"LETTER TO MY MIDDLE SCHOOL SELF: DEALING WITH EXCLUSION"
Unfortunately, I know how exclusion feels all too well. I have experienced exclusion periodically throughout middle school and high school. Each time I was faced with that gut-wrenching feeling of being left out, I was not prepared to deal with it.
I do not want any of you to have that same feeling as me. No one should have to feel like they aren’t “pretty” enough or “cool” enough to hang out with a group of people. As I have grown up, I have found different ways to cope with this behavior, and I want to share my trials and errors with you.
In middle school when I was excluded by my ‘friends’, I would always stay with that group of friends. I would try to be funnier, to be nicer, to look prettier, just to get their approval. I thought this was the only way I would get my friends back, but it didn’t work. I was strung along by friends who truly did not care about me, and I constantly felt like I was not good enough.
As high school approached, I grew sick and tired of that feeling. I decided that I would jump ship. I would leave the group of friends I had identified with for my entire childhood, and I would try to find new friends.
I am not going to lie, this was terrifying. I was scared that no one else would want to be my friend. I feared that I would be more upset with no friends, than I was with my fake friends.
Let’s stop there. Reread that last sentence, I feared that I would be more upset with no friends, than I was with my fake friends.
That belief was the thing that held me back. It took time for me to realize that I was better off having a few friends than I was having a group of friends who treated me poorly.
Over time, I did make new friends in my classes, at sports practices, and in club meetings that I attended. I really had to put myself out there and be myself in order to make true friends. It took a lot of courage to stay true to who I was and trust that new and better friends would come along.
I urge all of you to believe in that quote from Hansen. Reread it. Think about it. Talk to someone about it. I know how you feel if you are struggling with exclusion, but I also know how you can escape that situation and turn it into something positive.
Here is my email for any of you who have questions or need someone to talk to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are not alone. There is a whole world of people who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated. You just have to be brave enough to go out and find them.