In our daily lives, we are inundated with images of beautiful people and strong, healthy bodies, and we consistently encounter places and situations that are not accessible like subways, restaurants, homes, etc. that leave us with the feeling that we don’t belong.

We inevitably internalize the implicit attitude that we are not wanted, we are not attractive, and we are not important enough to make an effort for. The heavy doors too difficult to open, the steps, the fast pace, can leave us feeling alienated, outcast, shamed, angry, rejected, and voiceless. There are many that struggle with these issues.

So, what do we do with the feeling that we don’t belong?

Disability or no disability, we are constantly measuring if we belong. The internalized feelings and experiences that I just referred to can turn into fixed beliefs about ourselves, and expectations that one will be rejected, shortchanged and deprived.

It’s affirming in a weird sort of way. This is who I am. This is what will happen. I know what to expect.

Stepping out of this fit can be daunting.

I have seen in my own personal work and in my work with others how our identities can transform and that is empowering and life-affirming.

The more you think and feel certain things, the more you behave in certain ways, the more your attitudes and beliefs solidify, so much so that you don’t even have to think.

If most of your thoughts and feelings are based on your past experiences, habitual ways of thinking, feeling and being, then your future is already written by your past.

To step out of the habit of being yourself is to step into the present moment, commit to cultivating awareness of these habits, ask yourself what you want, who you want to be, and awaken to the responsibility of creating a new present and a new future that is not just repeating the past. This means to be the change you want before it happens.

Stay tuned for more on addressing the feeling that we don’t belong next week.

If you haven’t already read the book, it’s a great place to start: Living With Chronic Illness Handbook.

David B. Younger, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist specializing in working with people with chronic health conditions with a web-based private practice and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 13-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.

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