Feeling left out sucks. We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, and we all know how painful it can be. Social exclusions don’t show favoritism—it affects all of us at every stage of life, from childhood to old age. Feeling left out usually suggests that a group is cutting a person out, ignoring them, or depreciating them.
What’s even worse than the actual rejection are the wild thoughts many of us entertain after the fact. These worries and anxieties are actually what causes us most of the emotional anguish we feel. You might start to wonder why your friends didn’t invite you to hang out with them, for example. Did they deliberately exclude you because they didn’t want you there? Do they not like you or not want to spend time with you anymore?
These questions can turn into a dangerous spiral, deeply affecting our self-esteem and mental health. We cannot control whether or not someone excludes us, but we can control how we cope with our feelings! The following tips can ease the pain you feel and help you stay objective in the most trying experiences.
- Feeling Left Out
- Avoid Making Assumptions
- Emotional Communication
- Fix Your Attitude
- Self Value
- Make Time For Self Care
- Bottom Line
Feeling Left Out
Why is it our innate response to worry uncontrollably when we are left out? Why do we often allow it to hurt us so much? According to psychologists, social connection is a vital part of our species’ survival. A sense of belonging means you have comradery and people to look after you, provide for you, and protect you. Ostracization means you are left to fend for yourself, unprotected, and in danger.
Several studies have also shown that the brain instinctively responds the same to social exclusion as physical pain. The same area of the brain is triggered in both instances, resulting in anger and grief. If you don’t know how to cope with your feelings properly, even a seemingly small situation can send you over the edge. However, if you can work through your feelings, you will learn to see the situation as beneficial. Painful experiences can give us perspective. For example, they can help you reassess your friend group or work on bettering yourself.
No matter who you are, everyone feels the pain of being ostracized. Some of us might be ostracized more often than others due to our economic status, race, or mental health. However, all of us—no matter how tough you are—can relate to that pain. The key to handling ostracism is to create a strategy that deals with it.
Avoid Making Assumptions
One of the most common responses to rejection is to assume the worst. Although it’s normal to think this way, it isn’t a healthy coping mechanism. More often than not, it’ll give you so much stress your mind will fall down a rabbit hole of possibilities. Before you know it, you’ve made up an entire scenario in your head with absolutely no evidence of its truth.
Instead of letting your fear take control, ask yourself if there’s any proof your fears are true. An easy way to analyze this is to do a simple exercise. Make a list of factors that prove your friends care vs. a list that proves they do not. If there seem to be more examples pointing to them actually caring about you, they most likely didn’t mean you any harm. Perhaps they genuinely forgot to invite you or just excluded you because they didn’t think you’d be interested in going.
Instead of making assumptions, it’s also very important you communicate your feelings with others! If you only have your side of the story, you don’t know the full story. Instead of being powerless and worrying about what may have happened, communicating allows you to take control of the situation and truly understand what everyone else was thinking. According to research, you have a greater need for camaraderie when you feel left out. Allow yourself that gratification and speak to your friends face-to-face about your feelings.
Before you approach your friends, calm your emotions by thinking about what you hope to accomplish. When you speak, make sure you don’t attack them. Don’t use phrases like “You never invite me to do anything.” Instead, make it clear you enjoy spending time with them, but you feel left out because you weren’t invited. Also, make sure you use specific examples where you were excluded. Using accusatory language or generalized examples may make your friends defensive or think you are overreacting. Either way, they will be the most receptive if you are objective, non-argumentative, and specific.
Fix Your Attitude
Another thing to consider when you are excluded is how you might be coming across to others. What if you notice people consistently leave you out? Or what if you approach your friends and they tell you they did deliberately exclude you? Sometimes we have to take a look inward and see if we are responsible. What’s your body language conveying? How is your attitude?
True friendship isn’t one-sided. It is a relationship of mutual love and respect. Do you show your friends you care about them and are interested in their lives? Or do you just expect them to reach out to you all of the time? No one wants to spend time with someone who is self-centered and makes everything about themselves. If you want your friends to care about you, you have to care about them. If you want them to include you in invitations, think about ways you can invite them to do fun things.
Your friends may also stop inviting you out because you are usually always busy with work or school. If this is the case, you might have to start initiating get-togethers again until they realize you are available. You could also suggest they continue to invite you even if you often have to say no, because of prior commitments. Your schedule might always be convoluted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sometimes meet up with them, and it’s always nice to be thought of.
Another reason you may get left out is if your body language is displaying a lack of interest. For example, if you cross your arms when speaking to your friends, you may seem uncomfortable or indifferent. Our body language is so innate it can be hard to know how others perceive it. If you need guidance, reach out to a close friend or family member you trust. They might be able to give you an honest, outside perspective. Body language is important! Although you aren’t doing anything wrong, you may be misunderstood if you aren’t conveying your true thoughts and desires.
Another thing you must always do is to remind yourself of your value. When you feel like no one wants to be around you, your self-esteem and self-worth may take a huge blow. Remembering your value calms your spiraling thoughts, gives you mental clarity, and provides you with the confidence you need to reach out to your friends when you feel alone. Don’t feed into your insecurity, because then you will stay in the shadows and not get the help you need.
To boost your self-worth, repeat positive affirmations to yourself and become aware of negative thinking. Constantly say things to yourself like:
“I am good enough.”
“I have a wonderful personality.”
“I make my friends feel valued, and they appreciate me for this.”
“My friends have always enjoyed my company, and they still do.”
To maximize the positive effect of affirmations, you might also consider journaling for mental health. First, become aware of and write down the negative thoughts you have about yourself. Then insert the positive statements next to them so that you can remember what is true. If you’re unaware of your negative thinking, you will struggle to believe in your self-value.
Further support the positive vibes you’re building by surrounding yourself with people that make you feel better about yourself, and always remember to go easy on yourself! Life is a process, and we will never respond to every situation perfectly. What’s important is that you try to learn from your mistakes and move on.
Make Time For Self Care
Another way to build our self-confidence when we are under stress is by showing ourselves love through self-care. Self-care means different things to different people and could be as simple as making sure you are getting enough rest and exercise. For others, it could mean doing a little more, like getting professional help. If you are regularly sad over rejection, this could be the way to go. A therapist can guide you to a more positive place and help you overcome any past experiences that are holding you back. They can also give emotional support that your friends and family can’t or won’t provide.
While we are on the topic of emotional support, let’s also examine how to choose the right friends. Choosing to surround yourself with people that share your interests and values is also a part of self-care and self-love. It’s easy to focus on how bad we feel when we are left out or gossiped about, but this isn’t beneficial nor does it help your self-esteem. It’s only beneficial if you take that moment of pain and consider if your friends are committed to you how true friends should be. Sometimes friends grow apart and they no longer care about the same things or have the same interests. That’s okay! But recognizing that can help you find a new community that makes you feel appreciated.
Next time you’re excluded, use that time to spoil yourself somehow—cook, chat with family, read your favorite book, etc.—and then try to delve into the situation deeper if necessary. Relax and do something that gives you a chance to evaluate from a fresh perspective.
Everyone wants to feel a sense of belonging, which means being left out makes everyone feel bad. Always remember, you’re not alone in this sadness! Try to use the situation as an opportunity to assess yourself and your relationships. You are in control of who you spend time with and how you respond. When you realize this power, you are on the way to achieving social wellness. And what is social wellness? It’s a way for you and those around you to give back to each other so that everyone benefits. It’s one aspect of your life that greatly affects your overall wellbeing and happiness.