This is a picture of my new shirt that I bought over the holiday break. Surprisingly, it took a little while to actually find a shirt like this- there weren’t many to choose from. Most of the images out there, with regards to this idea of “outlier” were related to statistics, data sets and analytical outcomes. They weren’t quite what I was looking for. Until I found this one.
Lexico.com defines “outlier” in the English language as “a person or thing situated away from or detached from the main body or system”. It also says that an outlier is defined as a “person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set”.
The word “outlier” as used in geology is defined as “a younger rock formation isolated among older rocks”. And in statistics, the word “outlier” is defined as “a data point on a graph or in a set or results that is very much bigger or smaller than the next nearest data point.”
Recently, I was talking with one of my nieces over the holidays and she was sharing what it felt like to be her in her family and community. She said to me “Auntie, I’ve always felt like I didn’t belong in my family.” In that moment, my heart broke both for her and for the child inside of me.
I knew what she was talking about. I know how it feels to be an outlier in the family group.
I am talking about my experiences growing up not only in my family, but in the world in general. I have always felt absolutely and totally on the periphery of everything.
As if there was not really ever a place for me. Like I was a part of things, but didn’t really belong. Most anywhere.
And here’s why…
I have always been able to see what’s not is not obvious and often no one wants to talk about.
I’ve always felt the undercurrents of emotional energy in other people and in the outside world experiences, and have always been able to recognize when what someone is saying doesn’t quite match up with their energy.
I’ve always been interested in depth, meaning, authenticity and connection. And in kindness.
Even when the rest of the world around me was downplaying, disregarding and dismissing these experiences as unnecessary for everyday living and functioning in the world.
I have always needed gentleness, calm, vulnerability and protection. I’ve needed caregivers and communities that were committed to consciousness, realness and responsibility, to kindness and regard for everyone.
I’ve needed openness and welcome for differences in opinion, structure, ideas and beliefs. And not just tolerance, but true, unabashed welcome.
I have always abhorred cruelty and violence, even when so much of this is in the ways that people interact with each other, the words that get used and the actions people take without care for another person.
And what makes being an “outlier” difficult is not because I am wired this way, not because I see, hear and feel deeply.
What makes being an “outlier” difficult is a direct result of how these parts of me were met by others when they showed up in me as a child.
Let me explain…
If enough of the time a part of our “true self” comes out into the open, we get met by something painful (shame, humiliation, negativity, physical or energetic violence, disregard, abandonment, etc,) then we begin to get conditioned to feel pain each time a part of our vulnerability, our true self opens up.It’s unconscious.
It happens to everyone.
And most of the time we don’t even know that it is happening.
In these situations, our Enneagram defense system kicks into action to protect our vulnerability from being assaulted and exploited any more than it already is.
And the only motivation, the only pursuit of our Enneagram defense is “no more pain”. So, all its energy is geared towards taking the least amount of risk in order to avoid emotional pain. Our defense system does not concern itself about whether or not we feel satisfied.
And this all happens unconsciously. Beneath our radar. Most of the time we are not even aware that this is even happening. And because it is an unconscious process, we cannot “think our way out” of this place.
And this folks, is how we become depressed, anxious, lost, unfulfilled, end up in addictions and just generally learn how to “survive”, hold ourselves back, isolate, not live our life to its fullest.
This way of living in the world certainly does NOT encourage tapping into our infinite potential.
This just becomes about surviving our world and experiences, not really being alive.
The only way to shift this is to dive into the deep emotional work of healing these unconscious places that were hurt and humiliated.
This happens in a place far below words, thoughts and cognition. Cognitive work just isn’t going to work on these kinds of situations.
As I sat with my niece and listened as she talked about what it felt like to her to be an outlier, it was like she was speaking the exact same words I would have said, when I was her age, had I had someone that I could talk to about something like this.
Someone who could have understood me and actually seen me.
I sat with my niece for a while longer, until she finished sharing about what this meant to her. Throughout all of this, I gave her connection for her experiences, letting her know that I believed her and that it made sense to me. And that I could feel how painful it was for her to have to live this experience.
I used to think a long time ago, that if I was being a “good mom”, “good auntie”, a “good sister” or a “good friend”, it was my job to make the other person feel better. Now I know differently.
What we need is connection and support to live through these painful experiences so that we can get to the other side and discover our need.
So I didn’t try to fix this for her or make her feel better. I gave her support for her experience and connection to her from my heart. I stayed with her through the whole thing. I stayed present.
When she was finished, I said to her, “You know kiddo, we ought to make an outlier club. We could get shirts to wear and help us remember that we do belong somewhere, there is a space designed EXACTLY for us.”
Immediately, her face lit up and she said “YES AUNTIE!”
So here it is: our official club gear.
If any of this sounds like you too, grab yourself a shirt and come join our club. There’s a space for you here too.