Which is worse? Leaving a tribe behind, or being ASKED to leave the tribe??

I wrote earlier about how hard it is to leave a tribe we’ve outgrown or moved past.

A reader reminded me it’s even harder to leave when you don’t want to–but everybody else wants you to.

Is this scenario familiar? You have a special group of friends, good buddies. You’ve all been together for awhile and things are great.

Then one day a new person joins the group, usually invited in by one of the members.

It may start right away, or it may be insidious, but eventually, one of the original members of the group–YOU!!–is slowly but surely forced out.

Maybe you find out everyone else was invited to something. But not you. Or you are accused of talking about people behind their back. Maybe the new person is rude to you when no one else is around. But when you complain, everyone thinks you’re making it up.

The more frustrated and hurt you become, the more the group shuns you.

And one day, you are on the outside looking in. You are no longer part of the group.

This happened to me. I was in my forties, if you can believe it. (This is still humiliating to think about, but I was accused of stealing a tiny Rubbermaid container with Cheerios in it.) And ironically, it was me who invited the newcomer to join our group.

It seems ridiculous now, but at the time it was devastating. It was one of the most emotionally painful events of my life.

I had no idea what to do about it. It took awhile to get over it.

Then, a year later, I read an article about the same thing happening to somebody else, a kid who was in high school at the time.

A new kid joined his group of friends, who had been tight since first grade. Then the new kid spread rumors about him. Everyone turned on him. He was ousted from the group.

Fortunately, he had someone to counsel him. The wise words went something like this:

You cannot control what happened, because you cannot control what other people think. Since it’s not in your control, you must learn to let go, and move on. You may never learn why this happened, and it’s not important that you do.

This is the only thing you can know for sure: People who do this to you are simply not your friends.

The sad thing is, they may have been “good enough” friends for awhile. Maybe even for a long long time.

But when things got dicey, they cut and ran. They did not believe in you.

And so they weren’t really your friends.

Because real friends don’t do that.

Stay your course, believe in yourself, and follow your heart. You will make new friends, built on a stronger foundation. They will be better friends.”

It seems too simplistic to be helpful. But it helped.

First was the realization that this happens to others, too. I didn’t feel like such a pariah any more.

Comfort also came from realizing I had no control over what had happened. Therefore, I didn’t have to figure it out or even fix it. It was over, and it was time to let go.

The kid in the article moved on. He went to college, and made new friends. He began to value other, deeper qualities in his new friends–mutual respect, integrity, trustworthiness.

And the day came when one of his old friends contacted him to tell him that the group had finally broken up when the interloper tried the trick again. Everyone realized what had happened. He apologized and said he was sorry he had believed the rumors and lies.

It was nice of the guy to do that. But it didn’t really change anything. They resumed their friendship, but at a very casual level.

Whether you leave the tribe, or the tribe leaves you, the same thing is true…

They are not your tribe. Not any longer.

As Greg Behrendt says in his book, HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU, don’t waste the pretty. Don’t lose any more precious sleep or brain cells on figuring it out. Just be grateful you are free to explore your next step forward. And imagine the lovely new people you’ll meet on your way.

P.S. Of course, there’s always the possibility it IS you. Who can say? But the same advice applies. Move on if it’s causing you pain. Find the group that embraces your unique brand of irony.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

12 thoughts on “TRIBES #4: BEING THE PARIAH”

  1. Hi, boy did your post speak to me today, and believe it or not it happened roughly 40 years ago, when I was a tender 7th grader. Suddenly, “my group (all girls)”, totally shunned me (led by my ‘very best friend’), I don’t to this day know why or what happened. I’ve searched my heart for years and it still, to this day, has a huge effect on my friendships (or lack of same). Unfortunately, I didn’t have any wise counsel, and it has haunted me. One good thing did come of it, as it forced me to accept the friendship of some very nice people who just didn’t happen to ‘fit into the “in” group’, but I’ve never trusted a female friendship since. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me too much, but every once in awhile. . . Believe it or not, my head accepts it and I am not a grudge holder, but it still has the power to hurt my heart. Your post today hopefully will help me put it in the past and leave it there. Thanks, Smiles, Sue C


    1. Sue, I am SO GLAD this has helped you heal a little. I know, those old wounds can go so deep. I still carry a few!
      But perhaps your experiences will help you be a “wise counsel” to someone else. Or you will find your own way to work through it. Maybe that will help you finally lay that hurt to rest.


  2. What a great post, Luann!

    I imagine we all become “Pariahs” at one time or another. “Letting Go” after leaving a tribe (or being booted from one) is the hardest part. It did something to my psyche for a while … and the BAD part of that was that I became distracted from my artistic goals. (Personally, I think the worst thing that can happen to an artist is to lose her focus & confidence.)

    Once I was able to send the hurt & frustration into the wind (to let go) I realized that each of us ‘sees’ the world through our own rose (or turquoise, or yellow) colored glasses. Whether we choose change or it is forced upon us, we can either take the glasses off for clarity, or keep them on forever – in which case we will never see any new possibilities.

    In spite of the negativity created when a tribe disintegrates – or I’ve felt like I, myself, have disintegrated – I have found that the true friends I have made in those groups have remained my friends, regardless of who stays or leaves the old tribe.

    It all boils down to acceptance (letting go). I hate to be hokey by quoting that phrase I am sick to death of seeing, but it is so appropriate here … “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    Thank you for, Luann, for being wise.


    1. Deb, that phrase isn’t hokey, it’s true. And this was a great place to quote it–thanks!
      Thank you, too, for sharing your thoughts about your experiences. I loved what you said about recognizing that the REAL damage came through as distracting you from your art.
      Because our art is about WHO WE ARE, and anything that detracts/distracts from that, is keeping us from knowing our true heart.


  3. Exactly! It still hurts occasionally, even after a year and a half, but having that free time allowed me to develop friendships in another area that I wouldn’t have had time for otherwise. It wasn’t until I was ousted that I realized how much time I was spending with this group that had nothing to do with growing my skill, my psyche or my creativity. And you’re right, there were too many people to really develop strong relationships with any one person.
    Here I am a year and a half later, and I spend all my ‘free’ time taking care of an aging parent, so in retrospect, my leaving my tribe came at an excellent juncture in my life. I would have had to leave anyway.
    Thanks for another excellent post,


    1. E.S., your experience reminds me that sometimes we can’t see the story until we are on the other side.

      I’m glad your pariah experience was something you could see a bright side in.

      Geez, it didn’t take you very long. Ack! You’re more evolved than I am! (Couldn’t resist.) Good on you re: the fast processing. :^)


  4. I think we have all been the “Pariah” as well as a part of those that decide who the outcast may be. Anybody that owns the title of “Artist” also has accepted that the work place is generally one of solitude and introspection rather than a crowded environment. We need other artists to critique, perhaps help with insight into our work in directions we are unable to see and we in-turn give that back. Aritist’s groups are valuable for many reasons and can be a professional group as well as social group. One of the greatest assets of being an artist is “Choice”, who I choose to interact with and who chooses to interact with me. That in itself is a yes or no proposition, very little room for middle ground.

    I have taught karate for many years and found 1 thing to be true and it applies to artists as well. If you want to be better at what you do, associate with people who are better than you are at what you do.
    If you want a social network, find people who want the same thing, but don’t confuse one with the other as each offers a different end result.

    If the tribe decides you are no longer an asset, or you decide the tribe offers nothing more, why would you want to spend time with people who don’t want to spend time with you.
    There are many people out there who would love to spend the day with you…..


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