A funny little thing happened to me on Friday which I am inclined to make too much of. See what you think.
So I’m attending a rather fab workshop all around finding a niche for your coaching practice. For those of you who aren’t coaches, this is a topic which preoccupies coaches quite a lot – the theory being that if you don’t specialise in a particular strand of something which particular clients need help on, you will not stand out from the crowd and those particular clients will not be able to find you. And then you will not get any clients. And then you will not be able to be a coach. And then … this is the really terrible part – you will have to get a job instead.
Which is every coach’s biggest fear in the whole wide world.
For those of you who are wondering what my niche is, this is still a little bit of a work in progress although if you have a look at my home page you will see that I work with people who have a restless yearning deep inside that needs expression – try saying that without making fun of yourself at a party.
Anyway so at this workshop the whole thing kicks off with a game that involves us all standing in a circle. Everyone puts their hand up and then one person selects another person by pointing to them and saying ‘you’ and then the ‘you’ person selects someone else for the ‘you’ treatment and on and on and on till everyone’s got their hand down. Then we do the whole thing again only you have to remember the person you chose thus powerfully exemplifying how even on such a random basis we do choose people for some reason – however unconscious.
Cool game, no?
Well yes, but the only thing is I have had a deep unease around these kind of games ever since the age of seven when I went to Bernice’s party and got in a big muddle when we played something similar – only to music. I arrived a bit late and therefore was not fully au fait with the rules. At some point I was chosen to be the person in the middle and in my nervousness I came in too early with the whole selection thing. A small amount of confusion ensued at which point everyone quite disproportionately laughed their heads off. It took me years to get over the humiliation and injustice – actually I’m not over it as is shown by this whole sad little tale.
So here we are on Friday and the game starts. I’m feeling nervous on two counts – suppose I’m chosen and get the game wrong (as per my childhood trauma) or suppose I’m not chosen for any manner of reasons my saboteurs would have an absolute field day with.
So what way do you think it went?
Oh, the agonisingly lengthy process. There must be about thirty people in the circle so it all takes a while. Everyone’s laughing away and looking round the circle and some ‘muppets’ (popular word lately you may have noticed) get it a bit wrong and everyone laughs along. It’s all so much good natured fun as everyone gets chosen and all those hands go down, and the possibility for me getting chosen becomes less and less. Even when someone looks in my direction they choose my neighbour. I am smiling away as well but inside I am getting a little desperate. Choose me. Choose me. I don’t even care now if I screw up. I’ll take my chances. I just don’t want to be last.
I can hardly believe it but I can – there’s a terrible inevitability to all this. I’m not going to get chosen. I am not going to get chosen. There are only two people left. Me. And the person standing next to me. What’s worse? To be the second to last person? Or the last person? There may be some merit to the latter option on account of singularity I agree, but it still means that no one, not even one person has chosen you.
It is time. The hand comes down, eye contact is made, the finger points… but not to me. It’s over. My lucky, lucky neighbour, popular and wanted, is the chosen one. I sense her relief as her hand goes down and she turns to me because actually there’s no one left to choose. Do I detect sympathy – embarrassment even – in her smile as she looks at me and points? I don’t want her sympathy. We both know that I am not being chosen. I am merely the last sad pathetic being with her pathetic stupid little hand still up.
Later on for reasons even I don’t understand, I decide to make my complete humiliation even more complete by announcing to the group that I didn’t get chosen. More fun, more laughter. You can’t say that I don’t know how to laugh at myself. Well I’d better before someone else does.
Why didn’t I get chosen?
And why you might rightly ask, is a grown woman making such a big deal out of something so unimportant, something so random and irrelevant? Why in fact is she behaving like a seven year old at a kids’ party? When on earth is she ever going to grow up?
And I must be honest with you. Since I wrote this I have hummed and haad about whether I should post it. After all, on a certain level it doesn’t show me in a particularly good light. But despite my slight reservations I see an important lesson.
There are times when all of us even as adults feel left out or excluded from the game. When we feel invisible or unnoticed. Perhaps even unwanted? However mature we become, however grown up and empowered, we all want to belong. We all want to be chosen and included. And when we are not, we feel small and undermined – we most certainly do not feel the strength and power of being OUT LOUD.
And as I think more deeply about what happened, I recall that as I declared to the group that I had not been picked, I detected compassion for me in the room– and empathy. And as that occurred it was as though the group drew me back in and included me once more.
So this is my message this week – if you sometimes feel excluded please find the courage to say so, declare it OUT LOUD. Don’t stay alone and be an outsider – express your painful (perhaps shameful?) feelings and ask for what you need. And please trust that someone will hear you and gather you in.
I am curious – is it just me? Or do you also sometimes feel excluded? What are your feelings when that happens? And how do you cope? Will you share your experience by leaving a comment below?
And if you have a restless yearning deep inside to make your presence felt more powerfully so that you get noticed and chosen, then please contact me at and we can start the conversation.
Yep … I’ve been floored by that thing of being not chosen too and it can be so very, very painful …
I know some will say that feeling that need to be chosen is a form of giving your power away – and they probably have a point. But when you’re in the throes of being excluded – or feeling excluded – it is simply horrid!
