Looking In


Have you ever felt that you’re on the outside looking in, that you’re the only one who hasn’t gotten the joke yet? If so, ironically, you are not alone. Nearly everyone at some point, and maybe every day, feels this way: that other people have understood something essential about life and happiness, that everyone else is more or less normal and you’re the oddball, the outsider to whom the regular rules do not apply.

Normally this is the part of the essay where I say that I too have felt this way, but in truth I have not. How I managed to escape this common insecurity, I can’t say, but I can tell you that it makes absolutely perfect sense to me. That’s because I have instead struggled with what I believe to be its source: that like it or not, everyone is an individual. Everyone must write their own story, and the story that thrills you might bore me out of my mind. We can join support groups and Facebook groups, read the same books, go to the same coffee shops, but in the end we are always on our own when it comes to the most important decisions of our lives. No one else is at the desk with us; we must choose every word we write just as we must choose every thought we think.

This has been the source of my greatest freedom and greatest misery. I do not want anyone making choices for me. I do not want anyone’s advice, and I do not want to follow anyone’s rules. I want to figure it out for myself. But that figuring out does not always go so well, and when it doesn’t, I feel as if I’ve wandered into a Hell of my own making, stranded on a lonely island where nothing I built works.

I’ve learned that such a destination is reached only when I’ve tried to be someone other than myself. I see someone else’s life and think, “That looks like fun.” Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. If you’re feeling on the outside looking in, know that the only thing you can truly be outside of is your own life. You can wander away from it, avoid it, ignore it, but you will have to return to it because it’s the only place you’ll ever feel comfortable, the only place anything will make any sense at all.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.