Maybe having a dozen primary schools when I was younger is the reason, but I hate the feeling of being on the outer. That feeling of ‘it’s not that you can’t join us, it’s that you are not one of us.’
The absolute revulsion for that feeling ironically is getting stronger the older I get – ironic because the older I get, the incrementally less I care or need to belong. Growing up that feeling was a constant and had me permanently in a state of trying to fit in and the anxiety that comes with it. For many reasons – even in one primary school, my childhood hospitalisation and medical needs would have probably placed me on the outside and my aptitude at school would not have helped. Now, however, those things would not have been anywhere as much of an impediment.
In fact, in today’s society, it’s never been more OK to be off centre, outside the norm or ‘nearly but not quite.’
But the feeling still makes me feel sick, and icky and uncomfortable. I am just better at getting on with things now.
Workplaces are tough, moving to a new place and trying to get friends and supports in place is even tougher. For me though, where conformity, jargon and prior knowledge is needed are the worst.
The best example of this is a gym. There are words and terminology used that are unfamiliar in the daily lexicon, there are rules about etiquette and such that can show you up as an outsider if you don’t know and follow them and there is equipment that you can waste your time on and injure yourself on if you don’t know how to use it.
‘But there are trainers to help you!’
True. And in all the gyms I’ve tried these trainers are young, fit, mildly impatient and with little or no empathy to you and where you are up to on your journey. Some gyms have had better instructors than others but it’s not hard to feel like you are nearly, but not quite right for the place.
They use jargon like you are expected to know it, from what they call the exercise to the name of the equipment. For the unfamiliar it’s intimidating. It’s not the terminology that is the problem but the assumption that I know what it is.
They repeat ‘motivating phrases’ without sincerity because they learnt they should something positive when training you.
And they are often unencumbered with the realisation that for many people – turning up is half the battle. Whether it’s because you struggle in the mornings, or your schedule is tight or your head is not in it or because you are intimidated to turn up and be ‘the new person’ every day in a class – for many, turning up is a win.
I know in my profession, this feeling of exclusion is actively taught as we are educated to try and remove jargon and such from our vocabulary with clients. And I know why.
And I know I struggle with being ‘nearly but not quite right’ in many settings – but currently I’m battling that feeling about gym. And since I joined a gym to allow me a place to exercise whenever I can, this makes it very hard.
But, reflecting on this makes it even more important to me to be inclusive wherever I am – a smile, a sincere welcome, removing assumptions, inviting people to join a conversation.