We have all felt left out before. You might have been cast aside while others took a picture without you. Or you found yourself scrolling through social media and noticed your friends went to an event you weren’t invited too. Or how about just as simple as feeling like the “third wheel” or not understanding the “inside joke.” When you feel left out, it can stop us in our tracks and make us doubt ourselves. As a therapist in Orange County, I’ve worked with many teens and young adults who struggle with feeling left out and not understanding how to feel better. It is a feeling no one likes, and most people don’t know what to do about it. In this article, I discuss where the feeling of being left out comes from, how it affects us, and what to do about it.
Why Do People Feel Left Out?
Since most people have felt left out before, you might wonder, “Where does the feeling come from?” and “Why do we feel left out?” Human beings are naturally wanting to connect with others. You want to feel part of a group. Parents make it a priority to socialize their little children to build friendships and to learn social skills within a group. We were made to be amongst family, friends, and a part of a community. We thrive and flourish when we have meaningful relationships. We feel complete and fulfilled when we have purpose in life through interacting with others. Naturally, we feel left out when we aren’t connecting with a group or our loved ones. We have an innate desire to be part of something bigger, and without this connection, it is normal to feel left out.
Is It Normal to Get That Feeling of Being Left Out?
It is absolutely normal to have the feeling of being left out and serves a beneficial purpose. The urge to be a part of a group and be included means you are wanting connection, emotional support, laughter, friendship, joy, love, or happiness. The yearning for those positive feelings and experiences is a good thing. Pay attention to the feeling of needing connection. When you have this feeling, it’s a good time to reach out to those you are close to or search for new friendships.
How Does Feeling Left Out Affect Us?
Feeling left out can come and leave swiftly. But sometimes, that feeling can remain for little bit longer thus lead to more overwhelming feelings of rejection, loneliness, or feeling unwanted or forgotten by others. The thought of your friends not including you can influence how you view yourself. Exclusion can make you question if you did something wrong in the relationship, or something must be wrong with you. Self-esteem can decrease if you are consistently questioning your worth to others. Unwanted isolation can lead to feeling alone and the inaccurate belief that, “I must be a burden to others.” If we experience multiple experiences of being left out, it can hold us back from opening up to others in the future.
Are People Leaving Me Out On Purpose?
It’s wise to take a step back and look at the evidence. Does it happen often? Try and think if there is a pattern of actions that are causing the feeling of being left out. There might be times where people aren’t engaging you in a conversation, not putting effort into spending time with you, or not inviting you to events. These are things to consider when deciding if someone is being deliberate in excluding you. On the flip side, someone could have assumed you were busy or thought maybe you wouldn’t have enjoyed the event. Sometimes people don’t have the awareness nor social skills to understand they are leaving someone out. More times than not, I hear people discuss how their feelings are hurt when their friends are on their phones instead of being interested in engaging in a verbal conversation. Just the urge to be on electronics and social media while in the presence of others can make someone feel left out and excluded. Consider the data to support whether your friends intentionally excluded you or was it or a misunderstanding.
What To Do When You Feel Left Out?
1. Take a look inward.
After gaining awareness of your feelings and figuring out if the cause is deliberate or by accident, it’s important to study your actions. True growth in your relationships with others can come through self-reflection.
Reflect on your body language
o Do you talk with your friends with crossed or open arms?
o Do you smile and laugh at your friends when they are discussing a humorous topic?
o Do you give eye contact and feel relaxed around your friends?
Body language is a form of nonverbal communication. Sending signals of open body language can show that you want to connect and build trust. Demonstrating closed off body language can send messages that you are uninterested, there’s possible tension, and you are uncomfortable. People who feel comfortable, safe, and inviting around you will more than likely increase their involvement with you.
Assess your conversational skills
o Do you keep the conversation going when someone engages with you?
o Do you listen by giving eye contact and not interrupting?
o Are you interested in your friends and how they are doing?
o What is your tone like when responding to friends?
o Do your topics tend to be harsh and heavy?
