I have felt like an alien all of my life.
It’s just a fact at this point, actually. I’m not sure that I can pinpoint exactly why, and there’s also a myriad of reasons contributing to this feeling.
It’s only lately that I’ve realized that this is because of my inherent state of being in the world, but not of it. *Roll credits, please.*
In all seriousness, many aspects of my identity cause me to feel alienated from both the people around me and the world as a whole. I’m a writer, an artist, a libertarian, a Christian . . . and these are just the things that I can put a qualifier on. There are lots of parts of me that flow against both the secular and Christian world that can’t fit into a single word.
This all springs from the idea that, truly, us as Christians should be “in, not of.” Unfortunately, this often leads to feelings of alienation – never really fitting in anywhere, feeling excluded, the like.
This feeling, fortunately for me, exists in not every place. But it often exists in the places we most often find ourselves – school, work, etc. How do we deal with these feelings – the constant, overbearing yet subtle push of you’re not like us.
First, realize that these feelings are completely normal. It is an innately human experience to want to be accepted for who you are. Actually, it’s on the psychological hierarchy of needs – the third tier includes the need to have relationships, and, ultimately, to feel a sense of belonging in those relationships.
As hard as it’s been for me to accept it, feeling alienated is normal. In fact, most people feel alienated to some degree at some point in their life. Just accept the fact that this is how you feel, and it might not ever change.
Second, realize that even if someone doesn’t understand you fully – even if they differ from you on a fundamental level – you can still have a healthy, intimate relationship with them. This is something I’ve struggled with most of my life. For the longest time, I was searching for that person – whether it be a friend or a significant other – who understood me completely and loved everything about me. This just isn’t a realistic view of relationships. There is no one person who is going to fulfill all of your social needs, which is why we usually have more than one friend.
Third, understand that maybe your feelings of alienation are, dare I say, good? But this comes from understanding why you’re experiencing these feelings. Are you feeling them because of a dissatisfaction in your own personal relationships? Are you feeling them because of the general vibe of your professional or student environment?
Getting to the bottom of why you have these feelings of alienation is the key to not only understanding yourself better but working to alleviate these feelings. Of course, they may never go away.
Back to the point. These feelings of alienation may even be good because you are assured in knowing that this place is not your home. You can be assured in knowing that you don’t have to strive to find acceptance in a world that is so often harsh and cruel.
Because, really, our acceptance, understanding, and love only overflows from the One who showed it to us first.