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27 Sep 2018

How being excluded as a child has affected me to this day

I had a great childhood. I had a loving family, I grew up in the countryside, spent my time outdoors playing all kind of games and I had two best friends who had imaginations as elaborate as my own. It was innocent and fun, exactly what a childhood is supposed to be. However, there are some bad aspects of my childhood that I can't seem to forget about and when I think of them today, as a 25 year old, they still upset me. 

In primary school I had one best friend, Melanie. One of us would not be seen without the other and we would spend our weekends having sleepovers at each others house. I loved her to bits and I am forever grateful to have had her in my life especially since the other 8 girls in my class completely excluded us.

It's really sad to think about now because all the other girls in our class excluded us from the beginning of primary school, which is like 5 years old. That is SO young. How could that even have happened?! What reason would they have had?

Physical and verbal bullying is terrible but I think exclusion is just as bad, and doesn't get noticed as a form of bullying as much. For example, I remember a boy a few classes below me being pinned up against a wall by some other pupils and the teachers understandably rushing to stop it. But why didn't they encourage the girls to included Melanie and I at lunch time, and not walk away when we tried to play with them.

I will never forget the time when one of the girls had to read out stuff about herself and tell the class who her friends were, she listed every girl in the class except Melanie and I. And this was one of the nicer girls who I did talk to every now and again. I will never forget the feeling at the pit of my stomach when I realized we were left out. The feeling of not being good enough. I thought she liked me, but clearly she thought she wouldn't be considered cool if she put me in the list. 

Because the 'cool' girls didn't want to be friends with us, no one else did and we were completely outcast by everyone.

As well as the exclusion, there were some mean words said to us every now and again, usually by people who wanted to get in with the 'cool' crew. I can't believe I'm actually talking about primary school kids here. I also heard many nasty words said about me behind my back.

It was never anything massively serious, but being ignored for 8 years of your life by your peers at such a young age is something that does stick with you. It makes you feel like a loser, like there is something wrong with you and no one will ever like you. It has hugely affected my self esteem up until this very day.  

I went in to secondary school with the mindset that no one would want to be my friend. I was painfully shy, I found it so hard to talk to anyone because I thought I would say something stupid and they would think I am weird. 

I will never forget this one time in first year of secondary school when I sat at a table with a group of girls, I was trying to get involved in the conversation and I felt so happy that now maybe things would be different and I would have more friends, maybe it was just those girls in primary school who had a problem with me, maybe all these new people would give me a chance.

Anyways, I got distracted by something behind me and was staring away for a while. when I turned around every girl at the table had got up and left without saying a word. I found myself sitting alone in the cafeteria with nobody, sick to my stomach and ready to cry. 

I just came to accept that I would never be popular and that most people wouldn't want to be my friend. I didn't really try to get friendly with people out of fear of inevitable rejection.

Up until this day I find it so hard to make friends. Most of the time I don't even bother trying with people. I constantly feel like they wouldn't like me and that I am not cool or interesting enough. I went through most of my school and college years with very few friends, if any.

My throat is tightening up writing this because it makes me so sad that a small group of people in primary school have had such a big influence on my entire life. Things could have been so different.

One of my biggest issues in my life right now is my fear of rejection, rejection in all aspects of my life, and that 100% stems from my childhood. 

It makes me so angry to think how if things were different, if maybe I went to a different school my confidence today could be so much better. 

The way I was treated by people, who I haven't seen in years and who are out living their lives to the fullest, is still affecting me today. 

I'm not writing this because I want to throw a pity party or to gain any sympathy. I just want to highlight how exclusion is a form of bullying and there should be more awareness about it in schools. It can have a lasting impact on someone and it needs to be dealt with. 

I'm also writing this because if you have gone through something similar I want to extend a warm hug and hope you feel less alone now. 

Hopefully one day soon, I will be completely confident in myself and it won't effect me anymore, I am so much better than I used to be so I know I am progressing slowly.

So many people have gone through so much worse things in their childhoods and have come out the other side and gone on to be greatly successful, so I know it is possible.

I'm just trying to master the art of leaving the past in the past and live in the present. 

Sinéad x

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