It’s Friday night, and you’ve had a fantastic week. That cute boy in your math class talked to you today and you didn’t sound like an idiot when you answered him back. You’ve replayed the conversation in your head a couple of times, and are quite proud of how you came across to him. You were funny and clever! There was banter. Jokes, even! You were on point. Your hair actually cooperated this morning, and you felt beautiful all day. Your mom didn’t even nag you to clean your room. You have no homework, can sleep in tomorrow, and have a good weekend on the horizon. You sit down on your bed and start scrolling through social media. Lighthearted and happy.
You come across a post on Instagram that stops you in your tracks. Your stomach lurches as you see three of your good friends hanging out together.
Suddenly, and without warning, all the happiness you felt vanishes and you find yourself feeling worthless and alone. You tear up immediately. Today is the worst day ever. You are ugly, awkward, and have no friends. Life is horrible.
How many times has this happened to you?
I’ll admit that it’s happened to me a few times, and I’m a 42-year-old mother of three who is married to her cute boy and should know better. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we let others define our happiness?
There is nothing more devastating than feeling left out or feeling like we don’t matter to others. When I was a teenager, there was no social media or instant documentation of our lives. If your friends were hanging out without you, you only found out about it if you bumped into them somewhere. In many ways, it was a lot easier.
Since we can’t be guaranteed an invite to every single event, here is my advice to help you cope when it happens to you.
First of all, Don’t judge prematurely. Before you freak out and write your friends out of your life, stop. You don’t know what happened to put that social situation together. It was not a conspiracy to leave you out. Maybe it was a mom who orchestrated the outing (goodness knows, we moms often get it wrong). Maybe they all happened to bump into each other at the same place and decided to make a night of it. Maybe there was only room in the car for three because your friend’s mom had to drive her two brothers to soccer practice. Maybe they’re getting together to plan YOUR surprise birthday party. You just never know. It is virtually impossible to invite everyone to everything, and sometimes situations just come up. Because you don’t know the full story, don’t assume that it was planned in order to exclude you. You know your friends and they love you. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Don’t take it personally. Every single human on the planet needs some form of companionship. We all crave interaction and camaraderie. Your friends are not getting together in a plot to ruin your life. It’s not about you; your friends getting together is about them. Yes, it hurts to be left out, but it’s an inevitability that we will not get invited to everything. Not because we’re lame or unlikable, but because that’s just how life goes. Choose instead to find a way to be happy. Spend time with your family or invite another friend over. Use this as an opportunity to get caught up on laundry while watching your favorite shows on Netflix. Clean and organize your room. Breathe and relax.
When you see your friends next, don’t punish them. It’s hard to be the bigger person and let the hurt roll off, but you have to. Don’t make your friends feel guilty for having fun without you; it spoils the experience for them. Your bad attitude may sour them on inviting you next time. You don’t want to be invited out of obligation. You want to be invited because you’re fun and flexible. Be cheerful; be happy. And if you can’t be positive about it, be quiet. Just don’t bring it up. The worst thing you can do is set a trap for them by vaguely asking about their weekend plans, ready to spring your hurt and anger on them as soon as they tell you. Just move on and find other ways to strengthen your friendship.
Evaluate yourself honestly. If you constantly find yourself excluded, what kind of a vibe do you put out? Are you always complaining about how tired you are and that you just want to go home? Are you negative and inflexible when it comes to activities that others want to do? Perhaps it might be time to look inward and see if you are being the kind of friend that you know you ought to be. A friend who complains incessantly, is needy and mean, is not often the friend you think of inviting first. Be the friend who is happy and positive, who is supportive and fun. Your friends will crave that kind of energy and seek your company often.
Lastly, Plan your own party. Don’t sit home waiting to be invited — have an event yourself! If you are are always feeling left out, be the one who invites others in. Be the one who organizes the fun and makes sure all your best girls are included. Have a movie night at your house, organize a group to meet at a restaurant for dinner, or go get makeovers together at the mall. Don’t depend on others for your social life; be the one who instigates it. Also, be mindful of your own posts on social media. Evaluate who may or may not be hurt by what you post. Be careful of the tender feelings of others. Don’t purposely flaunt your good times at the expense of others. You know how it feels to be left out. Never be the reason someone else feels that way.
Most of all, do not tie your worth to the actions of others. You are not defined by the friends you keep or the parties you go to. You are fantastic, just as you are.
Has this ever happened to you? How do you cope when you feel left out?