It’s late now – too late to get stuck in writing a whole megilla – but I didn’t want the day to pass without me acknowledging what you wrote here – and that you’ve put it out here – OUT LOUD …
Hey Annie, thanks so much for the interesting perspective on ‘giving your power away’ – love to hear more x
Well giving your power away in the sense that the need to be chosen can mean that we’re depending on someone else to shore us up …
It can hold us in a passive ‘victimy’ place – where we’re letting them decide if we are worth bothering with – if we are worthy of their time and attention, of being ‘chosen’. Our sense of self-worth depends on them – they hold our fate in their power and we’ve let them – dammit! 😉
How do they feel about it? Some might love it … and I can imagine some might feel burdened by it – feeling weighed down with the responsibility of it all.
Does that make any sense? When we don’t NEED to be chosen (in an emotional sense) they feel light and spacious. We we do there is something heavy in the air …. something like that!
I so empathise with that feeling of exclusion and both wanting and not wanting to be chosen – the ambivalence in case we screw up if we are chosen. Yep! You are soooo not alone … too right.
From when I was packed off to summer school when I was 8 years old and I didnt’ know a soul and we had to pair-up for a shower and no-one chose me as their shower buddy … to when I was 12 or 13 and Mark S refused to kiss me at Paul R’s birthday party when we were playing ‘spin the bottle’ – to oh I have a whole list of them.
I know how upset I can feel when someone chooses to spend their time with somebody else not me – especially when it’s someone I really want to spend my time with. I want it to be mutual, reciprocal. I choose them and I want them to choose me. And sometimes they do and sometimes they do not … and oh the misery when they do not!
Have you ever come across The Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling? It’s been around a while now. Interesting stuff.
And in a business sense – yep I can fall into a numbing panic when I see my peers pal up to partner and co-produce (programs, not children!). What don’t they want to work with me? What’s wrong with me? What if I choose them and instead of being thrilled they back away? Glaze over?
Ah the power politics of being chosen … xx
p.s. I’m so glad that after you hummed and haad about whether to post this piece, you did …
I believe that risk and courageous acts like this open up the space for others to accept and express vulnerability and strength.
I love the TED videos with Brené Brown talking on Vulnerability and Shame and I’d encourage everyone to watch them.
Oh and I love your mischievous humour too … especially that bit about coaches and that horrible fear of maybe having to get a job. That humour and keen intellect are glowing! As is your compassion, energy and warmth. Both quietly and OUT LOUD – yes … x
Oh Annie, I love all that you have written. You are right – even as everybody teams up cosily together, I often feel I want to be apart – be separate, be myself, standing proud and alone. And not forgetting our great leader, Groucho ‘I wouldn’t want to join a club that has me as a member’ I love Brene Brown too and heard her voice on shame as I wrote this post. Thanks so much for the lovely acknowledgments – I’m glad to be in your club x
Wow, powerful post and also very glad you did post it. And wonderful courage shown. something that comes up for me is when i was excluded from a girls night out at work. i found out by accident they were all going out by accidently seeing another girls email invite. i was pretty upset as these were my friends. i didnt cope very well and shut myself off from the girl that sent the email. in fact, a year later i still give her the cold shoulder. so i guess, i didnt handle it very well. what helped was talking to my BF about it who gave me lots of love and made me feel good about me.
Great sharing Sonia, and I love that you also shared (was out loud) with your boyfriend who helped you to feel loved and wanted again. Nice BF!
Hi Rona, by BF i meant best friend 🙂 but boyfriend/hubby is also pretty special!
I choose you everytime!
Oh good because I always want to be in your gang
Lovely to be in your club too, Rona! xx
Mmmm the whole exclusion thing is a biggie for me.
You can only feel excluded if you truly care and want to be included.
Well – at least that rings true for me.
I know but even if I don’t care, I don’t want to feel left out. My insecurities I suppose x
We’ve all got them 🙂
Hi Rona, I want to say thank you for sharing this story, I have come across it just as I too have experienced an unsettling situation where I felt excluded and have been questioning myself why it affected me so much. I didn’t feel a particular connection with the group but feeling unaccepted was still unsettling especially as the exclusion was unspoken but was definitely felt by me. For me, what I take from the experience is that it triggered in me not so much the need to be “chosen” but to be “seen” and appreciated for my different contribution I could bring to the group, instead of being excluded because I brought something different to the group. As I’ve gotten older I don’t feel the obsession to feel popular anymore (something which drives alot of us to make poor decisions about how we spend our time and affections!)and have realised that looking for acceptance from outside of yourself is a thankless/unending/unsatisfying task! Still, it can be unsettling to feel unseen. But being authentically you is all you can be. Afterall, who is the most important person who needs to like and appreciate you? Only You! So, I’ve come to the conclusion, I don’t need anyone to choose me, I choose me 1st and every time!
Sharon, thanks so much for sharing this with us. I completely agree with what you say about self acceptance first – at least in my head I do. But oh, it is a lonely place to be when others just don’t see your light. Let’s all ensure that at least we are as inclusive as we can be and celebrate our differences – there is so much to learn from each other when we do.