Feeling Left Out?
September 01 2010 12:00 AM ET
Did you ever feel left out when you were a kid ' like when your two best friends decided that three was a crowd and pushed you to the sidelines? Have you ever felt the same way as an adult? Maybe some of your coworkers sneak off to have lunch without you, or you find out about a party you didn't get invited to? Most likely, you didn't feel a whole lot different as an adult than you felt as a child: hurt, annoyed, confused, disrespected.
No matter how independent we human beings try to be, we all need friends, and we are reminded of this when we feel like friendship is going on around us but we aren't included. And sometimes coping with other challenges, like living with HIV, can leave us feeling even more sensitive when we feel disrespected or ignored by others. It's not unusual to feel a little jealous of the stress-free companionship that others seem to be enjoying.
If you have ever experienced rejection ' and who hasn't? ' here are some ideas to help you keep your perspective.
>Accept your feelings. When it seems that someone has wounded us, memories of past rejection can come up, along with a lot of uncomfortable feelings. While you may be tempted to tell yourself that you are an adult now, this doesn't make the feeling go away. Don't deny your emotions. Pain can lead to growth.
>Look at things from another angle. Chemistry, even among friends, is unpredictable. Sometimes people just connect, through common interests or their outlook on life. Just because they want to spend time together doesn't mean there is something wrong with you or that you're not likable. It just is.
>Get your information straight. We're all human. We get in bad moods. We become preoccupied. We forget people around us. That person you thought was your friend yesterday ' but who seems to look through you today ' may just be having a bad day. And you might be having one of those days when you feel especially sensitive. Don't make assumptions and push your friends out of your life without knowing why, or if, they have had a change in attitude. Their bad day may be coinciding with yours.
>Take a look at what's missing in your life. One reason for feeling envious of someone else is that we see them enjoying something that we don't have enough of in our life ' like personal relationships. Do you feel like you have a support system in place with people who care about you, and whom you care about? The envy you feel toward others who seem to have more fun together may actually be about the lack of support in your life. Maybe it's time to expand your network of friends.
>But also take a look at who's on your team. Before you pronounce the cup as half empty, take an inventory of the people in your life that you really care about and who care about you ' friends, family, anybody else that you count on to be there when you need them. Have you spent enough time with them lately?
>Take the first step. Pick someone from your list and give her or him a call. Find out how that person is doing. Make plans to get together. Somebody out there is waiting for you to make a move.
McClain is a licensed counselor in New York City with a speciality in coping with chronic and life-threatening health conditions. His books include The Complete Idiot's Guide to Breaking Bad Habits and Empowering Your Life With Joy, and he is a frequent contributor to health-related publications. He is also on the board of directors of Miracle House, a nonprofit that serves patients and caregivers who are visiting New York City for HIV or cancer treatment. He welcomes e-mail.