On my last 9 to 5 job, I remember my manager complaining to me that I would no longer be part of the team because I am too different, I asked too many questions and I don’t act like them or watch the same TV shows that they do.
Now at the time, I thought I wasn’t getting it and that I was failing at adulting.
Clearly, if I wanted to be successful in life and in my career, I either had to fake it and drain myself, or I needed to find another path and distance myself from “them”.
The point is that most organizations want their employees to be different and have original skills.
However, the reality is that most workplaces adhere to group-thinking, and create outsiders by forcing them to suppress their individuality for conformity.
Wondering what are the benefits of being an outsider and how you can overcome that feeling?
What is an outsider?
An outsider is a person who doesn’t feel like they belong. At work, that feeling translates itself into:
- Feeling unsuccessful. According to society, being a successful adult at work means being great at your job, understanding and applying social norms.
- Being unable to join a group or to find someone who matches your values and principles to some extent.
- Being unable to express yourself freely in meetings and around a group of people.
- Being excluded out of meetings or out of group conversations. If you are perpetually being excluded and are subject to other workplace harassment, your workplace is toxic and you must consider your mental health first.
Why are you feeling the way you do?
We are social creatures. We crave that feeling of belonging to a group that will take care of us and that will cooperate for better chances of survival.
- A lack of cultural sensitivity. It is easy to feel excluded when we don’t understand a culture or when we don’t feel understood because of the cultural barrier.
- A lack of social skills, a lack of confidence, a shy, introverted or lone wolf personality. Basically, feeling like an outsider is a social conditioning.
- Your negative thoughts. If you believe certain things about yourself then they will most likely come through.
- Differences in core values. For example, if most of your workplace like to gossip and you don’t, then you will start to feel excluded.
- Gender gap.
- Generational gap. Each generation perceives the world differently and challenges the previous one. In one generation, people are shaped by social trends, are programmed with thoughts, values, moral ethics, models, examples of success and the guidelines to succeed.
What are the benefits of being an outsider?
I was brought up with the conviction that different is good. I believe that there are several ways of doing one thing.
So, I would never be thrown off if someone would go about life in an unconventional way. If you’re feeling like an outsider, chances are you:
- Possess untapped talents and unused skills. Your feeling of being an outsider disappears when you find a place where you can exercise your gifts.
- Are aware that you are not maximizing your potential and you are not walking in your purpose.
- Are creative, innovative, are a trailblazer and a leader. Indeed, most leaders are outsiders. They have unique gifts and a unique perception of the world.
- Can monetize what makes you different.
How to handle being an outsider?
Feeling included at work leads to better health, stronger work performance and brides a positive work environment. However, if you feel like an outsider, you are not alone.
Indeed, the feeling of being an outsider is very common and is not something to be ashamed of. Some people hide it, others don’t front. What is the best approach?
To claim your difference and get the best out of work:
- Accept yourself and take pride in your difference.
- Be compassionate with yourself. Not because you don’t fit in that there is something wrong with you.
- Strengthen your own identity and find out more about your core values.
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses so you can better apply them.
- Figure out your goals, build a vision board and remain focus on your goals.
- Understand that you don’t need to fit in to be successful and don’t need to be one-dimensional to exist.
- Acknowledge that feeling like an outsider is not a permanent nor unique situation. You can be the most wonderful person on this planet and still feel like an outsider.
- Stop trying hard to fit in. The more you try, the more you feel drained, the more you will end up with the wrong crowd. You just have to be prepared for when the right opportunities and people come your way.
- Assess your behavior and your thoughts towards your situation. Then, document your situation. Are you new to the company? Are people enjoying your company? Are people including you? Are you reserved or standoffish? Do you like, respect or understand the people you work with?
- Give yourself the time and space to explore what works for you, what you like and what you don’t like. There is no right place for you. You have to create your own space and not settle for less.
- Express who you truly are from time to time and observe what happens next. You will either create or shut off opportunities.
- Fill your days with activities that you enjoy.
- Build a strong support system with people who accept you for who you are.
- Support people who think and act outside the box. People who think outside the box are usually creative and innovative.
- Don’t pay attention to what people say about you. Don’t let external circumstances define you.
- Stop people pleasing and seeking outside validation. Avoid adjusting your personality and your core values to please people. Instead, observe the social norms at work, see if you want to acquire these norms, and then adjust your communication style, your work style accordingly.
- Otherwise, prepare an exit strategy.
Last words of Advice!
Sometimes, we have acquired all the diploma, all the skills for a job and still feel like an outsider.
Remember that there are benefits in not fitting in, that you are not failing, that you can be a leader and create your own path, that if you are not liked or included then you can be respected.
I have found that becoming an expert in your field will help you feel like you belong and will help you gain in credibility.
Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!
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