We are all familiar with that junior high feeling of being left out of something. You know, when you’re shunned from the lunch table with an icy stare. It’s not only painful, but it opens the door to a whirlwind of other emotions that want to hop along for the ride and pull you deeper into your feelings of insecurity and dwindling self-confidence.

When you reach a certain age, you naturally believe that these feelings will stop. You think that by virtue of being a grown up, you will automatically be a beacon of confidence and have it all together. Never again will a feeling of inadequacy plague you or your delicate ego. 

Not so.

It turns out that those feelings don’t really stop no matter our age. It’s human nature for us to default to comparing ourselves to others things and their lives. We want to be part of a group, and historically, it’s been a primal part of survival. In the group, we can share, help, protect, and belong. We want that. But in those moments of weakness and insecurity, what can we do to keep ourselves from spiraling into those feelings of being left out?

Confirm that your assumptions of exclusion are real

You have to be sure that what you think is happening, is actually happening. Are you being left out or shunned, or is there a reasonable explanation for why it appears this way? Many times our fears can prove to be inaccurate, so it’s definitely worth considering the possibility that it isn’t personal. It turns out that it’s really easy to have runaway emotions around this kind of thing, so just slow down and make sure you’re not misinterpreting the situation. There’s a good chance you’re wrong about what’s happening.

Recognize it and let it be

Let’s say that your fears are confirmed and now you have to deal with the chalky pill of truth. It happens. People grow, interests change, there are a lot of reasons why someone may pivot away from you. Feel whatever you’re feeling, then be strong enough to just set it aside. Don’t criticize yourself or try to hypothesize why it happened. Just accept it and do something to soothe your wounded self, like a nature walk, a nice bath, or reading, until you’re back to yourself.

Connect with someone so you’re not alone

Directing your feelings toward talking to someone is a common and effective solution to moving past the pain. Whether in real life or online, someone you know, or a new group or person on social media, this is a great way to steer yourself right out of the habit of prolonged sadness and frustration. It could even lead to new and fulfilling relationships for you. There are many resources we have as adults that aren’t afforded to us in junior high. You have options, so take advantage of them.

Create some confidence boosting activities

If you’re consumed with feeling like an outcast or being shunned, it may be time to reflect on who you really are. You’re a good person, worthy of being treated well and living a beautiful life. You have talents and gifts, and if for some reason you’re not vibing with someone or they truly have tried to distance themselves, then it’s probably for the best. Expanding your horizons could be really good for you, and even open the door to realizing that you’re in control of your amazing life, and you get to choose how you live it.

This too shall pass

Time. The magical healer of most of our emotional wounds. It’s true that in the moment you’re facing rejection or being left out, little else matters other than seeing red and feeling blue. But it will pass. And as with most things, something will be learned or gained from the experience. You’ll go back to the activities that helped you get past it last time, and not only will it get easier, but you’ll become stronger and learn important things about yourself.

Life is all about growing and doing better next time. Things are going to sting, and we have to have our emotional tool kit ready when they do. We can all look back at some of the things we’ve overcome and feel pretty good about how well we handled them. Maybe there are a couple things we didn’t do as well on, but that’s par for the course. 

One thing is for sure. Being shunned from the proverbial lunch table is easier now than it used to be. There are unlimited tables and all of them have a seat for you. You just have to decide which one suits you best and take your spot.