The Outsider, Cliques, and My Big Insecurities

So last week, I discovered that Modern Reject was named as one of the Top 200 Ministry Blogs of 2012 by Church Relevance. I’ll be honest, I was way geeked out. I was stoked and honored, albeit a bit confused as to how I ended up on the list.

Then, Kent Shaffer, who writes Church Relevance responded to a bit of controversy as to why there aren’t more women (and less Calvinists) on the list. In his response post, other more prominent female bloggers than myself commented and listed even more prominent female bloggers who they thought should have made the list.

Some of these female bloggers even made their own lists, so as to include more women who they felt were jipped or forgotten. And in all of this, the glow and excitement of seeing my name there on that list started to wane.

I began to feel embarrassed and lame for ever even caring, for feeling a moment of encouragement, for feeling like all of this hard work of blogging was being recognized. I felt stupid and insignificant.

And why? Why had I let the subsequent discussion about female bloggers rob me of my joy? Because I’m not one of those female bloggers. I am, what I’ve always felt I’ve been–an outsider.

Those women don’t know who I am. They’ve never read my blog. I’m invisible to them. And I blame myself because it all harkens back to what I am so miserable at doing-being one of the girls.

Scrolling through a list of women’s names, I was suddenly left feeling like I was back in 8th grade, nervous laughter, frizzy hair, braces, and all. I want so desperately to be known by the “cool girls.” I want them to include me in their little circle, but it feels impossible to break in.

I’m not trendy enough. I’m not pretty enough.

I’m not theological enough. I’m not enough of a mom-blogger.

I’m not emotional enough. I’m not around enough.

I’m not published enough. I’m not well-known enough.

Basically…I’m not enough.

And what tends to be such a strength for women–their ability to form community so easily–can also be an area of weakness because community among women can often turn into cliques. So yeah, I feel like I’m on the outside of the Christian chick blogger clique (same that 3 times fast).

In their defense, the blogger who wrote her own list of 50 women, explained that she never wanted to make anyone feel excluded, but that she was trying to be more inclusive. I so get it and I so understand her motivation.

Thing is, I guess I was just hoping that instead of only complaining that there weren’t more women on the Relevance Church list, that more women would stop and say “Hmmm, who is this Nicole Cottrell chick? Maybe I outta say hi and see what she’s all about.”

But that didn’t happen. I guess I was expecting some congratulations and comradery, but instead I was left feeling like they were disappointed I made the list since I wasn’t part of their clique…*ahem* I mean, community.


But then I prayed. I was starting to angry for letting myself get so angry and so I prayed. I asked why my name was on that list in the first place since so many other Christian blogging women have way more traffic than me, way more influence than me, way more everything than me.

God basically told me to zip my mouth. He told me He put me on that list and He has me exactly where He wants me. It wasn’t an error. It wasn’t a mistake and I just need to shut up and be thankful.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m shutting up and being thankful.

Lessons learned in all of this? I’m still a big sensitive baby when it comes to other women. I need to learn how to form community via blogging with other women. I’m still insecure. God is big. God cares intimately about my small little life. Shutting up can work wonders. The end.

Have you dealt with Christian community that has turned into cliquey-ness? How did you deal? Have you ever felt overlooked by a particular group? How did you deal?

44 thoughts on “The Outsider, Cliques, and My Big Insecurities”

  1. Proud of your honesty Nicole. Ally and I long to be in that same place — right where He wants us to be.

    We are actually there all of the time, its just a question of whether we choose to see it (and live in it) or not.

  2. Hey Nicole: I’m glad that you wrote this post. For me, I’m thrilled that you were there. I suppose I lumped you in with my post about it and forgot to celebrate you! My apologies. I do know your blog (horrible at comments these days, I’m afraid…) and appreciate your voice very much. You’re not a big baby. I think your concerns are legitimate. You are enough and I love that you were listed on the original post. You earned it. I’ve often felt overlooked and ignored, I understand. Anyway, you’re not an outsider – you’re part of us. xo

    1. Sarah, thanks so much for stopping over to comment. I appreciate your willingness to do so in encouraging me.

      And despite all of my complaining, I really do desire to know more of the wonderful blogging women out there, yourself included.

