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Being an outsider in a group, and still bringing in your presence and wisdom

Posted in balanced stillness,Managing our emotions,outsider and insider,self regulation by Rashmi Datt on January 17th, 2018

You are in a typical social scenario: you are with a group of friends or colleagues at dinner for an off site, alumni reunion, etc.

Everyone seems to be having the time of their lives. Selfies, jokes, laughter.
But none of this makes sense to you . You are bored with the trivia, meaningless conversation, name dropping. Tired of the endless stories from the few who hog the limelight. They talk so much that you wonder rudely whether the mosquito will zoom into their always jabbering mouth.
And yet, with all these ‘oh, I’m so superior’ thoughts buzzing inside, there is a sense of loneliness, isolation and sadness at being unable to connect. It results in low self-worth. And you find yourself trying to make eye contact with a group member, hoping for a reassuring smile that says, ‘I still like you, despite your inner discomfort’.
One of the signs of being an outsider is the toggling in the head between the two polarities of ‘arrogance’ and ‘worthlessness’.
And your inner chatter becomes :
• No one likes me.
• I don’t have their social skills.
• Why did I ever come here?
• This isn’t the right group for me. They are not my kind of people. But the question is: who are my kind of people?

outsider in a group
And the wretched thing is that though you have been looking forward to this group meeting, now you are fed up and wishing it would end soon.
If any of the above things are true for you, read on to find how you can stay grounded and find your ease and peace.
1. Know your intrinsic nature
Perhaps you feel inadequate because you don’t have exotic stories or amazing experiences to spin, and are afraid your silence will show you up as a ‘nobody’, an ordinary person with no ‘X’ factor or charisma.
Perhaps your intrinsic nature is that of an introvert: to be quiet, to not need to showcase yourself incessantly, and feel drained by excessive chatter.

Make peace with your introversion, and your ordinariness. That everyone cannot sparkle at the same thing. Shine as a listener, who is comfortable and generous at others being in the spotlight. And know that you will recharge your batteries when when you are back in your own cave.

2. Don’t allow your inner critic to dictate your participation and enjoyment
Sometimes you have an anecdote, thought, or idea to share, but you push it away into silence. This might be because:
• You don’t have the energy to fight for air space
• You fear that your contribution is not interesting enough.
Acknowledge these hesitations, BUT…Go ahead and follow that inner creative impulsive. Tell your story. Allow yourself to not be as good as the master story tellers of your group. Swing in your weight and wrestle for that air space, you will feel enlivened for having thrown in a few punches yourself. As your adrenaline starts flowing, you will enjoy the increased flow of oxygen in your system.
3. Accept and enjoy your role as an outsider
Because you have the ability to stand at the periphery (when you want) and move inside for the kill (when you want), you have the huge advantage of watching the play unfold, with people taking different roles.

You can have fun observing who is the Alpha– the leader of the pack. She has the highest influence, because of her initiative, charisma as well as competence. Alphas achieve their status either by aggression and confidence, or through social efforts and building alliances within the group.

The Beta is her strongest supporter, and gets her power from being the number two which the Alpha comes to rely upon. Betas are up for anything their Alpha wants to do.

Gammas are the followers, and show their acceptance and deference towards the Alpha. They don’t have any distinct personality of their own, their presence usually blends in with the rest of the room and they’re just sort of…there. They are non-controversial and usually liked.

The Omegas are different from the rest– often introspective, intelligent and because they find it difficult to conform, they end up being uncomfortable and even disliking themselves for not fitting in. They are in a way their own person, and can even be perceived to be emotionally distant due to their self-possession. Omegas do not care for leadership by others as they are perfectly capable of leading themselves. They are the opposite of the Alpha and can get into a conflict if they take a rebellious position to the Alpha.
There is a good chance that the ‘outsider’is the Omega, while the rest are the ‘insiders’. Being the outcast is never pleasant, but yes you can work your way around it.

4. Watch out for the competition and jealousies
In a group, there is a competition for influence and love. Who is the most beloved? Who has the most influence? Every one wants to know they matter. The reptilian brain goes into high alert as perceived threat levels rise. What if I am left behind? And then the fear kicks in, and we start telling ourselves stories of ‘I am not liked, etc’.

This fear can lead to you becoming a rebel without a cause: ‘Why was I not consulted? Why are we taking this call and not that?’ And if upon self-reflection you find you have put your foot in the mouth and have said something you shouldn’t have, maybe inadvertently hurt someone, go back and apologize.

5. Engage with your thoughts without getting entangled
There are certain feelings getting generated (fear, anxiety, etc), and the first thing to do is accept it completely and welcome it, notice where it is sitting in the body, instead of resisting it thinking ‘it’s weak/bad/ wrong to feel these feelings’. The feelings are simply a form of energy. Their acceptance will reduce their charge, and create space to check out the thoughts, knowing they are not necessarily true. Thoughts are a production of the MIND (Mostly Inaccurate Neuro Drama), and it helps to witness the internal drama as well as the external drama with detachment. A good rule is accept feelings and question thoughts.

6. Nothing lasts for ever
When you are in a state of detached observer, it becomes easier to notice group norms, and accede to them . You can tell yourself, this group engagement is only for the next 3 hours /48 hours/ whatever. The roles of Alpha, Beta , Gamma and Delta also change in different contexts. Even in the same group, they can change over time if you are in a space of self-reflection and growth.

7. Ask yourself: What do I really want?
As an outsider, there is a temptation to react to what is happening. Instead set your own direction by asking: What do I really want? What do I really enjoy doing? How can I explore these phenomenon more? What steps can I take to start moving my life in the direction I want?
These kind of questions will get you out of feeling negative about yourself and will give your mind a way to think of some positive action you could take.

8. Every thing is not about you
In our fear, we tend to become narcissistic, overly concerned about: how we are being perceived, whether our needs are being taken care of, and whether we are being given enough importance. Instead if we turn our attention on ‘What can I do to show my concern for others? How can I make another feel comfortable or wanted?’ Doing things for other’s happiness releases endorphins which can be very pleasurable.

In the end, working with a group is about working with certain unknown, unpredictable factors. And as Arnold Mindell said: ‘To work with the unknown, some combination of respect, ruthlessness, courage and cuddling is necessary’.

How do I write with such knowingness about the outsider? Yes, you guessed right, I have been one for the longest time, until I learnt that fear and anger relax their hold on me when I look beyond the pain of the moment and say ‘there is value in this.’
Have you ever been in this position? How do you feel about it?
If you would like to improve team working in your organization, or the art of being a team member, drop me a note.

 




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