Are you feeling alienated?
Alienated: “Experiencing or inducing feelings of isolation or estrangement.”
The military breeds an especially alienating lifestyle.
I am a military spouse and move frequently. With each move I must establish new friends and a new career. I am surrounded by military families who struggle to feel included.
Building a support system is tough for anyone but reinventing the wheel every few years is exhausting. By the time you create a deep connection with someone… one of you is moving and you may never see them again.
Yes friend, I understand alienation. It tests the willpower of even the most secure and confident people.
One time, I felt hurt because my friends did not invite my husband and I to an event. The sensation that I felt by being intentionally ostracized was intense: anger, embarrassment, self-doubt, self-consciousness and loneliness.
I am very secure and confident, not a lot bothers me socially. I’m extremely introverted and need to be alone. I enjoy being alone. Going to social functions can sometimes make me tired and grumpy— so for me, it is highly unusual to be disappointed for missing out on a social activity.
For some reason, it hurt… and still does.
My husband and I are normal and likeable. We are good company, good conversationalists, we are not wild, we get along with everyone and we are easy going.
To have the realization that we were intentionally excluded by our friends was eye-opening.
We sat down and mulled over why it happened. We asked ourselves:
“Are we that couple?”
“Are we lame?”
“Do people not like us?”
“Are people intimidated by us?”
“Are we boring?”
“Did they forget about us?
We ultimately decided that no matter why it happened we were going to move on. We had done huge favors for our group… hiring all their kids for odd jobs and paying three times the rate. Giving them rides when their car was broken. Carrying heavy furniture. Helping them out with projects at work. And to what end— so they could take advantage of our goodwill and exclude us from plans?
We want friends who will support us in the same way we support them.
I did a lot of deep-thinking after this situation happened and came to a staggering conclusion:
Everyone feels alienated.
Forget the military and think about society in general. People purposely relocate thousands of miles from home. Families are scattered across the United States by choice. People only work for companies for a handful of years and then leave for a new job.
People intentionally alienate themselves by abandoning their community.
Building a community and support structure is a slow process. More than ever, people are addicted to social media. My theory is that we all feel alienated because our effort in building community is focused online instead of being focused on building a live, face-to-face community.
The art of friendship has been tainted by social media. We wear a veil and post photos that are unrealistic. Our social media accounts make our lives look better than they actually are. Despite a constant flow of information, texts, instant messages, photos and videos—social media drives a wedge between people. We don’t know how to talk to each other anymore. We don’t know how to be vulnerable because we are so accustomed to our mask.
We are all pretending that we are not lonely, but we feel lonelier than ever.
So, what do we about it?
Everyone feels that their problems are unique.
“My problems could not possibly be understood by someone else.”
News flash. Life is complicated and 100% of people have problems. There are 7 billion people on the planet—do you really think that none of them have experienced problems like yours?
The irony is that social media gives us the opportunity to connect with people just like you, with problems just like yours. But we’re not doing it.
How to combat feeling alienated.
The remedy 100% starts with you. You are the only one who can choose your happiness. If you don’t like yourself enough to find your joy—how can you expect others to do it for you?
Understand when you are getting in your own way— if it’s your own mentality or perception preventing you from taking risks and connecting with others. You have to tune in with yourself. You have to be introspective. You have to understand why those feelings of loneliness and alienation are there in the first place… and you have to feel them… otherwise you’re never going to get over it. Understand your personality and the needs associated with it. Introverts need socialization in a deep and meaningful way— introverts don’t need vapid conversations about the weather. Extroverts may need to leave home and run an errand to re-energize.
What vibes are you putting out there? Do you sit in the corner on your phone every time you meet your group of friends? Are you negative, whine and complain too much? Do you only talk about yourself?
Try to understand how other people see you so if you need to correct-course, you know what you need to work on.
Building relationships is hard. In my experience opening up and sharing is the best place to start. Take off the mask. Be you. You are imperfect and have many flaws. To form deep connections… reveal those flaws, admit that you are lonely. If the person you are vulnerable with ‘gets it’ then you’re off to a good start.