      So thank you again.

  3. Is this going around, or what? Community and insignicance go hand in hand for me. I think we aren’t alone. I appreciate your honesty and being able to put it all out there for us so we can say, “yeah, me too!” Thanks.

  4. I guess I’ve felt that way for ages. When I was a Protestant, I didn’t feel I fit in to the evangelical world at all. I don’t like saying “amen” during a sermon, or raising my hands up, or giving a “clap for Jesus” after a song from the worship team band (which I also don’t like). I don’t like CCM, think the Saw movies are a lot of fun, and most of my friends are non-christians. I didn’t feel I fit in anywhere.

    How did I get over it? I suppose over time I quit caring. I followed God where and how I could, and that led me to the Orthodox church. Part of that, as you know, led to me not blogging as much. I wasn’t saying anything that really had impact except for one or two people, and I just had nothing more to say on anything. It was time for me to sit and be quiet.

    All that has helped, and not being an evangelical anymore makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t feel left out, I feel that I’ve found my home in Orthodoxy. I think I’m back to doing what I do best on the blog, which is not doing much. I’m teaching, doing what I think I should be.

    Not being included sucks, and hurts, and you’ve got to feel what you feel. I’d say try not to let it bother you too much, and follow what you know is right. Keep your goals in mind and as long as you’re accomplishing what you set out to do, you’re all set!

    1. Josh, so good to hear from you here, friend. I think you’re so right in learning that where we think we’re suppose to fit in or we’re we think we belong, isn’t necessarily where God would have us.

      I’ve realized that all of my expectations are really just self-imposed limitations–where I whine because what I assumed would happen doesn’t and where God once again rescues me and reminds me that He has a place for me.

      I’m glad you’ve found your place in the Orthodox church. I’m glad it has brought a feeling of community. I’m glad that the Lord doesn’t follow our so-called plans, but leads us to greener pastures.

  5. Oh Nicole, how needed your words were for me this morning.

    I’m very small scale, and when I jump over to some of these other sites and read what they’re putting out there, I can’t help but feel like I will always be small scale. While you feel like you’re “not enough”, I’ve been feeling like I’m a little too much. Too much Fundamentalist, too much Calivinist, too much “this” to ever be a real part of “that”. I’ve had to take a step back and really ask myself what my goal is here, and who I’m seeking to please. I may never be a member of “Team voices of our generation”, but I can still glorify God in my writing. So that’s what I’ll do.

    In the “for what it’s worth” category, there’s something very special about you and your writing. This is where I come to be challenged and built up. So, keep it up. You made that list for a reason. :-)

    1. Nikki
      Thank you for blessing me with these words. I think you touched on something so critical too–who are we trying to please? Are we seeking to write for an audience of One or for the masses.

      As Paul wrote “if I were still trying to please man I wouldn’t be a follower of Christ.”

      And without sounding cheesy, you aren’t too much. You’re exactly who Christ has designed you to be.

      Thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for being a part of this community. You’re valued here.

  6. Hi Nicole – I found you through all of this and really connected with some of your blogs. I understand the “outsider” feeling – I’ve struggled with this a lot – even in the church. When it works, friendship among women can be so powerful. But, when you feel on the outside, the loneliness can feel very intense – like something is wrong with you. I think the enemy uses this on a lot of us, because when I’ve actually admitted to someone that I feel like an outsider, they often let me know that they’ve felt the same way. I try to be more open about it now, but it still is something that I struggle with quite often.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’re not alone in feeling alone! :)

    1. Tricia, man, you are so right that the enemy uses our percieved loneliness to keep us, well, lonely. I agree that whenever I have talked about this with other women, there is a resounding, “Me too!”

      So thank you for telling me that I’m not alone in feeling alone because even though I know it, it is still so good to hear it.

