Even today, as an adult, I joke about being a nerd. I actually think it’s one of my better qualities. I love learning. I love reading. I love exploring. I’m trying to instill those same values in my girls. Some of the measures of “coolness,” such as style, for example, I’m rather weak at (see blog post From Frumpy to Fabulous: The Power of Dress for You, Your Family, and Your Job). Some style is important for executive presence and for confidence, and I recognize that. That is why I make the effort. I don’t make it so I can be “one of the cool kids.” On most days…
It’s funny how, as an adult, the feeling of being excluded can still trigger some type of emotional response. It doesn’t happen very often, but there are times when an inside joke, not being invited to something, or a look from someone else can make me feel excluded. I still sometimes feel the desire to be part of the “in group.” In conversations with others, I realized that I’m not the only one that still feels like that. In those moments, it’s easy to revert back to puberty and start asking yourself what you could do to “fit in” better (see blog post on self talk).
But before you go down the path of feeling bad because you “don’t fit in”, think about these tips first (p.s. these tips could be good to share with your kids as well):
- It’s not all about you. Lots of times, when people exclude others, it’s not intentional. People don’t even realize they’re doing it. They are just caught in the moment, in a memory, or in an experience with other people.
- Well, maybe it is all about you. Are you assuming that they won’t include you? Before you go down the path of blaming others for excluding you, ask if you’re excluding yourself. Can you ask to be included or just join the conversation? Have you made an effort to join the group?
- See things from their perspective. Oftentimes, when people are intentionally hurting another’s feelings, it’s because they themselves have a deep hurt. They either have low self-confidence and are trying to compensate by making others feel bad, or they have a personal situation that is going on in their lives that is clouding their emotional intelligence. Or maybe they have a bias they can’t control (to learn more about implicit bias and discover which ones you have, check out Project Implicit—one of the best experiments on implicit bias I’ve seen). This doesn’t make it right, but it shifts the blame from you (I’m not cool enough) to them (wow, they need some help and it’s not right for them to hurt others).
- It’s human nature to want to belong. That doesn’t mean you can’t manage that feeling. Let me throw some of my nerdiness at you right now. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs includes a sense of belonging. It’s human nature. It’s one of the many reasons we join clubs, community organizations, causes, and even for some, gangs. By recognizing that this is how your brain works, and that your “feeling left out” is an automatic reaction based on your need to belong, you can actually take the emotional part out of the equation and manage the situation from a more logical position. It sounds silly, but try it the next time you feel excluded.
- No, you’re not one of the cool kids. So what? Ask yourself why it matters to you. My brother didn’t reject me because of my nerd status. Heck, in many cases, even the cool kids didn’t reject me. But what would have happened had I been in all of the “in groups”? The truth is, it probably wouldn’t have made me happier. Ask yourself what it is about the “cool kids” that makes you want to join. Do you want to do what they do? Why do you need them to do it? And if you don’t even like doing the things they that do anyway, then why do you even want to join them????
Being a nerd has actually is big factor in my success. My desire to learn and grow helps me be a better employee and mother. I prefer to embrace my nerd status versus trying to fight it. Fighting it wastes energy—energy that could be better spent reading a book, dancing ridiculously with my kids, or working on this blog….
Nerd is the new the cool 🙂