It’s going to happen. Let’s just start there. It’s a fact of life that sooner or later everyone is going to feel left out. In this day in and age when our culture tries to encourage inclusion and acceptance, it’s hard to know how to navigate the experience of being excluded and unaccepted. How do we help our daughters when they are the Odd Girl Out? (See Odd Girl Out, by Rachel Simmons) I remember it well, don’t you? That feeling in the lunch room where everyone had a seat at the table, or on the bleachers at the football game, or got invited to the sleep over? Am I over sharing here? I mean didn’t everyone spend Friday nights at home watching Nova with their parents?
Everyone. Everyone at one time or another, feels left out. Everyone goes through moments of self-consciousness, and the feeling of loneliness even when they are not alone. The first thing we need to teach our daughters when they are the odd girl out is that this is not a new phenomena. It’s normal. It’s going to happen. So while it may feel yucky, we need to teach our daughters that it’s part of life to sometimes be left out.
And when it happens, our daughters need to know that their self-worth is not based on being included. If we teach our daughters that their worth is based on how accepted they are in a group, or that happiness only happens when you fit in, they will eventually lose sight of who they are. See the children’s book Stripes, by David Shannon.
We adult women need to be self-aware enough to know when our stuff is being projected on to our daughters. If we carry baggage that we have never dealt with from those adolescent days, chances are, we will project our story into our daughter’s story. We need to deal with whatever messages we have recorded in our self-esteem file and make sure we are not replaying them for our daughters.
When our daughters come home and express that feeling of being left out, not fitting in, do we run to their aid, call the other mothers, get angry, take them shopping, get out chocolate, cry, decide to home school? Or, are we still for a moment and listen? Do we give them power, by letting them express their feelings and then validate what we heard?
Dear Mothers of Daughters who feel left out, hear this: you cannot fix it. You can only receive the painful, confused, sad, daughter in your arms and listen. Let her know she is safe to tell you she feels left out and don’t try to fill the void with food, or shopping, or quitting. All of this affirms the belief that something is wrong with the one who is being left out. Rather, we need to teach our daughters that its ok to be alone. It’s ok to be independent. It’s ok to be themselves. It’s o.k. to be left out! They need to know they are loved just the way they are. (See Mr. Rogers) They need one place where they are safe, accepted, and heard. They need one place where they are not left out. Hopefully that is home. If our homes are safe places where we fill their emotional cups with good thoughts of self-worth, then when they go to those places where they are emptied, they have something to draw upon to sustain them.
What do we tell our daughters when they feel left out? We tell them we love them, just the way they are.
“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”
― Fred Rogers