Origin Story – I Belong in the land of Not Belonging

ingridvangnymanPippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, illustrations by Ingrid Vang Nyman


I use writing as a means to communicate, but I don’t consider myself to be a writer, so when I saw The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections I thought… not for me, I don’t belong here.

Yet something about what was expressed within it appealed to me, stirred thoughts and ideas.

I have always been a voracious reader… since even before I could read.

Reading is not just about words and being able to make sense of them.

In reading we use all of our senses. If we didn’t reading would not be as addictive as it is, it would just be words saying stuff, but that stuff which they said would not come alive within us, coloured by our feelings, emotions, thoughts, smells, sounds, touch, taste, sight and beyond into memory and imagination.

Maya Angelous N8W

A child before it can read words, reads in other ways. Those who are illiterate can still read, learn and know things. Those who can’t see, can still see. Those who can’t hear, can still hear. Those who can’t speak, can still speak. Those who do not understand the same language as you, can still communicate with you and you can communicate with them.

Those who don’t belong in your world, still belong in the world. Your world is just one piece of a very large an intricate puzzle.

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” – Desiderius Erasmus

No, he’s not. In the land of the blind the one-eyed man can’t see what the blind can see, and he is so proud of his one-eye that he thinks he is king which makes him blind in a way that stops him from seeing further than what his one-eye can see and will always be that way until he closes his eye and allows himself to live in the land of the blind and see what they can see.

blind mind

And what they see is that he is an outsider.

His one-eye makes him one.

It’s just the way it is.

He’s different. That doesn’t mean he is better or worse. He’s just different.

He could share what he sees. And those who don’t see the same as him could share their way of seeing with him, and a place where both meet and blend could be found. A third option between two sides.

Or… the divide can remain as it is.

Dumas(and who is the fool? The one who thinks he is not or the one who knows he is?)


An outsider often feels rejected by those who form a part of the other group – Insiders. Partly because to be part of a group, those within the group need one or more who are outside of it, otherwise there really is no inside or outside, the group does not exist, there is just a gathering of people. But add an outsider and those others become insiders and a group is formed thanks to the outsider who gives insiders the feeling of being on the inside of something.

Neither side of the equation is better than the other, but they sometimes perceive themselves to be that way. It’s a side effect of the dynamic. It’s a perception that in some ways is a requirement.

I was born an outsider. That is my origin story. The members of my family considered me that way, one or two saw this in a positive light, the rest did not. They perceived me as an interloper and let me know this at every available opportunity.

ferdinand the bull munro leafThe Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, drawings by Robert Lawson


It’s just the way it was.

As a child I grew up without other children around me. I was a tiny being in a world of giants, otherwise known as adults.

The adults let me know that I was an oddity in their world.

And the occasional child who strayed into my awareness… well, they were different, I was different. They usually let me know that to them I was not considered to be a child like they were or all the other children they knew were. I was an oddity in their world too.

It’s just the way it was.

At first I thought little of it. But over time there were those, one-eyed men in the land of the blind, who felt it was their duty to point out to me that I did not belong and needed to make myself belong. I was an oddity who was wrong in being that way. So I attempted to adjust and adapt.

My attempts at adjusting and adapting made me even more of an oddity. What was different became what was uncomfortably awkward.

you and everyone else

As I progressed through that thing known as growing up, this theme played out again and again. I was an outsider trying to figure out a way to be an insider. Partly for me, a single soul searching for its home, its clan, tribe, group. But mostly for others who seemed to be more disturbed than I was about my outsider status.

Why does being an outsider bother those who are insiders so much?

Is it perhaps because they are all secret outsiders longing to be outside, but pretending to be insiders who are stuck on an inside in which they do not belong.

I wonder.

george orwell

My favourite stories, books, comics, cartoons, films, etc, as a child were all about an outsider seeking a way to belong, to find kindred spirits, a home, a tribe, etc. yet this outsider was also comfortable in their outsider-ness.

