family moved to the Carolinas when I was just three. For the rest of my life, I’ve always lived 8 hours away from my extended family. We would make the trek north at least twice a year for the rest of my life, even until now. My family is awesome. Truly awesome. I love every single person and there were only hugs and happiness when we returned. No one made me feel left out. But I did sometimes.
We were the family that lived in the south and the rest of them lived within miles of one another in the north.
When I was 7, my family moved from one town to another. While I did not want to move, I admit the transition was pretty smooth after we moved.
But still, I always had this nagging sense that all the kids had had a few years of bonding time that I didn’t.
In middle school and into high school, I had an awesome best friend and a great smaller circle of friends. I never, ever lacked friendship and for that I’m so thankful.
But I was in honors classes and many of “the cool kids” were in classes with me. Except I wasn’t in their group. Always with them but never part of them. Sure, they were nice to me. I never was made fun of or ostracized. They just weren’t my crew and I admit I always felt a little left out that they weren’t.
As a teenager, we traveled outside our town 30 minutes to a church in Charlotte. The youth group was large and we were heavily involved. I had good friends, even had a few boyfriends along the way. No one ever made me feel left out.
But still, there was only a handful of us that were from our out-of-state-suburb of Charlotte. I had little clue what students were talking about when they mentioned what schools they went to. I hardly knew road names or neighborhoods. While I look back with great fondness on my time there, I admit there were many times that I felt like an outsider coming to the group.
We attended Scott’s church when we were first married and I was the outsider coming in.
In college, I stayed off campus so I was always the one driving in and not really a part of the entire campus life.
Even at our church now, at times I’ve felt like the new kids coming in.
I don’t hold ANYONE responsible for the situations I was in or the feelings I had. They just were.
Not Just Me
I’m sure you’ve felt this before right? Just outside the circle?
Maybe you felt the same in high school.
Maybe now your friends all work and you stay at home.
Or, you’re just sure you’re missing out on all the cool birthday parties for your kids.
Or, everyone is having coffee in small groups that you’re not.
Or, you’re sure everyone else is in some Facebook blogging group you’re not.
We all have an innate need to belong.
I was listening to a TED talk recently by Brene Brown and she talks about how a lack of belonging is at the root of shame and unworthiness.
I’ll tell you what. I had a light bulb moment.
These ideas that I don’t belong? Stink of lies from Satan.
All of those places where I questioned my belonging the most, were the most important, impactful relationships and circles.
My high school.
Looking back now, I truly believe these were Satan’s attempt to distract me, depress me and lead me into a less-than life.
Thankfully, I was spared any deep depression but how many interactions and relationships did I miss? How many hours did I spend second-guessing myself?
As I look back now, I can see the bigger picture–the truth.
Now that we live in the same town as my husband’s extended family, I see that months, sometimes years, go by when we don’t see some of his family. Just because you’re within driving distance doesn’t magically give you a close relationship. I definitely belong and am close to my family even if they are hours away.
Even my kids that have been at the same school their whole lives go into every year only knowing 1, maybe 2 people in their class.
Everyone in high school feels left out at some point. Or more likely, at a lot of points. We were all just surviving the best we could.
No one in college has a standard experience I missed out on. Some lived on campus, some lived in apartments, others lived with parents, some lived with sororities. It was all different and living at home was just my experience.
Everyone came from all over the Charlotte area to youth group.
Not every single person, at any church I attended, were all “originals.” We all had our stories of how we got to the church. Even if they were, that didn’t mean they belonged more.
When I look now, I see myself not as an outsider, but a unique individual coming to the group–someone who brought a different experience and personality.
Oh, how I wish I had understood this to the full so many years ago.
I think it’s a total lie of Satan to tell us that we shouldn’t be there, that we aren’t deserving, that we don’t belong.
I’m no counselor or expert but I know so many people are dealing with depression and anxiety. Suicides continue. How many times is that related to feelings of isolation and lack of belonging—even if it isn’t true? I’d wager quite a few.
The truth is God puts us in certain places and then gives us certain people for certain seasons of life and he needs us in those places for the very reason that we’re different.
The truth is we aren’t the outsider destined to sit outside some circle. We just might have what it takes to be the missing piece to finish the puzzle.
The truth is there likely isn’t some secret inner circle and even if there is, we’re deserving of it–ALL of us are. We just might not be meant for that circle.
Sometimes we all just need to adjust the lens a bit on our situations and see the truth for the truth.
Give it a try—think back to some times you felt like you didn’t belong and try a new lens on.
Who was right in front of you trying to include you that you missed out on because you kept looking at that group over there?
What did you bring to the table that made you included because you’re unique, not an outsider because you’re different?
What was just a flat-out lie that you didn’t belong but you really did?
I want us all to learn to appreciate what’s right in front of us—to know we belong and are loved right where we are. All these feelings are just plain lies meant to steal the joy of now.
I can promise you this: you belong here. I pray for you. I write for you. I think about you all the time. You’re my here. You’re my now. And I’m so glad.
Have you ever felt outside the circle? How do you deal with these feelings?