I was reading Naomi Simson's memoir this past week called, 'Live What You Love'. She shares early in the book how she always felt excluded as a kid while other children seemed to get along and have fun. She says, maybe, it was that bunch of kids. Either way, she quickly figured out that she was able to do things better and her way when she was on her own. She had more time and focus to take chances and figure out her life and talents. In fact, she preferred it that way.
I really related to this. I felt like the odd one out most of my growing up years. I was gauche and awkward around people as a result, never knowing what exactly to say or do that would make me feel 'normal' like my peer group. I was never the life of the party or even a small bunch of friends, for that matter. I felt either too smart or too foolish, depending on who was around. At some point, I was convinced that something was very wrong with me for other kids to not involve me in their games or their gossip.
Over the years and with deepened self-awareness, I realised how I wasn't insignificant, invisible or had an attitude problem, I was just different in my thinking and actions, and resonant people hand't walked into my life yet.
I've been a voracious reader since I was little, so I was always ahead of my age with my mind running a million miles. I was going through library shelves at top speed. In hindsight, it was no surprise that I never fit in entirely with my peer group. I was reading books other kids my age didn't know existed; I was interested in so much under the sun that to find someone my age to discuss it all with was always a challenge. It's no coincidence that some of my best grown-up friendships today are with those much older than me, and we continue to relate to each other as if we grew up together. I can look back and make sense of my exclusion now, which lasted several years. So, I know a thing or two about being excluded.
Most of you might have been at the receiving end of exclusion, if not during your younger years then perhaps at work, in a new job, in a broken relationship, in your community, in a new country or during a career shift. There may have been times when nothing you did made you 'one of the others', and you felt left out, no matter what. Exclusion is a hurtful place to be. Being excluded erodes our sense of who we are and our self-worth. It's a place that if not managed with care and love for ourselves, can leave us shrunk and emotionally exhausted in a corner of our existence. Far from our dreams and aspirations, we helplessly watch our bright future disappear into the abyss of loneliness and self-doubts.
If you do find yourself in a corner that you don't much like and can do without, then this might be useful to you.
Here are 4 ways you can process or think through being excluded in a way that empowers you and nourishes your self-worth instead of feeling rejected and low.
#1 Have an anchor in your life
I would define an anchor as something that is internal to you, something that wouldn't be taken away even if the situation changed. My anchor was my reading, writing and dreaming. I am a born dreamer. I must have missed so much at school just because I was too busy dreaming up scenarios where I was the hero of my story. My teachers would always complain that I had potential to do so much better at studies, but I was too busy with my imagination. While growing up and feeling excluded wasn't nice, my reading and dreaming kept me sane. The moment I came back to my anchors, I felt silly about letting others bother me for not including me in their plans or their friendship. Think of something right now that centers you, that makes you feel whole and complete and like the powerful person you are. You are much more likely to gravitate towards people and places that will include you and you will be happy to reciprocate. What is your anchor?
#2 Define what personal power means to you
When we are excluded, we feel powerless. A lack of power translates into a sense of defeat and helplessness. These are negative and disempowering ways to process our sense of social inclusion. We must redefine power in a way that is self-generating and not given to us through a social rite of passage or acceptance. True personal power never comes from without, it comes from within. Your definition of power is crucial to how socially involved or excluded you feel. When you know that your self-worth is not contingent on what others do or don't, you have shifted your power source. One of the quickest ways to do this is to stop comparing yourself with others. Think of how many admirable and useful qualities you have that you are genuinely proud of. With rethinking your personal power, you bulletproof your self-worth. Where does your sense of personal power sit right now? Within you or is it based on the whims of others?
#3 Stop yourself from looking for acceptance and approval
When I started my MBA, our social psychology professor told us that a human being has a few basic psychological needs that none of us are immune to. That of acceptance, approval and liking. Now I am asking you to defy this even though we are hardwired to look for acceptance and approval. I trust our grown-up and wiser selves to be able to breakthrough the mental habit of looking for permission when none is needed. I've lived most of my life on the premise that apologising is easier than asking for permission. Yet, there are times we all trip and step outside of our own sense of approval, desperately seeking it in others. It isn't there. The more we ask, the more we are likely to be criticised and told what's wrong with us and our plans. Asking for advice on specific areas of our life and business is a very different action and intention, and can be a positive experience. Looking for approval is a more dicey path to walk on. How does your sense of confidence sit right now? Would you take that step forward you've been thinking about forever, and know is right for you, but haven't given yourself the permission to?
#4 Be in resonant places with resonant people
Resonant does not mean those who are cultural or racial mirrors of us. Resonance can be found in far off lands and situations that you never expected to find. One of the ways I find resonance is by gravitating to people and places that are respectful, progressive, positive and have a life-long desire for learning and new experiences. I thrive in such places and in such friendships. The more I focus on resonating with that which makes me who I am, the more such situations and people keep showing up in my life. In fact, I can't think of a very unpleasant or dissonant relationship I've had anytime in the recent past. While we can't control what others do, we can make an honest attempt at being inclusive ourselves and therefore, opening up doors to being included.Inclusion is a two-way street that works in resonant places. Help yourself and remove yourself from relationships and situations that don't reflect your values and deepest desires. Let them go. What and who are you holding on to that you know is excluding you?
Being excluded can be hurtful and erode our true selves. Yet, we have the power in our hands to process our reality in a way that we can change it for the better.Empowerment is not as much granted as it is generated when we are in the right environment, have self-belief and a few empowering tips at hand.
#InclusiveLeadership #inclusion #exclusion #diversity #empowerment #powerthoughts