When I was 10, I remember sitting one day at the end of a very long bench. Everyone else from my class was at the other end. It was a perfect picture of how I felt at the time: ostracized, unlikable, and basically no good.
Many similar instances occurred in the years that followed.
Not long ago, a friend at work told me, “You always seem so separate from the rest of us.”
At that job, I really was different from everyone else. I had different values, a different perspective, and was going in a different direction in life.
My friend’s comment brought to mind all those times I’d felt ostracized as a child and teen. I then felt driven to either hide my true self (since I was ashamed of who I was) or isolate myself.
What I had to learn was how to separate myself from that narrative—from the story I could so easily repeat forever about what everyone must think of me (my story about their stories about me).
You are powerless to change what others think. But the truth is it doesn’t matter. If you can stop attaching to a narrative of ostracism, then the right path forward becomes strikingly obvious.
For example, I would often think: My boss and I can’t see things the same way. I’m obviously unacceptable in this job.
I could have isolated and stewed perpetually over the unfairness and sadness of it all. But the right thing for me to do was obvious: show up each day eager to do my best, support my boss, and appreciate the opportunity to develop my skills.
I also often thought: My co-workers don’t care about the things I care about; so they must not want to know me.
But in reality, we were all just people trying to figure out life. I wasn’t like the others, but I still could have enjoyed their company.
When you attach to a narrative of ostracism, change becomes impossible. You’re bound by what you perceive to be others’ perceptions of you.
So how can you detach from the narrative?
- See that it’s a narrative.
- Don’t fight it. Don’t try to force the story to change; just see how it fits within the larger story of what you truly want in life. That’s when your path forward becomes obvious.
- That’s it. 1-2 is all you need. Be grounded to reality by seeing your current narrative for what it is, and also how it maps to the bigger narrative of your deepest values, goals, dreams…