Creating Circles: Embracing Others While Being An Outsider
I have been an outsider, almost from the very beginning. A “freak” on many levels. Strangely small, strangely clever, strangely surviving beyond the odds. I’ve got a rich, yet eccentric background that I’ve grown accustomed to – and deeply proud of – over time, in spite of (and perhaps because of) the challenges and bullying I have faced.
Difference doesn’t have to equal shame (which is fantastic since we are all gloriously different!) I’ve never striven to “fit in” – a good thing, as my mother commented last week, as it would have been a losing battle from the start.
In my first school photograph we were all lined up in our summer uniforms. Rows of girls in pink and white dresses with white lace socks and sandals. I am on the far right, doll-sized among my peers and wearing cherry red slippers, a spot of colour in a sea of fading faces.
Those fierce shoes still stand out after all this time. I love that.
For years I could pass as “normal”, if I tried very hard. But when I was 18, I got my first wheelchair and the differences became unmistakable.
Since then, people approach me on the street, ask about my prognosis, cry upon hearing it. Others touch my legs to see if I’m paralysed, put their hands on my head and pray while I’m shopping and question me about my internal organs at bus stops. These bizarre (yet all-too-common) experiences led to my first book.
And while being different can breed a brand of distinct strength and courage, there is inherent danger in being an outsider: the loneliness.
But the larger, more dangerous legacy is what follows feeling so wounded. The natural self-defence mechanism of shrinking away from the world and others.
It’s so easy when we are excluded to turn inwards – I didn’t want them anyway! They are stupid, and not as good as me. I’m not just different, not just special: I’m better!
The problem with such thinking? Labeling yourself “better” is only adding a further barrier, and the perception that those outside your own tiny circle are somehow “less”.
It’s how outsiders are created, and how we as outsiders ourselves can unintentionally exclude those that are “the norm”. There’s nothing so lonely as being the only one who is “right” or “special” or “enough”.
When you are shut out, how do you react? Do you (however unintentionally) shut out others in retaliation?
He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in!
Excerpt from “Outwitted”, ~Edwin Markham
It’s all about where the circles are drawn; who falls in and who falls out. And who decides the diameter of the circle in the first place? Very often, it is you.
To survive on the margins, we need to love our differences, draw our own circles and create support. Exactly what Devi is doing here with the Outsiders’ Network and I’m proud to support her.
Grace Quantock is a wellness provocateur, writer, speaker and founder of Healing Boxes CIC. She is thriving with multiple autoimmune illnesses and lives in south Wales. Read more at www.gracequantock.com | www.healing-boxes.com and follow Grace on Twitter: @grace_quantock.