Certain situations can leave you feeling left out. Maybe your friends went to a party and didn’t invite you or you were excluded from a group project at work.
Social exclusion can be painful, especially if it’s your family or close friends who leave you out of their plans. However, sometimes it can also be a perceived feeling.
The desire to belong somewhere and relate to our fellow human beings is among our most basic emotional needs. When we realize that we’ve been excluded from a group for some reason, we feel like we don’t belong anywhere. This can result in overall loneliness and frustration.
The first step is to find out why you feel left out. It is particularly important to get to the root cause if it happens on a regular basis.
‘Why do I always feel left out?’
If the feeling of being excluded is haunting you, there could be a few reasons.
1. You may be hanging out with the wrong people
Being left out is not limited only to missing out on invitations and birthday parties. Sometimes you can feel this way while being surrounded by friends.
Imagine a situation: your friends are discussing the latest football game, and you have no interest in sports. This is when you feel excluded from the conversation and find yourself in the unfortunate position of an outsider in a social group.
If this happens on a regular basis, maybe you just don’t have a lot in common with the people you hang out with.
2. You may suffer from insecurities or social anxiety
Sometimes you feel like being left out, but it’s just an illusion that stems from your low self-esteem or mental health issues.
Social anxiety, in particular, can distort your self-perception and trick you into feeling rejected and excluded. A trivial thing such as your friend’s innocent remark about your new haircut can fuel your inner critic and make it seem like you are not welcome in your social circle. In this case, social rejection is nothing more than a perceived feeling.
3. You are an introvert
Many introverts are prone to the so-called FOMO – the fear of missing out, which can also leave them feeling excluded.
This personality type needs a good portion of alone time, especially after socializing. For this reason, introverts often turn down invitations, don’t answer phone calls, and avoid social gatherings.
But at the same time, they still want to be invited and included in their friends’ plans. It’s quite contradictory and can confuse other people who may finally give up and stop inviting their quiet friend to parties and get-togethers.
4. You make yourself look unavailable
Whether it’s at work or in your friend circle, sometimes people exclude you from their plans because they assume that you aren’t interested. Let’s continue with the example of the introvert.
If you turn down 9 invitations out of 10, your friends get used to the fact that you don’t want to come. So why bother inviting you? Yes, as an introvert, you prefer to stay in reading a book rather than attend a loud party, and it’s understandable.
However, your friends may misinterpret your behavior and assume that you are simply not interested in spending time with them. So if you ask yourself, ‘Why do I feel left out?’ it can be that you make yourself look unavailable to others.
What to do when you feel left out?
Now, the most important question is how to deal with being left out. Here are a few things you can do:
1. Embrace your feelings and don’t distract yourself with nonsense
When we experience negative emotional states such as loneliness and isolation, we often distract ourselves with meaningless activities. It’s an attempt to cope with emotional pain.
However, it can also lead us to suppress our emotions, which can have adverse effects on our mental and physical health.
Thus, when you feel left out, recognize your emotion and allow yourself to fully feel it. Resist the urge to numb this feeling by getting drunk, overeating, or watching stupid TV shows. Expert Emma Seppala, Ph.D., recommends spending some time in complete silence to avoid distractions and listen to your feelings.
A good way to cope is to write down your thoughts as if you are writing a letter to the person who made you feel left out. This can help you express yourself and make better sense of your emotions.
2. Examine your friend circle
Your friends or co-workers may exclude you from their social plans because they are not the right company for you. Think about it. To figure out whether you are in the right company, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have shared interests and activities?
- Are there any meaningful conversation topics that excite both you and them?
- If you consider them to be your close friends, do you feel free to talk about your personal problems with them?
- Do you often feel left out of a conversation, as if your friends have more things in common among them than they do with you?
3. Ensure it’s not a made-up situation
In our hectic modern world, it’s easy to bury yourself in work and day-to-day responsibilities and forget about your dear ones.
Consider the scenario that the whole situation with being left out is just a misunderstanding.
For example, your best friend may indeed be too busy at work, so it’s easier for him to spend his Friday evening with his other friends who live nearby instead of driving to the other end of the city to meet you. Your schoolmate may have forgotten to invite you to her birthday party because your Facebook account was inactive.
The scenarios are endless, but the point is that sometimes our loved ones don’t mean to exclude us from their plans – it just happens.
