Anyone else feel like the outsider friend? Like you don’t really completely belong?

Me too. I’m the mom of an only child. I married young and had my one-and-done at 21. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be an empty nester at 40. I went back to school late in life and just recently finished college. My career requires me to work weekends. I’m definitely non-traditional. I often feel like I don’t fit in. Many of the women my age are still in MOPS while we’re looking at colleges and considering the downsizing phase. I feel like I have a lot of nice, little, shallow but friendly interactions, but that I am often on the outside when it comes to going deeper or doing life together.

I know I’m not alone in this. Single ladies feel like everyone is married with kids. Older mothers feel like the other moms are all young. Women with big families or only one child feel like everyone has the typical 2.4 kids while their big or small brood stands out. There are as many reasons to feel different as there are women!

The problem is that we look at others and see similarities, but look at ourselves and see differences. We think the average is the norm. But when I stop and think about it, I realize that the people around me are more diverse than average. I know a lot of single adults—some parents and some not. I know a lot of seniors—some married, some not. I know a lot of empty nesters, and I know a lot of parents. Maybe I need to stop looking for people just like me to find friends.

And don’t get me started on social media and how that messes with our perception of reality. When I log on to social media and see couples out on a double date, or a group getting together without me, it’s easy to feel like everyone else has these rich relationships while I’m out of the loop. I start to see the little connections of others as evidence that they have big connections, while I look at my little connections and see them as proof that I only have little connections.

But there are things we can do!

-Be the one to initiate: If most people are out there thinking they are the outsider, then someone has to initiate! Step out and make the first move.

-Get together with people other than where you usually see them: The friendly little “Hi, how are you?” interactions at work and church won’t deepen into rich friendships until you spend time together getting to know one another. Have coffee with a church friend or volunteer after hours with a coworker. Open your home to others.

-Stop looking for a perfect fit and start spending time with whomever life brings you: Finding a “BFF” is kind of a juvenile concept. If you’re holding out for the one perfect match, you will miss out.

-Some people like to have lots of “friends” and others consider a small group of deep friends to be valuable. What good friendship looks like to you will be different than what it looks like to others. Don’t judge yourself (or others) on that difference.

-Life isn’t a performance or show. You don’t have to put only your best foot forward. Admit your slip-ups, post pictures without filters, laugh at your mistakes. Don’t wait until your house/body/life is “perfect” to let others in. You’ll never get there; you will always find a reason not to put yourself out there.

It feels vulnerable, but developing meaningful relationships requires opening up and spending time together. You can do this. We can do this.