On the Outside Looking In

On the Outside Looking In

Whenever we compare ourselves to others and conclude that we don’t fit in, we are less than, and we’ll never measure up, we have positioned ourselves on the outside looking in. Sure the circumstances of life can put us there too, but once we realize we are there we can then do something about it; and we MUST do something about it.

I think in images a lot of the time….so in order to describe this outside-looking-in feeling, I visualize a nice restaurant with a dance floor, and someone standing outside in the rain with their face pressed into their hands in a cupped shape position against the glass.  However this feeling can occur in a million scenarios:  a middle school lunch room, hallways in high school, a new student on a college campus for the first time, day one of boot camp and one’s first duty station, watching a group of ladies laughing and having coffee together at the mall, at church, at lunch in the middle of a busy work day, moms play date days at the park, a group of men hanging out and watching sports, a board room business meeting…. I think you get the picture.

I’ll never forget the time I had my first encounter with this outside-looking-in-feeling. I was in elementary school, and my mom brought me and my older brother to the “government dentist.” All I knew is that my mom wasn’t paying for the appointment. I remember the dentist looking down at me and saying something about not getting paid enough to deal with these kids today….. and….. (insert foreboding music here) thus was the first experience of my life when I realized something must be wrong with me, we weren’t good enough, and I felt like apologizing for existing. Yep, those are heavy thoughts for a 5-year-old.

I then began to notice the difference in my shoes, my clothes, my hair, my lunches…. But then, at the age of 7, I woke up stuck inside my body in a coma. I was fully aware, awake, and I could hear things going on in the room in which I was lying – stuck in my body, unable to move and communicate with the outside world.

“Hmm”, I thought to myself. “And, now I’m on the inside looking out – well, not really ‘looking’ out.” But, I was definitely on the inside separated from the outside world. Now, I was on the outskirts of myself, fully aware of every part of my body, its inability to move; I felt like I was on the outside of myself looking in. In fact, I do remember seeing myself lying on the table, and I saw doctors in white coats working on me…. It was a weird feeling, and it was brief. Mostly, I remember thinking and feeling inside my body not hovering above it like a scary movie scene.

In the coma for two months with only two Existences with whom to communicate (God and myself), it gave me time to contemplate my fate, my purpose, my desire to live and get out from being stuck inside my body as well as stuck on the outside looking in – in life….. But let’s bring this contemplation forward to the present….

Do you ever feel like you are on the outside looking in to “Normal”? And, what is “Normal” anyway? Patsy Clairmont wrote a book years ago called, Normal is just a Setting on your Dryer. I’d have to agree with her. Normal is whatever you define it to be. And, if I lined up 10 people and asked them to describe “Normal”, I’m sure I’d hear varied responses.

Honestly, I think focusing on “Normal” is just a distraction from the real meat of the issue. The outside-looking-in feeling is fueled by a bunch of B.S. stereotypes, class systems, and a lack of love and validation in one’s life. So, the thing that we must do is turn such beliefs of not fitting in, being less than, and never measuring up, on their heads!

Mother’s Day can be one of those events in life that really kick your heart’s butt and cause one to feel as if they are on the outside looking in. It remains amazing to me the degree to which not having unconditional, reliable, encouraging, love as a child can cause one to create very conditional, unreliable, doubt-filled beliefs that cause one to feel as if they are on the outside looking in as they observe “Normal” families and people.

However, I’m actually not that amazed by this observation because when one does have unconditional, reliable, encouraging love, they are like Lions and Lionesses on this earth, full of confidence, character, and a hope-filled perseverance that is memorizing to watch! Don’t you agree? So, either not having it or having it creates two extreme ends of the spectrum.

On the outside looking in end of the spectrum are defined by the beliefs, “I don’t fit in; I’m less than; and I’ll never measure up”. And, on the inside looking out ready to shout end of the spectrum are declarations such as, “I can do this! I am able to be fully present in any situation and not collapse because a force greater than myself (LOVE) enables me to stand firm; ! I am worthy! I am loved! I am here for a reason! I have a purpose!”

It’s the day after Mother’s Day today, and I was reading in 2nd Corinthians 12 where Paul is talking about the thorn in his side and asking God to remove it three times, but God told him, “My Grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness”. Paul goes on to say that while he could come up with reasons to boast (by man’s standards and measurements of wealth, place in society, education, suffering, hardships, etc.), he says that the only thing he will boast about are his weaknesses and the fact that he knows God. If nothing else, our weaknesses do confirm our need for LOVE. Do you think the Beatles were thinking such thoughts when they wrote, All you Need is Love?

Today, I want to thank teachers, coaches, mentors, and parents of other kids who take the time to REPRESENT the love of a mother to those whom they did not birth, per say, but who do birth hope in the hearts of others.

One of my most favorite scriptures is Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child so I will comfort you….” Love God. I added the “Love God” part.