Lynne Parker

Lynne Parker

Belonging

Contrary to my role as the founder of Funny Women, I have never felt that I really belong anywhere. I’m not looking for sympathy and I don’t think it’s a syndrome but I believe a lot of us feel like this and don’t have a way of confronting or exploring why or how.

I’m outing myself here because the next episode of my podcast How to Have Fun at Work is all about ‘Belonging’ and both of my guests have mixed heritage.  Understandably they have always felt confused about where they belong but even though I have nothing like this in my background, our conversation stirred up something inside me that I really want to confront.

There are so many reasons why we might feel like we don’t belong, because of our age, background, disability, the colour of our skin, religion, sexual preference, or even where we live. Now that we’ve spent nearly two years in and out of isolation, it’s not surprising that many of us are experiencing an increased sense of disconnection, and anxiety levels are at an all-time high. 

During the podcast discussion, I reveal how I’ve always felt like an outsider. Full disclosure here: I am a 65-year-old white married woman who had a stable upbringing in a working-class family. Maybe I was rewriting my story but as a small child, shortly after my younger brother was born, I was convinced that I was a foundling who had been adopted at birth. I fantasized about my ‘real family’ and, to my poor parent’s dismay, I also invested a lot of time in an imaginary friend who could not be left out of any family occasion!

At school, I always found myself on the outside of friendship groups and I eschewed the exclusivity of best friends as I found the intensity of such relationships hard and any form of rejection painful and difficult – after a couple of goes at exclusive friendships it was easier to hover on the edge of larger established groups without the consequences of any real commitment.

Much of this has continued throughout my life and I do indeed connect with a lot of different groups personally and professionally through social interaction and networking. The more invested I get, the harder I find it and, I am prepared to admit, this sometimes pushes me away. Conversely, I have been married now for 33 years and have a number of very close and long-established friendships.

A recent personality test rated my traits as a connector, creator, and pioneer – as an outsider I am driven to connect on multiple levels and I can often see how people might fit together like a jigsaw; I am always coming up with new ideas and projects, possibly driven by my desire for creative connection with people and to belong during the process; and I am a pioneer because I created this amazing community of funny women nearly 20 years ago, all without ever being a comedian myself.

Fortunately, I no longer need imaginary friends to keep me company and I absolutely know that I am my parents’ biological daughter. However, even after all my years of working, I am still getting to grips with where I belong professionally. Years of therapy and analysis have helped me to recognize that being an outsider is a survival tactic and I am privileged to have the support of some amazing people who are friends, colleagues, advisors, and other connectors.

After what we’ve been through since March 2020, a sense of belonging has never been more important so that we can rebuild our relationships and negotiate the uncertainty of our new reality. Let’s do this together and have a bit of fun along the way!

You can find all episodes of my podcast How to Have Fun at Work here and all usual platforms. If you want to have some fun with us in your workplace, check out what we can do for you over at www.herlarious.co.uk.

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