There are so many of these stories of outsiders… more than stories of insiders. Finding a story of an insider being inside and belonging is rare… or so it seems.

So perhaps we’re all outsiders who don’t belong to a group because all groups are made up of outsiders pretending to be insiders, but none of those insiders feel that they really belong on the inside, which is why they are so fascinated by outsiders who see themselves as outsiders and don’t bother to pretend to be otherwise.

That fascination, sometimes expressed negatively through bullying or ostracism or otherwise, is recognition.

the-outsider colin wilsonThe Outsider by Colin Wilson


A recognition of the kind which says – I am like you, yet unlike you as I am in hiding… why aren’t you hiding too? What makes you so bold as to be different openly? It’s not safe outside… yet the inside’s safety… is not as safe as I thought it would be, yet I can’t seem to get out now that I am in. How do I get out, yet stay inside as well?

We’re all one-eyed men in a land of other one-eyed men… it’s just that some of us have chosen to pretend to be blind, and when enough of us do that, we become a group and those who don’t do so become the outsiders… but even outsiders are a group, just not a group who are willing to band together… not closely enough to be official anyway. Although sometimes…

But if outsiders band together, they become insiders… a paradox often lost, sometimes found and then forgotten for the sake of belonging.

hermann hesse

What strange creatures are humans… are we.

We’re all unique, different… outsiders… sometimes those differences, the uniqueness, finds a similarity, a sameness… and for a moment we are outsiders who are insiders who are still outsiders but have an outsider friend and friends.

I recall an incident at a dinner party where the stranger next to me related what made them different from everyone else, including me, at the party. I smiled at their words and said – Me too, we share the same differences – this was followed by an awkward pause where I realised that I had just robbed them of their outsider status of which they were very proud. A gaff which they did not forgive me for, did not like me for, instead disliked me intensely for it… and turned their back to me after that. How dare I be similar to them, they were different and that was that.

hive mind

Over and over in life I have found that the things which make me different from others are also things which make me similar to others.

I quite like that…

…not everyone does.

We are different… just different.

What we like and dislike, who we are and who we are not, or think who we are and are not, does not always change what is and what isn’t.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is… just a one-eyed man… there are others like him, he’s just not looking in their direction because he doesn’t want to see them, and perhaps they don’t want to see him either.

Erica Cook

If I bother you by being different in some way from you, from what you consider to be normal or… otherwise. Then ignore me. It’s easy to do.

If you’re like me, then those who bother you are intriguing books to be read, to be explored for something inside which is also on the outside.

Through reading, however you do it, through eyes, nose, ears, touch, taste and all the myriad senses beyond those obvious ones which have less obvious ones within them…

…there is much to be discovered, uncovered and so much more…

SailngerThank you for sharing… yourself.


  1. Lovely post, Ursula! I think you hit on any number of important points here- especially about the concept of ‘otherness’ with all its idiosyncrasies. We have a systemic tendency to vilify the other, yet there are those among us who thrive on their otherness- and, as you pointed out, resent those who lay claim to comparable outsider status.
    I, too, loved the books about the outsiders as a child- I think the theme still resonates today (look at the success of Harry Potter, for example).
    Lots to think about here- thank you!


    • Thank you very much 🙂

      I sometimes think that the theory that our (in some ways sudden) modern and civilised lives have subverted our primal instincts is quite a good one. We haven’t had time to adjust our primal survival instincts to modern life so we’re still operating on the friend or foe system and applying it to things to which it doesn’t really apply.

      We all have this survival instinct which is playing out in non-survival situations, and we are influenced by it without always being aware of it.

      I have to confess I’ve avoided Harry Potter rather unsuccessfully 😉 It is a good example. Thank you!

      Like Twilight, and many similar tales.

      Like Divergent. It is yet again the theme of the outsider who does not fit in which is popular, which says that a large portion of people consider themselves to be outsiders who do not fit in… ft in to what exactly?