  7. ha ha. i was thinking that when i was reading not shut up so much but get over it. not because i am trying to be sensitve but because i am one of THOSE girls. the ones always ‘left’ out but i never let it bother me until recently i would moan and complain that i am not longer on the ‘ins’ but the ‘outs’ nobody likes it but seriously im mixed and there is no one i totally 100 percent ‘fit in’ with. i live it everyday and theres NOTHING i can do about it because there’s always gonna be someone who doesnt get it. so instead of feeling down i go solo. and am like ‘you wanna roll with me’ cuz i aint joining your clique im starting a new one. Sometimes eagles and leaders gotta go solo. there’s someone like you you just havent found them yet so until then do YOU. and b happy cuz lifes too short and your too fabulous for that.

    1. Love it and I so get it! I’m glad you’ve reached a point of letting go and saying “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.” I’m not quite there yet, but hopeful I will be someday.

  8. Sometimes I feel insecure in my own little niche–the progressive Christians. Don’t get me wrong, none of them have ever talked down to me. But you see, a lot of them are more educated than me, so sometimes I have trouble following their conversations. I like to think I’m a pretty smart guy, yet whenever I try to leave a comment on their blogs, all I can say is, “Yeah, ’cause, like, you know, male domination is, like, bad and stuff.”

    1. Travis,
      I can relate to that. I think progressive Christians tend to lean towards being intellectuals and wanna-be theologians. It can be intimidating and off-putting. To be honest, that’s why I avoid many progressive Christian blogs. I’m not interested in debating a theological point or doctrine. I’m interested in spurring people on to pursue Christ with excellence and serve His Kingdom.

      At any rate, I get what yo are saying, but be encouraged Travis. You have LOTS to offer besides “cause it’s bad and stuff.”

      PS thanks for the email the other day. I’ll be writing you back later today. I’ve been behind on emails. :(

  9. Nicole, I love your blog. I love that it’s major focus isn’t about theology or your kids, as I don’t know much about either. I don’t subscribe to your site as I automatically check it every day after email and facebook! You always challenge me and make me think. As someone who is not American, not married, and has only the vaguest understanding of Calvinism (or any other doctrine) I love that I can still relate to the things you’re writing about. So please don’t be discouraged. I think it’s great that because of that list more people can find your blog and discover how fab it is!

    1. Wow Louise, you paid me a huge compliment. You have no idea how encouraged I am by what you wrote. I long to be a woman who writes about faith and Jesus and knowing Him and serving Him, not theology or the Christian trends or what have you.

      So thank you! I am encouraged.

  10. Nicole, I love your blog. I love that you aren’t the typical mom-blogger. Don’t get me wrong, I love their blogs too, but I relate to so much of what you write each and every day. I’m glad you share your beliefs on marriage and church. Your posts about women’s ministries and being different are refreshing to me. Thank you so much for your honesty and sharing how you feel. You are an inspiration and encouragment to me.

  11. It was great that your blog got recognized on that list. One of the strengths of your blog too is you address a lot of the issues that relate to faith that don’t always get raised elsewhere.

    When I was part of a Christian youth group at my church, I remember how everyone used to get concerned when the ‘cool’ kids didn’t turn up but never had the same fuss raised for me when I didn’t show up. It was pretty disheartening as a young teenager. I think I managed to stumble through it more than anything else. But I guess I’ve learnt since then that what matters is that I am faithful and obedient to God as I follow and serve Him, whether recognition or inclusion happens or not.

    I think ambition is related to recognition in a sense that we can have a drive to be successful and in following Jesus, success can be difficult to define. We see the celebrity Christian culture etc. and can equate success with that. When I get hung up sometimes on peers who may get more recognition, included in the clique, I find God reminds me just who is it enables and empowers me to do what I do – it’s God. And whether I get recognized by others, or was missed or not missed at youth group in years past, what matters is that I recognize Jesus in my life and faithfully follow Him and know that He recognizes me.

