Nothing is more painful than being in a room full of people who you admire and look up to and just feeling like you don’t belong in the same place.
Why do these feelings of inadequacy come about sometimes? It’s hard to say, but the damage that they can cause is apparent.
Feeling like you are a misfit can force you to look at yourself against others and believe that you aren’t as smart, talented, or deserving of success as the other person is.
No one knows more about lost opportunities because of that misfit feeling more than famed author Lidia Yuknavitch.
As she begins to tell her story, it doesn’t seem like she’s exactly the right person to be standing on a Ted Talks stage.
Before hitting 30, Lidia had dropped out of college twice, had a stint as a homeless woman. She had two failed marriages and time spent in jail under her belt.
At 30 years of age, she won a literary award for a short story she had written about her life. This award included a trip to New York to meet authors, publishers, and agents. During her entire time that she was in New York meeting people, she couldn’t speak. She felt like she didn’t belong in a world with smart and successful writers, so she kept quiet even as countless writers and agents offered her their services because they could see her talent.
She went back home to Oregon with only memories of her trip. It could have been different for her, though. She could have landed book deals or a literary agent during her time, but because she was so convinced that she didn’t belong, she stayed quiet.
Years later, she’s processed her emotions and has finally realized that she is deserving of wonderful success, and she’s come to think back on her story as the counter part to The Hero’s Journey. If you’re not familiar with The Hero’s Journey, it goes like this: A normal man is called to an adventure (e.g. saving a princess, kingdom, etc.). At first he refuses the call, but he then eventually realizes that he is the only one who can embark on this journey and he answers his call to adventure. During his journey, the hero faces many obstacles and challenges. He, of course, perseveres, and comes out the victor. Not only is he stronger after conquering his journey, but the hero walks away from the journey with amazing prizes (e.g. a princess, a crown, gold).
Lidia believes that she and other misfits like her don’t follow the storyline of The Hero’s Journey. They just don’t fit the mold.
They follow a journey she coins The Misfit’s Myth, which Lidia shares with us:
“Even at the moment of your failure, right then, you’re beautiful. You don’t know it yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself endlessly. That’s your beauty.
You can be a drunk. You can be a survivor of abuse. You can be an ex-con. You can be a homeless person. You can lose all of your money or your job or your husband or your wife. Or the worst thing of all, a child. You can even lose your marbles.
You can be standing dead center in the middle of your failure, and still … you are so beautiful. Your story deserves to be heard because you, rare and phenomenal misfit, are the only one in the room who can tell the story the only way you would – and I’d be listening.”
The myth sounds geared towards writers who feel like misfits, but it can be applied to anyone facing any situation because really at the heart of what she’s saying is that no matter what you’ve been through or where you currently are, you can transform yourself at any time when you’re ready.
So, when you happen to be at a networking event or meeting new people and that small out of place feeling starts to stir up, don’t listen to that small voice that’s telling you to keep quiet because you don’t belong.
Talk, laugh, and share with the people around you. You’re absolutely unique and deserve to have the spotlight as much as the next person. You’re deserving of anything and everything you want, so go out and get it.
1. Has there ever been a time or event when you feel like you didn’t belong?
2. How did you force yourself out of that mindset so that you realized you deserve just as much as anybody else?