Positive conversational skills can be a big determining factor in building friendships and creating meaningful relationships. Initiating conversation, giving eye contact, and showing a genuine interest in your friends will make your friends feel cared for and loved. Thus, your friends are going to want to seek you out to spend time with you, be emotionally supportive, and want to make memories together.
Think back on past history of participation in events
o Do you initiate or extend invitations to others?
o Have you said no to multiple invitations or cancelled last minute?
You are going to run into situations where emergencies pop up or there is a schedule conflict. Also, you could cancel last minute due to sickness or illness. Missing out on an event can be out of your control. However, if you cancel or consistently say no to invitations, a friend may feel defeated or discouraged. It would be helpful to show motivation and interest in rescheduling after cancelling or saying no to an invitation.
Think about your response when others give you feedback
Sometimes your friends can confront you with unfavorable feedback and, depending on your reaction, you might push them away. Getting unpleasant feedback can be uncomfortable. During that uncomfortableness, you might want to distance yourself or detach. Others might feel you pulling away from them thus, assume you don’t want to be around them. Your friends might feel less inclined to make you apart of the group.
2. Understand that these feelings are temporary.
Whether you felt left out once or multiple times, the feeling of rejection, loneliness, or being forgotten is temporary. Feelings ebb and flow. They aren’t permanent. How we feel changes all the time. Give yourself a moment to feel the sting and pause. It’s best to give yourself a second to utilize coping skills so you can make a thoughtful decision about what you would like to do next.
3. Use affirmations.
When you are struggling with your confidence, feeling left out can trigger those negative core beliefs such as: “Nobody cares about me” “I’m unlovable” “Everybody leaves me in the end.”
I suggest using positive affirmations to help you give your friends the benefit of the doubt. For example: “I am loved by my friends and family. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional.”
Utilizing affirmations can help strengthen your confidence and shift your mindset.
4. Communicate your needs and wants appropriately.
Remind yourself what your needs and wants are when you feel left out. Rejection and loneliness come from a place of wanting to belong and be a part of a group. Instead of reacting with anger and rudeness like saying, “Why was I not invited! or “How could I not be included in that?” come from a place of love and kindness.
Try saying, “I notice we haven’t hung out in a little bit. I miss spending time with you. I would love to get together.”
5. Spend time with people that are interested in you.
Remember, you are loved! Surround yourself with people that genuinely care about you and your wellbeing. That could be another friend in a different group, a helpful and kind teacher, a family member you feel close with, a coworker who enjoys your company, or a supportive person from a club or community group. Take this opportunity to reach out to others who are interested in developing a more meaningful friendship with you.
“Give the gift of absence to those who don’t appreciate your presence.” - Anonymous
6. Re-evaluate your friendship values and friend circle.
No matter what stage, season, or transition you are in, there are going to be times where we re-evaluate our friendship circle. Your specific friendship values might shift and change to what you are needing in that moment. Consistent feelings of rejection and loneliness are big indicators that your friendship group isn’t meeting your specific needs. Also, if you have experienced a friendship betrayal, this might be a red flag to suggest re-evaluating your friendship circle. Take a step back and ask yourself, “What am I looking for in a friend?” and “Do my current friends have those similar qualities and values?” If not, this might be a good time to create new friendships that align with your current friendship values.
It is perfectly natural to want to be loved by others, feel connected, and belong to a group. Feeling left out sucks and can chip away at our self-esteem. However, being left out can be a good opportunity to get in tune with what isn’t working for you and what specific changes you need in your life. Those changes can consist of being more aware of your body language and how you communicate with others, working on your confidence, communicating your needs better, realizing you want more genuinely caring relationships, and maybe reevaluating your friendship values and social group. Sometimes the feeling of rejection and loneliness can be too hard to shake and can lead to depression.
As a depression therapist, I help young adults and teenagers with rebuilding their confidence. Also, I guide them into taking a deeper look at their peer group and implement communication skills that will help them get their needs met and feel more assertive in their friendships. Talking with a therapist can give you that undivided attention and the tools for change. Schedule a free phone consultation today.