For a while now, I have been contemplating why I get so depressed seeing other people in groups, in communities and feel like I’m on the outskirts always looking in. Throughout my life, it seems like I haven’t ever belonged anywhere, and like I haven’t ever had a community that I am part of. This hasn’t changed, despite my efforts to socialise more with volunteering and getting a job, and I am struggling to figure out whether I should just carry on as I am or try to change.
At school I had a close set of friends and while we weren’t the coolest in our year, I did have that sense of friendship and a group to call mine. Since then, though I’ve had nothing. I’ve lost connection (partly through my own want and also because people have naturally drifted away) with my friends and although I’ve made some friends since, I don’t have that sense of a friend I can call upon at any time, much less a group that I can hang out with.
A huge part of this is my own fault and I feel a sense of self-hatred when I think of the ways I’ve pushed people away from me, failed to push myself to make new friends and just generally been an unsocial person. Another part of me now looks at this as my anxiety and low self-esteem having control over me, particularly during my college and university time. I had bad experiences of being rejected when trying to push myself (from peers and my family) so stopped trying.
One of the things I used to talk about with my university therapist, was the time my parents showed disapproval towards my friends at school and told me not to hang out with them. Being told this several times and not being the typical rebellious teenager, I decided to take this to heart and not meet my friends outside of school. Every time I was asked out, I’d decline, make some pathetic excuse and go home instead.
Of course the irony of all this is that my parents then asked me why I was never outside and never hanging out with friends! When it was there very words that stopped me from doing this. Also in my family, I have two very outgoing sisters, who are of a similar age and who I don’t particularly get on with, so that’s another group I’m outside of.
I don’t feel like I’ve ever “belonged” anywhere
I never felt like a student at all while at university, not a proper one anyway. I rarely went out and in my undergraduate years I never hung around with any of my fellow students. As a postgraduate I pushed myself a little bit more, but there’s been a natural drift apart since this ended and I can’t say I ever did feel like part of a group as such.
I’m reminded of this even now at work, as a graduate intern. Going to training I’ve seen other interns and noticed they work in groups, know each other and seem happy, whereas I’m on a group of my own, don’t know them and while not unhappy, I can’t strictly say I’m happy either. I certainly don’t seem to be getting much out of the experience compared with them.
I don’t know how much other people value being in a group, or having a community to call their own, but I really do. Maybe it’s because I don’t have it and never have that I value it so much, but I really do look around me each day and wonder why everyone seems to have a community, or even just one person, they are close with. That sense of belonging isn’t there for me, which means I don’t know how to talk to people about things.
Not having someone to talk too about just casual things in life, means I very often just talk to people I’ve met online and in volunteering about my mental health. Don’t get me wrong, I like this openness but this is a tough subject and I’d like sometimes to be able to just talk to friends I have about other things too and feel more of a sense of a belonging.
I have however found a supportive community
Despite not feeling like I do “belong” anywhere, I do feel a sense of community from my volunteering in mental health and meeting people in person and online. I wouldn’t trade this development I’ve had over the last few years for anything, but there is still a part of me that wishes I hadn’t done so well to keep away from people and avoid social situations when I was younger.
I know this community will always do the best to support me and that’s something I cherish. I probably won’t feel like I ever truly “belong” anywhere, but maybe that doesn’t matter if I can do what I love in life like volunteering, raising awareness of mental illness and breaking the stigma around it. Knowing I can go online and have other people to chat too and offer a different perspective helps so much and so maybe “belonging” is overrated.
How do you feel about “belonging”? Have you ever felt like you wish you were a part of a group or that you’re missing out on something everyone else seems to have?