“So how do I learn to feel like I belong? I always feel like I’m on the outskirts and held in my various communities out of pity or social necessity. I can’t quite accept that other people actually do want me around. “
I dunno if this is helpful to know, but I’ve had to readjust what I think it means to “belong” to a group of people several times over the years. That process has brought me a couple of observations:
- a lot of times healthy people and groups have pretty strong boundaries, and it’s okay to be on the edge of a group for quite a while without being 100% all-in. I’ve been having good times just being the new weirdo who people don’t know well. Being part of a core of people takes a long time… if it doesn’t, that is actually kind of a red flag for me because it means that I am around folks who don’t have strong, healthy personal boundaries
- it’s okay to just have a marginal relationship to a group… like, it’s okay that I’m just kinda hanging out with folks who I only share a small set of interests with (rock climbers, bluegrass players, computer programmers)… it’s a-okay that I don’t know some folks outside of our geeky subculture because in reality, that little bit of culture which binds us together really is the only thing we actually have in common. It’s a-okay to make that the point of a relationship, but it isn’t great to have deep relationships based on shallow connections (just IMO)
a lot of the worries that I have about how other people perceive me are not real things, even if parts of those worries are valid. Like, I was at a party with a bunch of new folks who are all, I think, pretty clearly part of my larger tribe of people (lots of yoga being done at the party)… I know on one hand that I’m a really introverted laid back person, but I also know that I’m often sending out a vibe of “I’m fine just standing by the fire recharging before I talk to someone else”. That’s perfectly an okay thing to do, and because I am aware that folks aren’t going to talk to me when I am in the mode I have to make an effort to change that mode when I am okay with more conversation. At the same time, when I am being super reserved and recharging and in my head, mostly people are totally ignoring me, and that’s fine. It’s not that they don’t want me around, it is just that unless we’re actively conversing I’m not on their radar at all.
Anyhow, I dunno if those observations are helpful (I mostly write walls of text like that to help my own thought processes), but I hope you find a good, healthy way of being with other folks that makes you satisfied and happy.