      So many outsiders… so are there any insiders? Or are the outsiders just perceiving other outsiders as insiders?


  2. The ugly duckling grows up to find it is an exquisite swam. I love the idea of not competing, hoping we all make it. That is my central philosophy too. Great, sensitive, thoughtful post.


    • Thank you 🙂

      But what if the ugly duckling wanted to be a duck instead of a swan? Sorry, that’s the sort of question my mind likes to ask 😉

      I agree, competition is fun but only when we all win in some way which suits us and which doesn’t take away from others, after all, we’re all in this together aren’t we?


  3. Pippi was my hero as a chid and I find her very alive in my imagination, a sort of hero, maybe because she didn’t belong anywhere but she had her own idea of happiness. I am too a (ugly) duckling and althoguh i have disappointed my parents there’s a part of me who is almost proud to be different;and even if I do not belong anywhere, I cherish my inner life, my thoughts and my way of perceiving things, my only treasure. Thank you Ursula, as if I am able to say this, I owe it to you too and to this non judgmental mental room of your blog. xxx


  4. And by the way, YOU ARE A WRITER: I understand your humble attitude, but your thoughts are beautifully modelled and expressed and you have a definite, articulate poetics, a way of looking at life which BELONGS only to you and it’s your signature.


    • It’s not a humble attitude, it’s my preference, I don’t want to be a writer, I want to be a communicator because communicating has always been a challenge for me and I love meeting challenges if possible.

      Thank you very much 🙂


  5. So rich… beautiful quotes, especially the last one… If there is no inside then the is not an outside either. Did you have that experience that even though you felt so different and not part of the group there was a place of belonging deep inside you that did not rest on outward things.. it was there to be found when the experience of not being seen or understood or feeling like you belonged drove you home to yourself and in that place you found a place of belonging and of comfort. I have experienced that. Also isn’t it strange that person at the party couldn’t embrace you when you share their view.. ive had that experience too.


    • The party was a rather stuffy society do, you know where people who take themselves very seriously pretend they know how to relax and have fun. I thought at the time it was strange, mainly because I thought the coincidence was funny and the person seemed like they had a sense of humour, but when they looked so put out, I realised that I hadn’t had the reaction which they had expected and wanted.

      I invariably disappoint people when they expect things from me. This was one of those lessons young and naive me needed to learn. In some ways I did learn it. And in some ways I didn’t and keep learning different versions of it. I have a tendency to think people are more flexible than they are. That elastic band is always snapping back and hitting me on the nose.

      And yes, I have had that experience of belonging within myself even when I don’t belong in my surroundings. It’s the only permanent home I know, it’s the ground beneath my feet. It’s something people often don’t get about me and it sometimes frustrates others. Some people really take exception to it, as though I’m not allowed to feel comfortable with being who I am. That attitude which others have, only encourages my own. Funny how things work 😉


      • Yes, I understand that, for some people the idea of being at home with yourself and not socialising all the time seems like an illness to them, but its a beautiful thing.

        Funny how people don’t respond the way we think they will but I guess they respond in the way that they do cause of who they are, which really has so little to do with us, Some of us look for connection, for the common things we share and are accepting of the differences and even if not understanding them will make some effort to reach out and meet others in their world, even if it differs from ours.
        I wonder if this comes from not feeling understood ourselves, so often.


        • I think we’re all trying to figure ourselves out, and we look to others for some of the answer to some of the questions we have about ourselves. It’s a natural human way of doing things. We’re also trying to figure others out, and we look to ourselves for some of the answers to the questions which we have about others. It’s all intertwined and sometimes confused, sometimes infused with inspiration.

          Our experiences… are a part of our identity.

          It’s strange but lately I keep coming across blog posts and articles where people talk about being outsiders… kind of makes me wonder… is there is such a person as an insider or are we all outsiders looking in… the inside is made of mirrors, but we don’t recognise our own reflections, we think the people on the inside are someone else, but they are us.



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