“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” -- Brene Brown
As a teenager, I observed that two main things made you cool: doing well in sports and being liked by girls. At that age, nobody really seemed to care if you were able to get good grades—in fact, that was often perceived as “uncool.” Because of the strong emphasis on sports and romance, my height put me at a very large disadvantage.
In my community, basketball in particular was the “cool” sport. I was not good at basketball, partly due to not being very coordinated and partly due to being short. Activities in both my church community and in my social network revolved around basketball. Every time I tried to play, I felt humiliated. On the rare occasion someone did pass me the ball, I couldn’t make a basket. I would then feel bad that they passed me the ball in the first place—and they probably regretted it, too. I soon found that it was simply better when I didn’t play at all. However, not playing meant that I felt left out and excluded. I remember one particular summer when my group of friends got together almost every day, sometimes even twice a day, to play basketball. I was often on the outside looking in, and that was painful.
The rest of this post has now been published in my book Standing up for Standing Out: Making the most of Being Different in Kindle or hard copy.The book includes experiences from 74 people I interviewed who share their struggles and coping strategies on the topics of relationships, belonging, standing out, self-acceptance, working against labels, gaining understanding and compassion, and personal growth. Check it out!
“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” -- Mother Teresa