We all feel like outsiders sometimes. It’s why we find ourselves asking “why do I feel like an outsider?” Anyone can feel like they belong in this world and yet still not really feel a sense of belonging. It’s natural for people to want to find their place in the world, even if it means being somewhere that may not always welcome them with open arms.
So why does everyone want so badly to belong? And how do we make ourselves believe that we already do? To answer that question, let’s explore what belonging means and how to feel like you belong.
This blog post will show you seven reasons why you might have the feeling of being an outsider and give 8 things you can do about it!
What is Belonging?
Belonging is a word that can be defined in many different ways but it always has something to do with feeling included or welcomed into a group.
Historically, belonging to a tribe was important because it meant survival. Humans survived and grew and learned because we lived together, protecting each other and learning from one another. (This is where our threat/stress response came from!)
As society grew, each individual had a different way of contributing to the overall health and success of the group. First, we chose “jobs” like hunting, gathering, or raising children. Then when agriculture started, humans’ occupations became more specific, like blacksmiths, tanner (leatherworker), farmers, tailors, and more.
Being kicked out of groups meant struggles, being alone, and, eventually, certain death. This is why, even today, being ostracized can feel like the worst thing in the world.
Today, belonging is still of vital importance. Belonging helps increase our self-confidence, allows us to learn and grow, and gives us a sense of purpose, helping us contribute to something greater than ourselves.
When we feel like an outsider, it may lead to a sense of isolation, despair, and stagnation in our lives. We constantly seem like we’re outside looking in, and we wonder how to for the right relationships to find your crowd.
7 Reasons You Feel Like An Outsider
Some reasons for feeling like an outsider might be obvious. Others are more nuanced and difficult to pinpoint in your life. Feeling like an outsider often seems like everyone else has somewhere to belong. Everyone else is normal. Everyone else has their group.
But you’re being called to seek a deep, more human connection to people around you. You just need to find them. Here’s how.
1) You came from somewhere else
Living in a different country than where you were born can make you feel alone. Being an outsider in your new country is hard. But why?
– You may not know the language very well
– You don’t have any friends or family here yet
– People are still suspicious of you because they hear your accent or see your different clothes
Even in our ever-shrinking world, sometimes looking and sounding different can put others off until you get to know them.
2) You are trying to fit into the wrong group
When you feel like an outsider, it may be due to the people you’re trying to fit in with. Sometimes, when there is a large set of people, like a religion, sorority or fraternity, or other group mentality, there is an inner group of people who dictate what is okay or socially acceptable and what’s not.
When you act outside of those dictated social rules, people may see that as a negative thing and push you away, resulting in feeling like an outsider and feeling like a burden to those around you.
You need to look inward and discover if you tend to fit with these people, or if you want to be free from the group. Talk both with members of the group and people outside to determine if you would maybe be better off away from this crowd.
3) Your values or beliefs don’t fit with those around you
It’s hard for you when your priorities and values are different than the group you’re trying to fit with. Here are some potential values and priorities on which you may disagree with your group:
I can think of several disagreements I have with the set of people I was born into based on my values and priorities. Here’s a full list of other possible values differences you may have with your group.
Knowing your values can help find a way around feeling like an outsider.
4) You haven’t found your purpose
A part of feeling a sense of belonging is contributing to society in a meaningful way. If you’re feeling like you don’t belong, try to find a way that you can contribute to society. You might find the sense of belonging you’re looking for when you make a contribution.
Finding your purpose in life is a process. First, you’ll want to identify what it is that interests you the most. What are you already doing that could be of value? Next, think about how those interests and skills can be used to provide value for other people or society at large.
Everyone has talents and interests that are of value, it’s just a matter of finding them and putting your focus there.
5) You can work on acceptance of others as they are
If you want to be accepted as you are, you need to try to watch how you judge others. It’s really hard to connect with others when you’re putting distance between yourself and other potential allies through the form of criticism.
Being accepting of others is not about letting people walk all over you or taking their side when they’ve done something wrong. It’s more of a mindset, where we’re kind and open to others without judgment.
Related article: How to Practice Non-Judgmental Mindfulness
6) Your isolation is a self-construct due to anxiety or depression
The fact is, people are out there who want to be friends with you! But when you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, it often doesn’t feel like there could be people who could accept you for who you are.
Depression makes you feel so alone and lost. It’s hard to even want to try to call people or talk with a friend when you feel overwhelmed. But if you can accept your feelings and find the help you need with your anxiety or depression, you may feel more at ease in social situations.
7) You were isolated as a child
Here’s an interesting potential reason. As a child, if you underwent trauma in the form of narcissistic abuse or had parents who made you feel different or alone, it can be hard to make connections with others as adults.
