Melanie wrote in to Elder Wisdom Circle, expressing pain over feelings of loneliness and isolation. She said she had always felt excluded and isolated, even feeling disconnected from her parents. Even though she had many friends, she would still feel distant from them, and would feel even lonelier at social gatherings. After her highly anticipated Master’s graduation party, she cried for a week. In her letter, she wondered if this was a curse she was going to have to live with for the rest of her life.
Elder Grandpa-Matt wrote back to Melanie, sharing his wisdom and concern for her well-being. He recognized that she had been experiencing social alienation and identified with her, having grown up feeling like he didn’t belong amongst his peers and having been treated like an outsider by his own family. But, through counseling, Grandpa-Matt later came to realize that he could decide that he did belong, just as he had unconsciously decided that he didn’t belong. He went on to say that it was easy to understand a fear of rejection, since the need to be included dates back hundreds of thousands of years, to when our survival depended on it. Melanie could keep in mind that she needn’t take rejection personally, as it has everything to do with the other person, not her. He also shared some online resources with her pertaining to coping with social anxiety.
I interviewed Melanie about her experience with EWC after the correspondence, and she told me about how much she appreciated hearing from the Elder. It made her feel understood and heard, and like she wouldn’t be judged. When she wrote in, she had felt as though nothing could help her with her problem, but her exchange with Grandpa-Matt completely changed her perspective. Seeing her problems from a different point of view helped her to tackle them more effectively, and what she found was the most helpful about his advice was his suggestion to work on improving her self-esteem. Melanie took Grandpa-Matt’s advice, and as a result, stopped tying her self-worth to her accomplishments.
As a seasoned Elder, Grandpa-Matt said that in giving advice, he’s motivated by empathy, compassion, and acceptance—things he didn’t receive when he sought assistance while growing up. He feels confident in calling himself an Elder as, since 1986, he’s facilitated seminars around the world that help young people develop self-awareness and problem-solving skills in dealing with their families and relationships. At one point in his life, he’d convinced himself of his own unworthiness, which allowed him to also empathize with Melanie. And after receiving her feedback, he congratulated her for understanding the difference between who she is and what she accomplishes. He said, “The point is, no matter what you accomplish or fail at, it does not affect who you are. We are still the loving and lovable spirits that showed up when we arrived on this planet.”
The need to be included dates back hundreds of thousands of years is a concept most of us probably never think about. As Grandpa Matt shared our natural survival instinct is built on the premise that we need to be accepted into a group. As Grandpa Matt shared with Melanie we can decide that we do in fact belong and begin right now to improve our situation.