An outsider is a person who quite simply does not fit in with existence-as-we-know-it.
Such a person is a fringe dweller, a black sheep, a social oddball, and a displaced human endlessly coexisting in a society that doesn’t feel like home.
This bone-deep isolation often gives birth to the search for freedom, acceptance, and a true place to call home.
Chances are that if you’ve read this far, you can probably relate to feeling like an outsider looking in – and never quite finding that elusive sense of “belonging somewhere.”
Fear not! There’s a reason why you feel this way, and it’s not because there’s something defective or “wrong” with you.
In fact, despite what you may feel about yourself, others, and the world, being an outsider looking in is actually a huge advantage. I’ll explain to you why.
Why Do I Feel Like an Outsider Looking In?
“Why do I feel like an outsider looking in?” – I’ve asked myself this question ever since I was about 6 years old.
For me, the sensation of being an outsider was triggered by painful shyness…
To me, this feeling of being an outsider looking in is something intrinsic, subterranean, and seemingly fundamental to my experience of being a human.
And I know that you feel it too …
… otherwise, why would you be reading this article?
Perhaps you’ve also carried this unshakable feeling within you; that of being a nomad and wanderer in life. No matter how close you get to others, that feeling of being an outsider is always looming in the background:
it’s present in your interactions with people, your observations, dreams, desires, and motivations – and it awaits you at the beginning and end of your day.
I think you know what I mean. (And it’s this very feeling that, in truth, has motivated me to write everything I’ve ever written.)
But why do we feel this way?
I’ve done a lot of soul searching when it has come to this question. What I’ve discovered is that obviously there are many possible reasons for feeling like an outsider.
But the most significant reason I’ve found to date is all to do with the soul – that inner spark of divinity within us.
We’re all born with a soul but not all of us continue to maintain this deep inner connection as we grow older. Shamanic cultures call this disconnection soul loss. But that inner knowing that something is missing or askew is called a spiritual awakening.
As such, those of us who feel like outsiders quite simply are ‘awake’ to something others in society aren’t.
Outsiders & the Existential Crisis
Put simply, at the core of feeling like an outsider looking in is the sense that something is not quite right. We feel that we don’t belong because we can’t relate to the people or environments around us.
The end result of feeling this lack of belonging is that we don’t feel truly seen or heard (or we don’t feel safe enough to let ourselves be seen or heard).
And we don’t feel seen or heard because those people and situations don’t meet a deep soul need within us. Why? Because these people and situations lack substance – aka. everything feels very surface-level and unsatisfactory.
To borrow Buddhist terminology, we sense on an intuitive gut level that the world we’re living in is full of Dukkha (suffering), and the feeling that something is missing doesn’t quite leave us.
Such an unnerving feeling that the world doesn’t match up to our deeper soul needs gives rise to a kind of existential crisis. For some people, this existential crisis may be a consistent hum in the background, and for others, such feelings may evolve into a kind of dark existential depression.
But one thing is almost guaranteed. Feeling like an outsider looking in often leads to a spiritual awakening in which one goes in search of deeper answers.
If you’ve felt like an outsider for most of your life, you are almost certainly a highly sensitive and spiritually receptive person.
You have experienced firsthand how isolating the ego can be. You know how unnatural it is to live in a society that is obsessed with fame, status, money, and power. You know how superficial, senseless, and insane living an ego-centered life is.
But you can’t quite verbalize this. You can’t quite understand what you’re going through because you’re inundated with feelings of being “strange,” “weird,” “different,” and “unworthy.”
You long for a home that you’ve never even experienced; a place to feel completely understood, loved, and cherished.
That place is your soul.
It is your soul — your True Nature — that seeks to experience itself again.
In other words, deep down, what you’re really craving for is home.
Why Being an Outsider is a Spiritual Path
Although it can be lonely feeling like a social outsider, I’m here to remind you that there is a lot of power and potential in this sacred path.
Yes, you heard me correctly.
Being an outsider is a path in and of itself – it requires you to trailblaze a new direction that hasn’t been walked before. Where that path leads is entirely up to your soul.
In reality, feeling like an outsider is a crucial motivator for starting the spiritual journey. What else would motivate you to search for your true home and sense of belonging?
The very fact that you feel like an outsider indicates that your soul is trying to guide you towards true love, understanding, and freedom (i.e., home).
Almost every person on the spiritual path has identified with this feeling of being an outsider looking into a world that doesn’t feel like home.
All of these people have expressed a level of soulful sensitivity that surpasses the average person. In other words, these people saw beyond the pretensions of others, the rat race of daily living and felt like there was much more to life than meets the eye.
Instead of unquestionably accepting what they had been taught, these outsiders were inquisitive and curious freethinkers.
Unfortunately, we’re often taught that being an outsider is a “bad” thing, and no wonder — biologically we’re made to stay within the safe confines of our species’ groups.
But there comes a moment in life when we realize that “playing by the book” is a miserable and unfulfilling absurdity. (Just look at all those people who followed the rules, got a good career, wife, children, solid salary, socially-approved status … and ended up miserable, empty, lonely, killing themselves, or dying prematurely due to stress-related illnesses. I’m sure you know one, or a dozen of them.)
So while being an outsider may seem isolating, it is actually profoundly beneficial for your life. I wish everyone had the opportunity to feel like an outsider because being an outsider is a catalyst for self-fulfillment, self-mastery, and self-realization.
If you have ever read the archetypal story of The Hero’s Journey from Joseph Campbell (that is repeated in every culture, time, and period), you’ll realize that being an outsider is actually necessary for finding your true purpose and meaning of life.
So the very fact that you feel like an outsider is actually a good sign: you’re on the right path!
The 9 Hidden Powers of Social Outsiders
It’s important that we learn to think of being a lone wolf or free spirit as a good thing.
Many indigenous cultures, such as those in Africa and Australia, actually encourage the younger members to go out alone in the wilderness to find themselves as a rite of passage.
Without accepting that isolation and feeling alone is part of experiencing true connectedness, we get lost very easily. We start believing everything is wrong with us, when in fact, we are simply being driven to pursue something of more depth and spiritual significance.
If you’re receptive to your soul, it is only natural that you’ll feel displaced in this world. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Here are the nine major benefits of being an outsider:
1. You’re no longer brainwashed and constrained by the rules and beliefs of society as you can easily see through them.
2. You have more freedom to listen to the voice of intuition within yourself – and this will guide your entire life.
3. You have enough solitude to discover what being true to yourself means in a society that is always trying to undermine your authenticity.
4. You can see the bigger picture and not get lost in the details.
5. You can connect with your soul more easily than others.
6. You have been given the space and room to grow in whatever way you like and be a free spirit.
7. You have the opportunity to experience greater connection by finding a like-minded group of people or a soul family.
8. Your ability to observe others gives you a greater capacity for wisdom and also compassion.
9. You have the necessary catalyst to experience true self-fulfillment and spiritual ascension should you choose that path.
Although being an outsider can be terribly lonely, it is a privileged position.
Leaving the herd of humanity allows you to flourish and blossom in ways you never could experience while being “normal” and socially “acceptable.”
To end, let me leave you with a profound quote from spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle to contemplate:
What does being an outsider mean to you?