People get to decide who is they think is like them and who is not. They get to decide who is a member of their group.
They respond to people they see as peers, as one of them, in a different way than they do to outsiders. Kids, for example, will be more open to another kid than they will to someone they see as a grown-up.
Being excluded from the peer-group doesn’t mean that you aren’t valued, respected, liked or even loved. It just means that you are seen as different, out of the gang, not one of us. It means that you are kept a a bit of a distance, viewed with some suspicion, not quite embraced or welcomed.
One of the things that new managers have to come to grips with is that in taking their new position, they slide themselves out of the peer group. They are no longer one of the gang, they are management. They have more power and responsibility and can still can be valued, but some level of separation must inevitably happen.
As we learn and grow, taking more responsibility for our own power in the world, we find our peer group shrinking. People begin to see us as authority figures, representing what they are not yet willing to engage, and they begin to shrink from us.
We have to be prepared to stand on our own in a stronger way, to stand up for a a different set of values than the gang finds easy to hold.
There are rewards in this standing up, of course. It makes us stronger, more respected, giving us a sense of satisfaction and service. It brings the benefits of power, including higher status, even as it demands responsibility and separation.
A life spent without maturing, growing and owning our own power may be one where we don’t separate ourselves from the pack, but it is also one where we never get to use the gifts that we are given.
When I am in a group of people, I often think about how it might be good to be one of the gang. People would be more open to me, less resistant. That would be nice, I suspect.
Then I think about all the reasons I chose to be myself and not one of the gang. I know why I did the work I did, moving past peer pressure and convention to own my own mind and heart. Sure, I never really had a chance to be normative — my parents took that away from me — but in the end, I knew from a very young age that being boldly yourself was a great goal in a human life.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t long for the comfort and ease of peers It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel some twang at being held separate from the group. It doesn’t mean that I am not reminded of all the times I wanted to belong but ended up standing alone.
I know that I don’t get to pick who sees me as one of them. I also know that attempting to play along and fit in never really works that well for me, because in the end, I am who I am.
There is a group that I will always belong to. It is the group of human beings. I need to be confident that my membership in that group, my fundamental humanity, will always be true and visible.
But yeah, I’d like more peers.