“Pick me, PICK ME.” This reminds me of my many tortured elementary school days on my school playground when my peers would never pick me. In fact, I was most often the last person picked – particularly for anything involving sports. It was a very sad and lonely time.
I desperately wanted to fit in. I desperately wanted to be good at something. I desperately wanted to feel as though I belonged and was accepted. But, alas, I often felt none of those things. Instead, I felt ostracized, alone, alienated, different, isolated, pathetic, and sad. I wanted to be part of the group. Yet, I was also horrible, COMPLETELY HORRIFIC when it came to playground sports. I was artistic, I was a great actor and I loved arts and crafts…. these skills, unfortunately, were not very valuable during my playground days.
It took a long time for me to find my place and feel included and accepted. I really did not feel fully accepted until I found a new high school at age 16. I auditioned and was accepted to a famous performing arts high school – and suddenly all the kids were like me. We were all the elementary school sports rejects…. yet, when given a school of our own, we all belonged. I was in heaven. Complete and total HEAVEN.
I learned a valuable lesson when I switched schools at age 16. I learned that my isolation was not about me per se – it was just a wrong fit. It was not that I was being rejected and did not fit in because I was a bad person – it was simply not the right group for me to be part of. When I was suddenly placed within the right group of kids for me, I blossomed and grew – and I was happier.
Over time, I have come to realize this is still true in my adult life. I have some really amazing friends – we picked each other due to our common interests – we create our own circles of belonging. Similarly, we find our work environments in a variety of different ways – yet the work environments we are happiest in are ones that allow us to find ourselves and shine. I think this is critical to understand when applying for jobs. A new job is less about being liked and picked (even though we all want to be picked if we are applying to a new job that sounds fun and exciting). In an ideal world, being chosen for a position is more about being a right fit for an organization (and the organization a right fit for you) and less about popularity or other frivolous ways people choose to judge each other.
Today, 133 days ’til 40 I remind myself that as an adult I do not want to desperately yearn to be chosen by anyone for anything – I, instead, want to find those places of mutual respect and understanding – where there is mutual choice and engagement – those special places and spaces where I belong “just because”.