I had a recent conversation with some friends about being perceived as a clique, which is a real paradigm-rattling kind of conversation for me. I’ve spent the vast majority of my life perceiving myself as an outsider, and of course the worst time (which is also the time when I think cliquish behavior was more of a genuine reality in my life than any other) was during high school. So I’m sensitive – possibly oversensitive – to such concerns, and am rather shocked to think that someone else could feel that kind of apprehension about me. It’s never been part of my self-perception.
As a person who’s never truly escaped those feelings of exclusion I understand it all the way down to the core of my bones, and feel empathy for anyone who might be struggling with it. I also tend to suspect it’s a struggle rooted far more in old wounds and damaged self-opinion than in truly active exclusion, although I should probably speak for myself. It often, maybe even usually has been that way for me, which is not to say that cliquish, exclusionary behavior doesn’t exist in post-adolescence. It sure as hell does, so that perception is sometimes accurate. I know that the circles I move in these days aren’t like that, however. I suppose it’s entirely possible that they are and I’m just too blind to see it, but I don’t think so. I’m lucky to count an increasing number of astonishingly good people among my friends.
I hate the idea of being perceived as cliquish, even as I’m convinced that it’s a misperception, but I love my friends enormously, and I’m astounded by the knowledge that the world contains these groups of people who I trust so much and feel so safe with. It still feels shocking and new; I’m not used to it, and I hope I never take it for granted. So I think I’ll continue to take the risk of being perceived as someone who engages in cliquish behavior and hope that perception will somehow be tempered by the reality of my emotional experience, which includes a great deal of love, a towering amount of gratitude, and more than a dollop of surprise.