Although only launched in May, The Outsiders’ Network is a new social enterprise that is making a big impact.
The Outsiders’ Network is a community for anyone who feels different from the social norm. It offers a space for people who feel like outsiders to find inspiration, support and to tell their stories.
The website has contributions from people who have found ways to transform the pain of feeling different into the courage and motivation to create, teach or just to be open about who they are.
Llinos Mae Thomas talks of the pain she suffered as a child with cancer, with no-one to understand what she was experiencing. Now, having raised thousands of pounds for cancer charities and written a book about her experiences, Llinos’s experiences have led her to make a difference to others.
Melinda Csikos shares the experience of being so anxious she was put on tranquilisers before she was old enough to understand what that meant. She, too, found a way out of the darkness and now teaches others about how to find peace and happiness.
“All these articles, and more, come from our writers’ depths” said Devi Clark, The Outsiders’ Network Founder, “We believe that this kind of personal vulnerability is what really creates transformation, and we are creating the environment that allows people the safety to take the risk of truly revealing themselves.”
“Research shows that hiding who you are because you fear rejection affects not only your emotional, but also your physical health,” Devi added. “But creativity needs people who are willing to be different. To encourage artists, entrepreneurs and other innovators, it is vital that we provide the support and resources that builds resilience, self-acceptance and the willingness to take creative risks.”
As well as inspiring stories, the site includes psychology and social science research on relevant topics such as loneliness, creativity and imposter syndrome, a moderated forum for members to seek and offer support, plus the Outsiders’ Network will soon be offering workshops, meet ups and other resources to help outsiders tap into their creativity.
An extract from Devi’s forthcoming book, The Outsiders’ Manifesto: the Journey from Misfit to Pioneer, explains what prompted Devi to start the Outsiders’ Network:
My blonde, blue-eyed best friend gave me a label in our school playground when I was nine.
“Before I met you, I never thought I’d make friends with anyone brown.”
She looked guilty at having revealed this dark secret, searching my face to see how I’d react. My reaction was complex. Shock at having been judged. Confusion that my brown skin was relevant at all. Horror that my friend should define me as different to her.
Without thinking, I immediately tried to minimise this difference. Remembering the compliments my mother had heaped on my beautiful golden-brown colouring (as mother’s do) I blurted, “Oh, I’m not really brown. I’m golden.”
My friend burst out laughing at the image of me as a bright yellow-orange colour. I had given her an escape hatch, a way to avoid focusing on the implications of what she had said and divert the attention onto my response.
And me? I was left feeling ashamed. Ashamed of being brown, and also of having denied it. Ashamed that my friend had made assumptions about who I was before she had even met me. Ashamed that my desire to escape being labelled had brought forth further mockery and a deeper sense of difference.
This was a formative experience in my life, part of what led me to see myself as an outsider.
In her later life, Devi has found her differences to be strengths, motivating her life and work choices and generating new perspectives on old problems.
The Outsiders’ Network would love to welcome you into its community. If you have a story to tell or would like to explore those of others head to the Outsiders’ Network website [www.outsidersnetwork.com]. You can also follow them on Twitter [www.twitter.com/outsidersnetwk].