These days, I might act like I’ve got this socializing thing all figured out, but there was a time when I was the lowest of the low on the social ladder. I mean, I was a loser with a capital L.
At thirteen, I was so unpopular that my whole class conspired to play a practical joke on me for an entire week-long field trip. That’s how bad it was. It had been that bad since I first went to school and it kept on being that bad until I got to high school and finally discovered some kindred spirits.
But I’m not bitter.
No, really! I’m not. Being an outcast early in life taught me some things that have served me well ever since and honestly, I wouldn’t trade those lessons for the world. They are so valuable, in fact, that I’m going to share them with you in hopes that they might help you navigate your own social path.
Lesson #1: So many fish in the sea
If the people you’re with aren’t too keen on you, it might not mean there’s anything wrong with you. Maybe they just aren’t your people. Not everyone is going to click with you and that’s ok.
Turns out the kids I was at school with weren’t a fit for me. At 13, they seemed to be the whole world but surprise, surprise – they weren’t. As soon as I got into the only slightly bigger pond of high school, I found out there were all kinds of different types of folks out there. Some even shared my interests, and liked my quirks. Imagine that.
So if the people in your current bubble aren’t responding well to you, the problem might be the bubble. Same goes for any individual or event where you aren’t getting the traction you want. Always consider the possibility that you’re just in the wrong place or encountering the wrong people for you, and be ready to move on.
Lesson #2: It’s not your fault. It might not be anybody’s fault.
Part of the reason I was such a total reject as a kid was that I had an undiagnosed sleeping disorder that caused me to be perpetually exhausted. With that came moodiness and a certain amount of neglect in terms of personal grooming (never combed my hair and always wore rubber boots). That’s weird. Kids are intuitive. They can sense when someone isn’t stable, and they will avoid that person.
I can’t blame those kids for not wanting to connect with me. It was a natural reaction. It wasn’t their fault. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t anybody’s fault.
Sometimes a failure to make connections is like that. It’s the wrong time or the wrong place, or there’s something weird going on that’s out of anyone’s control.
Like if you meet someone you really want to get to know, but they’re going through a rough patch in their life so they don’t take you up on your friendly overtures. It’s no reflection on what an awesome connection you would be for them. It’s not your fault. It’s not their fault. Don’t feel bad about it. Just move on.
Lesson #3: Be your own friend first
One of things that got me through the experience of so much rejection early in life was a connection to myself, an appreciation of myself. Somehow I knew that I was worth knowing, even if almost none of my peers agreed at the time. My self-talk was always very encouraging. I always had love for me. I don’t know where I got it, but as long as I had myself, I could get by without anyone else. It wasn’t ideal but it was a heck of a lot better than self-loathing, which is a soul killer.
I’m not saying I didn’t have insecurities. But there was a base layer of care for myself, somehow. I think that level of self care helped me be ready when I finally did start finding my people. A certain level of confidence, of well-adjustedness, is important in connection. People shy away from those who feel unbalanced, just like the kids from my childhood shied away from me. That’s why loving and caring for ourselves is an important part of being ready for healthy connections to others.
Now do you believe me that I don’t regret being an outcast as a kid? Not only did it teach me these valuable lessons, it also helped me value and appreciate the wonderful people I have in my life today.
I hope you didn’t experience much rejection in your early life. But I also hope that the lessons rejection taught me can help you get out there, find your dang people, and get the support you need to succeed! Take care, friends.