Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Odd Girl Out" or "One of a Kind"?

Dear Friends,
When I first posted this, I left out an important point.  It is now included in red print.  Thank you to my Facebook friend who reminded me of his own experiences and to Nance for her comment.

I imagine that most females in our culture have experienced the pain of exclusion.  Maybe we've been the "odd girl out" in a friendship trio; maybe we've been rejected by the Queen Bee and Wannabes; or maybe at some point in our lives, we've been outside the charmed circle of sorority or club membership, or that happy little group of women who lunch, shop, or play cards together.

If you haven't been the excluded one, you may be just a generation or two away.  The probability of being the "odd girl out" is high for our daughters and granddaughters.  The shifting sands of "best friends forever" and junior high and high school cliques may be a training ground for self-doubt in adulthood. That self-doubt may promote that same behavior of exclusion in ourselves and our children.

Probably most of us have been on the giving as well as the receiving end when it comes to exclusion.  In my mature years, I can now see where I have been guilty.  I congratulated myself on being open to friendship when I was a girl and actually described my "group" that way.  But the fact that we were a "group" has implications; there were girls I didn't know, girls I didn't make the effort to know.  The loss was mine.

There's another term that I like: "One of a Kind".  It implies, to me, the type of person who sets herself/himself apart.  It's an internal quality over which the individual has control.  You can make yourself "one of a kind" by paying attention to your own special gifts/interests/values and developing that part of yourself that is like no other.

"One of a Kind" is an insurance policy.  I believe it protects us from feeling "less than" because of someone else's determination that we are the odd girl out.  It transcends friendship because we are always centered in ourselves, but it can enrich friendships because it recognizes the unique qualities that we treasure about ourselves and others.

It is important for adults to guide young people in finding and developing that "one of a kind". Some young people are fortunate to have that special adult in a teacher, counselor, or older friend. When that isn't the case, some (rare) young people are able to nurture themselves; others can turn to bad substitutes.

We can ask ourselves the question, the next time we feel like an outsider:  Am I the odd girl out or one of a kind?  And whose decision is it?  Whose decision should it be?



♥ Sonny ♥ said...

I hope lots of young folks or any folks are drawn to this post to read your very wise words..
Learning to honor one's unique qualities and realize our individual power is far more important that any group or mob mentality, is what will get a person through the smooth and rough times of their life.
thank you for your post. I enjoyed it very much.

Nance said...

You've articulated the strategy I used throughout high school...without conceptualizing it consciously. Being different but interested in the stories of others allowed me to be a part of several disparate groups. I could drop in as I saw fit and be welcomed many places. For a shy girl, that was the answer. We must do what we can to help our grandchildren individuate in that fortunate way.

Savvy Working Gal said...

What a wonderful post. If only I had discovered I was "One of a kind" rather than the odd gal out my teenage years may have been much happier.

My niece who is nine is and an incredible athlete with an interest in all things sports came home crying everyday from summer day camp last year. The other girls, not interested in her sports talk, spent the days playing princess games and picking on her. Not sure where the camp leaders were. My brother ended up pulling her out of the camp. I love the idea of instilling her with “a |you are “one of a kind” mentality.

Stopping in from LBS.

eleanore said...

I like the idea of swapping in "one of a kind" for "odd girl out". I do worry, though, that insisting on being One of a Kind unconsiously forces one to always set oneself apart, never being part of the group/team. This may not be productive. The question is can any of us continue to celebrate our One of a Kind-ness, while still being included when we need/want to be?

The Spinsterlicious Life (and sister LBS)

Big D and Me said...

Wow - you are a wonderful writer. I really enjoyed reading this but at the same time it just worries me for my daughter. I didn't have a rough time in high school but I was never in "the group." I pray my daughter is able to navigate this tricky time. In my mind she is one of a kind.

Annie Joy said...

What good and thoughtful comments on my post! Eleanor, I know just what you mean about not being a part of a group/team. But perhaps each person's developing their own "one of a kind" qualities will make for better teams and groups, with each member bringing their own fully-developed strengths to the group. With young girls, particularly, sometimes those qualities can be down-played in order to be accepted. I think that's what we want to discourage, so that the decision, as you said, belongs to the individual who wants/needs to be included and not with the group, who may have the power to make the individual feel like "the odd girl out". Annie

The Blonde Duck said...

I've always been the odd girl out, so this meant a lot to be.

And I wished I lived with seasons...this is S. Texas!


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