4. Talk to your friends or family about your feelings
If you are feeling left out by your family or friends, the best approach is to let them know about it. After all, they are the closest people in your life and they deserve to know what’s going on in your head.
Even if you are not being left out and it just seems so, opening up to your family and friends will help you gain clarity and see the situation from a different perspective. You can ask them why they didn’t invite you to the recent happy hour gathering and how it made you feel. Maybe they have no idea that they hurt you!
But ensure you don’t sound mean or resentful – explain yourself in a calm and confident manner and avoid generalizations and exaggerated accusations.
5. Make sure you are open to communication
If you suspect that you give the false impression of being unavailable, you need to make yourself look more open and show more interest in others. Maybe you appear too standoffish, and it pushes people away.
Try to ask your friends and acquaintances more questions about their lives. Make sure you are actually listening to what they say and show it with relevant questions and remarks.
Watch your body language and avoid non-verbal cues that make you look unapproachable, such as keeping your arms crossed, not maintaining eye contact, and leaning away from the other person.
If you are not invited to parties and get-togethers, ask your friends about the gatherings they attended and tell them that you’d love to come one day. Maybe they are genuinely convinced that you don’t like such events and, therefore, see no sense in inviting you! Sometimes the reason for being left out of family gatherings and friendly get-togethers is as simple as that!
6. Don’t give in to the feeling of inadequacy
When you are feeling left out at work or by your friends, your self-esteem is suffering. It’s easy to give in to feeling like an outsider who is not accepted in a social group, the black sheep, a loser no one wants to hang out with.
Even mentally healthy people may start to question themselves, but this situation is particularly harsh for someone suffering from social anxiety and inferiority complex. If you are a socially anxious person, it feels like your fear of rejection has come true.
For this reason, you need to confront your inner critic as soon as you hear that nasty little voice in your head. If it’s telling you that you are worthless and no one wants to be your friend, confront it with positive statements about yourself.
Remind yourself of your worth and good qualities. If you want to know how to boost your self-esteem in more detail, read this article about not feeling good enough.
How to not feel left out as an introvert
As an introverted child, I would often feel left out in school. My peers would play and talk with each other, and I always remained just an outside observer.
I didn’t realize back then that I was an introvert and loner – I only saw that I couldn’t relate to others and was excluded from a group for some reason.
Many introverts are prone to feeling left out and alienated from those around them – be it friends, family members, or co-workers. It happens because of their quiet nature, dislike of big groups, and preference for solitary pastimes.
If you are an introvert who is familiar with feeling excluded, here is what you can do to avoid this uncomfortable emotional state:
1. Recognize and accept your need for alone time
Introverts don’t withdraw because they are antisocial or arrogant – they need to spend time on their own because it allows them to replenish their mental and emotional energy.
Therefore, sometimes you can’t follow your friends’ social plans because you are not in a mood for socializing, and it’s perfectly fine.
So try to see the situation from this angle – you are not excluded from your friends’ arrangements, you simply prefer to have a quiet evening at home. Instead of dwelling on feeling left out, spend some quality alone time doing your favorite solitary activities that give you a sense of meaning and fulfillment.
2. Explain to your friends why you need to stay off socializing
To prevent misunderstandings, talk to your friends about your introversion. Explain that there comes a time when you need to take a break from socializing.
Make it clear that it doesn’t mean that you don’t want to hang out with them. Say that you still want to be invited and included in their plans.
If they are your real friends who care about you, they will understand. Being honest and open about your needs will ensure you won’t make the false impression of being unavailable and uninterested.
3. Be the one to invite them
Introverts tend to be passive and avoid taking the initiative in friendly and romantic relationships. However, to not feel left out by friends, you can always make the first move and offer them an activity or event.
This way, you will pick an activity that will satisfy both you and your friends. As an introvert, you will probably choose something more comfy and quiet, such as a movie night, a small get-together at home, or a cocktail at a lounge bar.
And it’s great because you won’t have to force yourself into attending an overwhelming party full of strangers and will still have the chance to have fun with your friends.
Feeling left out is a common emotion
To sum up, whether you are an introvert or not, keep in mind that the feeling of being excluded is universal. It’s a shade of loneliness, and all human beings are familiar with this painful emotion. Just like FOMO, it is particularly common in our age of social media when everyone is constantly sharing the details of their adventures with everyone else online.
Most likely, your friends, parents, and co-workers have felt left out at some point in their lives too. So make peace with this feeling, follow the above recommendations, and move on with your life.