Try saying something like this: “I like you. I’ve been feeling lonely lately and realize that I need to get out there. It’s easier to sit at home and feel sorry for myself than to open up like this. I’d like to be friends. Would you like to go out for dinner Saturday?” or “Would you like to set up a playdate for the kids?”
Ensure that you make plans to meet. If you leave it hanging in the air without solid plans, it will be difficult keep up the momentum.
Find an affinity group or a tribe.
An affinity group is a group linked by a common interest or purpose. This group will have the same interests and passions as you. I’m an entrepreneur, my affinity group is a group for business owners, we get together monthly and discuss a business-related topic. More importantly, this group is full of people who understand the 24/7 nature of running your own business, we instantly connect because of our common ‘problems.’ I know a stay at home mom who once said: “I’m never alone but always lonely.” She is always with her young kids but no matter how much she loves them, she still needs meaningful interaction with other people.
Work can feel that way too. Day after day, meaningless interactions about menial tasks. Take a risk. Find a group or a person to connect with and ask them to be your friend, invite them to a play date, happy hour, coffee, lunch, or dinner. Work is always better when you have a friend… and staying at home is a lot of work.
Being different is a good thing.
Be who you are. If you are “weird” or “kooky” the best way to make connections is to be yourself and find people with same interests as you. There is a group for everything—and if it doesn’t exist, create one. If you are a square peg, you won’t fit in a round hole and you will disappoint yourself by trying to.
I have a friend who loves bunnies and has several pet bunnies, definitely kooky. I love this friend so much. Do I love bunnies, meh? Bunnies are cute, but I got bit by an Easter bunny when I was a kid and I would never have one as a pet.
Before I met her, I didn’t even know people kept pet bunnies just like cats or dogs. I love this friend because she is who she is. She’s authentic, supportive, caring, loving, generous, she’s the one you want on your team— the bunny thing is a little weird, but I love her because of it. I’ve even held her bunnies.
Nobody is perfect. We all have quirks. Own yours. Your friends may not love your giant pet snake, but true friends overlook flaws, tolerate weirdness and love you anyway.
Try to bond with others who are alienated.
High school is the unforgiving place for outsiders. All the students attend because they have to, there is no unified purpose or mutual interest in attending school. Have you ever heard a kid say: “I love learning, that’s why I’m here.” Probably not.
High school kids bond because of their affinity groups: cheerleaders, athletes, the debate team, the chess team, both kids hate the same teacher.
I believe outsiders should unite. Be vulnerable. At work, if you feel the same as a lonely high schooler—it’s time for you to find someone else that is an outcast and strike up a friendship. If you are alienated at work, having a friend and ally will make work more enjoyable for you.
You can’t please everyone.
No matter how hard you try, some people will never become your friends. That’s okay. You cannot force it.
In the past I have made all the effort, made all the plans, bent over backwards to make people become my friend. I have been blown off, embarrassed, ignored and rejected.
“Better to try and fail than not to try at all.” – Nicole Krauss
I’m okay with it because at least I tried.
Know when it’s time to quit.
As the saying goes: “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” If you try to make a friend and fail… move on. There are plenty of people out there. Do not waste your precious time and energy on people who don’t want to receive your friendship.
Not everyone is in the same place in life, some people are not ready to be deeply connected. Some people already have plenty of friends and don’t need more. Whatever the reason, recognize when your efforts aren’t creating a friendship and move on.
If you try and fail, don’t get down in the dumps. Rejection and failure hurt but when trying to create friendship that rejection serves as a red flag and an indicator to stop. Rejection is especially painful when it’s your old friends. People you’ve known for years can change and grow apart. This happens when you are growing, and your friends are not.
Don’t leave this life with question marks.
Grow, learn, find your success. If the consequence is leaving friends behind, then so be it. Anyone who is holding you back does not serve your highest good. Rather than clinging to a stifling friendship, surround yourself with people who want you to thrive.