Of all the things we spend time, energy, and money working toward, insider–ness is king. We want desperately to be “in the know” and part of the “in crowd” or the inner circle. We see clubs, groups, cliques, teams, parties, schools of thought, and families everywhere to which we don’t belong and wish we did.
This feeling – of being an outsider – is universal. The cool kids at school experience it: they look to some other group, maybe at another school, and think “I’d be happier if I were more like them.”
Your boss – the one whose job you want and think you could do better – experiences it, and feels the same way about their boss.
The beautiful people on the covers of Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, GQ, and Glamour all feel it, too. As long as there’s someone getting paid more, or occupying a bigger share of the spotlight, or huddled up talking in whispers just out of earshot, they’re just as convinced as you and me that they don’t have what it takes. That if they were prettier or smarter or knew had cooler friends that they’d be part of some inner-er inner circle than they’re in presently.
The truth is, we waste a lot of time trying to earn our way into these groups. It’s actually pretty easy, and it doesn’t require a secret handshake, plastic surgery, or nine-figure income.
Here’s the secret: stop trying to be someone you’re not, and start spending time with people genuinely like you and are like you instead.
C.S. Lewis says this on the matter, in The Weight of Glory:
“… If in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will find that you have come unawares to a real inside, that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric, for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship.”
When I turned thirty I decided it was time to stop doing things out of obligation. I was tired of going to parties where I didn’t like anyone just to make other people happy. I was tired of pretending to like that sports team or this politician so I’d have something to talk about at meetings at work.
Instead, I’ve focused on becoming bolder in my faith and more comfortable in my own skin. Know what I’ve found? I’ve made more and better friends. I’m happier. I have more time to spend with my wife and on hobbies and in God’s word. As a result of those things, I’ve had time to think clearly and pray diligently about my present circumstances and future hopes and dreams. In short: by following the God-given desires of my heart instead of chasing false promises and unattainable goals, I’m becoming more of the strong, healthy, wise, Godly person I’ve always wanted to be.
And so will you.