The first relationship you have in life is the one with your parents. If your parents tend to focus on the negative, manipulate you, or put you and your siblings against each other, this is not normal. Explore your past and see if these things were a part of your childhood.
Make the point of having a conversation with siblings or others from your past to see if they have any insight.
I realized how I was isolated as a young girl and I have always felt like an outsider. I was put in competition with peers and siblings, and I experienced people talking about me and judging others. These words became how I saw myself and how I judged myself. This judgment then became my identity. But I was wrong!
Consider this as a very insightful look into your psyche and the reasons you have feelings of isolation.
10 Ways to Feel Like You Belong, Like Everyone Else
Have hope. Starting that inner journey to deeper social meaning and relationships isn’t a complete mystery. Here are a few ways that you can find your people and feel like you are an important part of a community.
1) Choose the right group
You know in your heart when you run with the right crowd. These people are the ones who lift you up, make your heart sing, and help you feel like your best! You fit in with them and you know that they feel accepted with you.
I have let many people fall out of my life who were not in the group that I wanted to be with. It can be difficult to leave a crowd of people who aren’t a good fit for you, but you’ll feel so much better, and you can search for a better group for you.
If you came from somewhere else, it can help to find a collection of expats or peers from your own culture to help your navigation through this new world.
2) Work on your self-esteem
Life is hard, and when you consider yourself an outsider looking in, it can take an effect on your self-esteem and confidence levels. But your confidence can be bolstered, it’s just a matter of mindset.
Practice power-poses, work on feelings of adequacy by reciting affirmations (“I am enough!”), or exercise. These are all ways of increasing your self-esteem. When your confidence levels are higher, it’s easier to talk to others, and have the ability to approach someone else.
Related Article: How to Increase Your Self-Confidence
3) Stop the judgment
Judgment and criticism draw people apart and should be avoided. When you want to find a crowd to try to fit into, judging them will only get you tossed out again.
The ability to accept a person as they are (and not as you wish them to be) is essential in feeling your belonging. This means holding your tongue when they express a different opinion (as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else or isn’t bigotry), supporting them in their ambitions, and being with them to listen or offer advice if they ask for it.
Learn more about letting go of control.
4) Work on making friends!
If you’ve felt like an outsider for some time now, you might need to work on making friends. A friend is someone who supports you, loves you as you are, and sits with you in conversations, no matter how difficult. They are they for you in fun times and hard times.
Work on being that friend for others and loving them unconditionally.
There are all kinds of ways to meet others, including social meetups or even online. During the continuing pandemic, it may be best to meet someone online before meeting up in person. There are all kinds of apps for people looking for different kinds of friends, like mom buddies, exercise partners, or others.
5) Search for your purpose and use your talents to be useful to the group
You already have an idea of your purpose or talent. This is probably something you’ve already examined in life, and this thing gives you a feeling of being fulfilled. Now you just need to take this thing that gives you warm feelings of joy and satisfaction and find a way to bring it to others!
The moment you find a way to share your talent with your peers, you just know that it’s right! It feels good to be of service and socially needed. This may require going into business for yourself or becoming a starving artist for a while. But that’s okay because you know your life satisfaction and a feeling of belonging is worth it!
6) Get involved in the community
Especially if you come from a different culture, it’s important to put yourself out there. Fitting in won’t ever happen unless you try.
Learn the language, learn the culture. Find events or social groups to dedicate your time to. There’s no wrong way to do this, and you may need just to work by trial and error. But you will be able to quit being an outsider and connect with someone within the social crowd.
7) Learn about psychology and social issues
When you’re in the “in crowd”, outsiders can feel like a threat. That person who doesn’t fit in can seem like they don’t belong in your world.
When you learn about psychology and sociology, you begin to understand the deep, inner workings of group dynamics. You learn about leaders and followers, and how the group continues as a working world. This may give you an advantage because you can find a crowd that you like that is open-minded, and each person thinks independently, minimizing groupthink.
You can also apply all the psychology to your own life and childhood to unearth reasons you feel the ways that you do now, as an adult.
8) Be present and attentive with others
Last, make sure you are being present, mindful, and living in the moment when you spend time with others. Sometimes we get distracted by devices or by other thoughts we have swirling around in our minds
When you give others your attention, you can learn more about them and feel a deeper connection to them as they will understand more about you as well.
Feeling like an outsider can be a difficult thing to overcome. It’s important that we take the time to understand what belonging means and how it feels so we can find ways of building community in our lives and making sure those around us are included as well.
When you find that sense of belonging you crave, it can feel like a perfect fit! The process, the journey of getting to the right crowd can be difficult, but your world will blossom and grow, just like you want!
This blog post has provided some actionable tips for doing just this!
Which of these ideas has helped make you feel less alone?