Isolation is a curse

I have always felt excluded. Do I have to live with this for the rest of my life? 

Our elder has some advice for a letter writer who struggles with social alienation.


Dear EWC

For as long as I can remember, I always felt excluded and isolated everywhere, even with the woman who raised me and later on with my parents. I had friends, a lot of them, and I always felt like I didn’t have any. On every happy occasion all I remember is how lonely I felt despite having friends and family with me. Even recently in my masters graduation which I highly anticipated, I felt very lonely. I could not stop crying for a week. Is there anything I can do to stop feeling so isolated and not seen? Or is it a curse I have to live with for the rest of my life?


Grandpa-Matt replies

While I am not a therapist or a counselor, I am familiar with something called social alienation, which appears to affect you going way back in time. I have experienced this type of alienation in my early years. I felt that I didn’t belong to my family, peers, schoolmates, co-workers, etc. I had the feeling that there was them, and there was me. Like you, in growing up, I had a difficult time with my family, where they continued to send the message that I wasn’t enough, not good enough, not smart enough, not capable enough. I felt that I didn’t measure up to their expectations. Compared to others in my family, I was the outsider – never good enough to belong.

This is the pattern I adopted with others in my world. I was always the outsider and found “evidence” that they would reject me. This supported my belief that there was something wrong with me. Behaviorally, I would withdraw and avoid much interaction with them. I was like the “fastest-gun-in-the-West,” where I would reject them before they would get a chance to reject me.

This social alienation became my defense against rejection or abandonment. That is why you might have a challenging time breaking this method of coping with this issue. As a defense, it is a short-term fix that justifies the feeling of aloneness and not fitting in. Living a joyless existence, I believe, allows us to be “right” about the way we live. The loneliness produced by the isolation is not a life-long curse.

I did receive counseling that aided me in changing my way of interacting with others. It seemed simple, but all I had to do is continually claim that I did belong. It was my decision early on that I didn’t belong. So, it was also my decision that I do belong! It was a choice of being continually assertive in my claim of belonging. It was simply my error when I interpreted my being excluded as the way of protecting myself from being hurt!

Some thoughts about rejection. We all have a desire to belong, and we fear being seen in a critical way. We’re anxious about the prospect of being cut off, looking foolish, or isolated. We may be afraid that rejection confirms our worst fear – perhaps that we’re unlovable or have little worth or value. 

This fear of rejection is a powerful one. Where does this originate? The fear of rejection is one of our deepest fears, which goes back at least 200,000 years. When people lived in tight groups and depended upon each other for food and protection, it was life-threatening to be rejected and kicked out of the community. Wild animals and hostile individuals from different tribes would jeopardize the survival of that person separated from the “family.” 

Our ancestors learned to seek acceptance by their group. They have passed this need down in our DNA. In modern times, the thought of rejection is still alive within us, but the consequences are not as physically harmful, but the negative emotion still feels threatening. 

Conquering the unwanted behavior takes a realization that we made some errors a long time ago when we decided that we lacked the “right stuff.” The truth is that we are good enough for ourselves! What would it be like for you to discover that you are enough for yourself and anyone else that mattered in your life? The realization that you are a valuable, lovable, and desirable object of affection should be enough to change your behavior in your relationships with others. 

A few things about rejection: what you must keep in mind is that we are not rejected as a person when we get a refusal. It is just that an offer is turned down. For example, if someone wants to give you something to eat that you don’t like (maybe liver) and you turn it down, you are rejecting the offer, not the person who offered it to you. Many times, if someone turns you down, it is not always about you. Someone might have many reasons that it doesn’t work for them. 

If your past behavior gives you the idea that you aren’t good enough or able enough to have success, then I suggest you devote some time to raising your self-esteem. Start by reading this article on the internet. There you will find many tips to assist you. Also, look at this website about handling social anxiety.

I hope this advice will bring you a sense of direction on finding some inner peace. Please write back and let me know if this works for you.Article #: 468888

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