6 Mindsets for When You Feel Like You Don’t Belong

Man on a bench smoking representing feeling like you don't belong
Don't psyche yourself out when you feel like you don't belong

Sometimes you get the vibe that you don’t belong.

You can’t call it a consequence of being introverted. Many introverts excel in social situations. No, I’m talking about feeling uncomfortably different, almost unwelcome. You don’t feel like anything you say would mean anything to anyone. Your environment starts to feel oppressive.

I’ve certainly felt this way, and I had poor ways of dealing with it. I would either completely shut down, or I would become so self-conscious that I drew bad attention to myself. My main problem was that I cared.

Here are six new mindsets to adopt for the next time you feel like you don’t belong:

1. Consider the Clientele

I’m usually the first one to recommend that people face their social anxiety head-on and put themselves out there. But social anxiety isn’t always this barrier to happiness that you need to overcome. It could be tipping you off to something.

It’s possible the reason you feel strange is that the people around you aren’t good people. Your body could be warning you that you’re in an environment you should not be in. You think you don’t belong, but maybe you shouldn’t.

Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes. — Anonymous

You become immersed in the culture of the people you spend the most time with. If you always feel isolated, intimidated, and strange, then maybe it’s time to make some changes.

2. Take Small Risks

If you can assume that the people around you aren’t out to get you, then you can try to take small risks to connect to others. Little moments of connection and social milestones will ratchet you out of your head and into your environment.

Each risk is a small win. Every time you make a comment, or a compliment, or participate in something that is going on, you get looser.

If you deliver what you say with conviction, and people resonate with you, you realize you were never strange. You were just nervous.

You were being held back by past negative experiences around socializing. You become vulnerable when you reveal yourself.

If people feel what you say, then the isolation feeling lifts. You aren’t looking for approval. You’re looking to connect, and once you do, you could find yourself having a good time.

3. Own It (Maybe You Don't Belong)

Maybe you are different. Maybe you do stand out in this group that you’re in. Maybe the things you say aren’t what these people are used to hearing.

When you’re trapped in your head, these feel like negatives. But, when you start caring about your good time, everything changes.

Stop apologizing for who you are. Let people see your oddness and rough edges. Make some ridiculous observation. Ask a dumb question. Entertain yourself, first.

You create your own fun, and you can share that energy with others. This sense of freedom is only possible if you risk being seen.

This is polarizing. This is diving into a conversation and dancing with the awkwardness. Your light will blind some and captivate others. But that’s the point. You wouldn’t want to hang out with people who don’t want you anyway.

4. Redefine Embarrassment

Embarrassment and rejection are always painful. But something starts to happen when you address these risks directly. They start feeling irrelevant. Someone shrugging you off and not caring what you have to say is never as bad as you imagine.

Imagine spilling a drink at a party and having everyone look at you. If you need these people’s positive opinions of you to feel worthy, then it feels like death.

But if your opinion of yourself came first, then their judgment would be second fiddle. It’s something you can shake off in an instant. Just because it hurts doesn’t mean it matters.

Think about it. If you could master feeling embarrassed, then what couldn’t you handle?

5. Get Physical

Anxiety makes a person shrink emotionally and physically. Your shoulders slump, your face cringes, and you look like you’re on the verge of tears. So take yourself in the opposite direction. Think getting loose. Here are things you can do to feel better in your own skin.

  • Straighten your posture and look at the horizon. Pretend there is a string stretching from the crown of your head to the bottom of your feet, and you want that string to be straight.
  • Make strong eye contact with the people you are speaking to.
  • Let your arms hang naturally (Don’t obsess over how you walk or how your arms swing. No one cares unless you care).
  • Move around your environment, explore where you are.
  • Allow yourself to take up space. (Because you are just as valid as anyone else, and you deserve to take up space).
  • Open up your body language (Don’t cross your arms, until you are totally fed up with this BS).

These adjustments can help you feel more comfortable and receptive. Social confidence and body language feed into one another. If you can build one, the other can occur naturally.

6. You Don’t Have to Talk

If you truly have nothing to say, forcing a sentence might feel awkward and unnatural. You have to consider whether you want to speak because you feel pressured, or if you want to connect. If you aren’t compelled to speak, then you don’t have to.

You can be the listener and not the talker. Saying one meaningful thing after listening to someone for fifteen minutes can be more compelling than a person who never stops talking about nothing.

Listening is underrated. If someone can tell you that you genuinely care what they have to say, or even better, you show curiosity about their lives by asking questions, then you’ll probably hear their life story by the end of the night. And odds are, they will like you a lot.

Business author Stephen Covey called this giving people“psychological air.” You’re giving people room to express themselves when you listen, and that’s a tremendous gift.

You Don't Belong? I Doubt It

Being social is what you make of it.

If you’re worried about being accepted, or if you want people to see how little you care about being accepted, then, either way, it’s about them. Bring it back to your perspective.

You might not want to be social. You might be around the wrong people. But if you think you’re around the right people, you should express yourself as much as you can.

To review:

  • Think about whether you feel like you don’t belong because you’re nervous or if you’re surrounded by assholes.
  • Take small social risks to shake yourself out of your head and into the environment.
  • Stop apologizing for who you are and create your own good energy that you can use to connect with others.
  • Look at awkwardness and embarrassment as inevitable parts of socializing. They can’t kill you.
  • Opening your body to an environment helps you feel less intimidated.
  • Remember that you don’t have to speak for anyone else’s sake, and listening can be more compelling than speaking.