    1. Paul,
      Man, you said so many great things here. I think you seem to have a healthy balance and understanding that all of that cool Christian stuff we put on ourselves isn’t real. The only thing that matters is following Christ and, as you so wisely stated, allowing Him to empower us to live life in pursuit of Him.

      I love your last sentence too– “He recognizes me.” That’s it right there. That’s what I have to hold onto. Thank you.

  12. This was so on point. I need to blog about this, myself. Even though I’m not a churchy blogger, I am a woman and I am a blogger. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why are we never good enough or pretty enough or smart enough? Why do we rip each other instead of build each other. You are wonderful and deserved to be on the list. Own it. You earned it. :)

    1. Happy Girl,
      I admit that I’ve done a lot of this to myself, not them to me. I let my own insecurities create divides that perhaps aren’t even there, or at the very least are smaller than I assume.

      And thank you for the kind words! I’m blessed by them.

  13. good grief, nicole. you don’t know me either and yet i strangely feel as if we’re outsiders Together, the thickest of friends. i’ve never really fit in either but as i’ve gotten older, that’s gotten to be more and more okay, discovering that there are actually others like me in their being different. you are my most favorite blogger, the one with whom i most relate, the one with the most giftedness to say most truthfully, most artfully those things with which i most relate. it didn’t surprise me for a second that you made a list. i’m proud of and stoked for you. … not sure all of this was the “perfect” thing for me to say – you don’t really need me to toot your horn – but i genuinely appreciate what you’re doing. :)

    1. p.s. i just scrolled through the list and out of the 200 “most influential church leaders, journalists, theologians, and Christ followers,” AND the ones noted in the comments, you’re the Only one i’ve consistently followed since i first stumbled across your blog. i’ll say a part of that has been your responses – you’ve never seemed aloof to me: bigger, better, smarter than your audience. i sure don’t mean to be a boody-kisser but i also sure do want you to feel encouraged as you so should be. b/c you’ve been such an encouragement, such a leader to so many of us. again, well done.

      1. Amanda,
        Gosh your two comments here got me chocked up. Thank you your exhortation, encouragement, and kindness. You really just brought a smile to my face and a good reminder as to why I stick with this whole blogging thing even when it is difficult.

        Blessings to you! And thank you.

  14. Hi Nicole, I’m fairly new to your blog but this post just really spoke to me. I think one of the reasons is because I am a regular reader of several of the blogs mentioned on the list you referred to, but I can relate to your feelings presented here so, so much. I have trouble making friends, and it sucks. (I was trying to think of a more eloquent way of saying it, but I can’t.) I wish they would have checked out your blog too. I don’t always agree with everything you say, but I like reading because its something different. So i guess I just want to say, the list worked for this reader! It reminded me that I need to check more regularly here. :)

    1. Shelbey,
      Thank you for comment. While I’m sorry you have felt the same way at times, it is encouraging to know other women feel the same. Yeah, making friends sucks. I’m terrible too. But over the last couple of years, God has told me that if I expect more friends, i have to be a better friend myself. I took up His challenge and it has been a blessing to me.

      Thank you for reading and sharing here. You are appreciated!

  15. I know exactly what you mean Nicole…we have a school and radio at our church and it seems that the people that work at these place, which also happen to go to our church and we hang out from time to time….they seem to be in this “Clique”…like you said…it gets kind of annoying…really….we find out they go out to eat together and go and hang out at each others houses…(but when we are there they pretend like we are all best friends)…funny…

    i really don’t care….i used to…but not anymore…i’ve learned to really just rely on my Family….my wife and kids…my wife used to feel bad too….but know she’s taken my view point…

    who cares…

    lets just focus on HIM, our Family and our ministry…


    1. Arny,
      It’s so easy to get our feelings hurt in the Body because we are suppose to be family. It’s as if we have given other believers a special means of hurting us–and so often they do.

      But, as you said, focusing on what really matters makes all the difference. We don’t have to give people permission to hurt us. We only need to serve God and obey Him. He takes care of the rest.

  16. Hi Nicole,

    I’d been following you on Twitter, but thanks to “the list” was reminded that I wasn’t subscribed to your blog! So I guess these types of list, as annoying as they can be, can be effective.

    Just wanted to say that I know the feeling. At every stage of my writing journey – blogging, book deal, publication, second book deal, speaking gigs, etc. – I’ve found some group to feel left out of. Seriously! I keep thinking that once I make it in with this crowd, or that group, I’ll be set. But there’s always a conference I haven’t been invited to, a group of bloggers I don’t connect with, a publishing company that isn’t as interested as I am. I suspect that even the writers I most look up to – Annne Lamott, Donald Miller, Kathleen Norris, Lauren Winner – feel this way too. Jealousy is an occupational hazard, I think.

    The reality of still feeling “left out” even after I achieved some of my biggest writing goals has helped me chill out over the past year or so. I’ve come to recognize those pangs of jealousy, acknowledge them for what they are, and accept the fact that I will never be able to “succeed” my way out of them.

    But I can always write. I can always experience the joy that writing brings – no matter how many people read my work. That’s something we all have in common – you, me, Lauren Winner, Anne Lamott, JK Rowling, Shakespeare, and my next door neighbor who longs to be published. “Writing,” as Anne Lamott likes to say, “is its own gift.”

    So hang in there! We’re all in this together. No cliques…just a bunch of people who aren’t any good at math, so we learned to write. :-)

    1. Rachel,
      I remember one of the first posts of yours I ever read was you describing how you secretly used to compete with Anne Jackson. You seemed so much more approachable after I read that post.

      I guess we really do all feel “left out” at one time or another. I appreciate you saying too, how you realized you couldn’t “succeed your way out” of jealousy. About a year into blogging I realized that unless I wrote for God and no one else, I would be miserable and eventually quit. I suppose it’s cheesy and a bit clique, but doing so gave me great freedom. That’s not to say that I don’t occasionally feel like a geek around all the cool chicks. Although, I’m not left feeling jealous so much as insecure. After I wrote this post, one friend said to me “Congratulations Nicole. You’re normal.” Ha! I had to laugh because it is so true.

      All that to say, thank you for confirming that I am indeed “normal” (or as normal as I can get). Thank you for taking the time to stop by and comment. It is appreciated–from one A+ English student to another. ;)

  17. I have really only found acceptance in two places: The first was with the low-does (sp) in high school. They did not care who you were as long as you got high. The only other place I have felt accepted is with God. It is just that the feedback with God is more subtle.

  18. Nicole: I think you’re great.

    “It matters not if the world has heard or approves or understands . . . the only applause we’re meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands” (B.J. Hoff).

    your brother,


    Psalm 115:1

  19. Story of my I have never been part of a “clique” ever. Not in school, not in church, not anywhere. I have always felt like an outsider, even in my own church. But like you mentioned: God just tells me to zip it to0. He knows what He is doing and has a great plan for me!! btw Congrats on making the list!! God bless you!!

  20. Hey Nicole,
    What drew me to Jesus was feeling loved, valued and accepted by other Christians. Since I became a Christian it has been an ongoing battle to not base my value and significance in my ability to be valued and accepted by the church. It is so easy to fall into the trap of looking to people to “fill me up.” Sometimes I think God has me in a place of loneliness so I can finally get over this desire I have to be “popular” -why do I look to other people, other mere mortals to give me value? When I really think about it for what it is it’s really silly- they are just like me- why do I give them this power? Isn’t the God of the universe’s word enough for me? This is such a stumbling block for me, I need to stop looking to people for my worth- but I keep doing it and keep being on the out-skis. It just hurts to be rejected over and over and over in a place where I expect to be safe – sigh….why is this so hard to learn?

  21. Thank you for this article. Maybe God put you on that list for people like me. Those of us who have always been on the outside looking in, always feeling like no matter what we wear, say, or do, we are not enough. Yet God exhalts the least, like he did with David, initially overlooked by his father, yet made a King.

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