I have never felt like I fit in in any particular group all the way. Thanks to this I have become a very strong and independent woman. I actually enjoy alone time and doing things by myself but that wasn’t always the case.
When I was younger (especially in my young teen years) I tried to be like all those around me. I remember having a need to fit in more than anything when I first came to the United States. As a young teeneger I had left meaningful friendships back home and I wanted to find friends like those I had in my homeland.
Unfortunately, most if the kids I met here seemed from another world. I actually found them much less mature then the kids my age back in Dominican Republic. We had very little in common and so my young brain though I was the problem.
So I started to watch and imitate. I thought that as the new kid it was my job to fit in with the culture and make these new people my friends. The funny thing is that I couldn’t even fit in with kids that had the same or similar background as myself.
I can specifically recall dressing and speaking in a way that sort of matched the stereotypical assumptions about me and my background (Dominican) better. I desperately wanted to be like the rest and what I mistake that was.
I was way too different and so uninterested in the things they were into. Even back at home I was quite different. The difference was that I had friends who were also very unique and we all really loved and accepted one another for who we were.
Maybe you have felt the same way about trying to fit in with stereotypical assumptions of your own culture or with the definitions others have limited you with.
Now, we can all agree that as we get older and learn more about the world and ourselves we no longer fall in the oh so enticing peer pressure trap…or do we not?
I started to realize that as you age we still live by the standards of those around. And that maybe, even if we’re not willing to admit it, we are still trying to blend in and be like everyone else.
Have you stopped to think about why we do this. We do this because we want to belong.
But the breaking news is that belonging and fitting in are two completely different things.
Here is how Brene Brown explains it in this article on Oprah.com.
“Belonging is not fitting in. In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I’ve discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely—it’s showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are.
The truth is: Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect. When we don’t have that, we shape-shift and turn into chameleons; we hustle for the worthiness we already possess.”
Like in our younger years the attempt to fit in is greatly interrelated to a terrifying fear of not being good enough. Not being accepted. The belief that we are how much we make a year or the car we drive. The belief that we are what others think of us.
Here are a few simple tips that can help you push thru this fear and live a more joyful and authentic life.
How can we truly belong?
Truth is we all want to feel at home. We want to feel like we have arrived and we are where we are supposed to be. Perhaps that is why many of us fall into the trap of fitting in.
The issue is that fitting in is just that. Fitting into a world that is already there. A world that is not yours. While belonging is taking a place in the world as the real you.
The reason you feel depleted and unhappy is because you will never fit in where you don’t belong. Belonging is brave work and it requires to be brave and honest with ourselves and those around us.
Here are a few things you must be prepared to do if you are tired of trying to fit in and are ready to belong by taking your unique place in the world instead.
You have to be disruptive at times.
As nice as I am, all of my closest family and friends know que yo no me le quedo con una a nadie. Translation? I say what needs to be said. I am by no means confrontational and some even see me as a voice of reason and a peace maker but I also don’t believe in suppressing parts of you just to make others have a smoother ride either.
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t share certain parts of you that aren’t so cool. Maybe you and your family struggled growing up, or perhaps you had a job you are not so proud of? It can be exhausting compartmentalizing your life to make it more digestible to others.
This is not to be confused with wanting to keep certain details to yourself because they feel private to you. This has to do with filtering yourself to the point that you become a chameleon that transforms according to her surroundings. Not ever standing out. Not ever being all of her.
You have to be willing to be so real about who you are that some people might not like it or be comfortable with it. Speaking about your ideas, your past or even your life experiences might cause some waves that push some individuals away from you.
The great thing about this is that you will learn who is willing to respect you and accept you as you are. Those are the ones you want to keep around and the ones that will facilitate an environment where you do belong.
You have to build your dreams, not someone else’s.
I remember my first promotion and raise. I was working at a school where they made a lead teacher after just a few months working there. It felt good to be recognized and appreciated for the work I did.
But truth is I was miserable. I absolutely loved working with children but being a preschool teacher was not the life I wanted. I often took work home, worked late and woke up early. It was exhausting! It was exhausting because it wasn’t fueling me with joy.
I felt trapped because I was supposed to be happy. I was supposed to love having this job that was stable. I was trying not only to fit in but also to do what others thought I should be doing.
This was so detrimental to my well-being and mental health that I knew I needed to do something else. I needed to build my on life and follow my dreams.
Without even realizing we can find ourselves doing what we are “supposed” to do in life rather than what we know we want to do. Although difficult at times, it is never too late to live the life YOU want to live.
Ask yourself if what you do is for you or for the approval of others. Be honest. You will find that belonging is much easier when you tell yourself the truth.
Focus on belonging to yourself more than anything.
This is the one person whose approval and acceptance is the most important of all.
Everything starts with ourselves and our self-image. Loving and accepting your true self is the first step to being able to present yourself as you are to the world.
Think about it… if we don’t feel at home within, if we don’t welcome all we are, then how do we expect to belong anywhere else?
The search and acceptance of who you are might be the most important work you embark on. Understanding yourself, your power to change your reality and your responsibility to do so can be the difference between being alive and truly LIVING!
I work on this everyday. I read about the mind and how I can achieve my goals and believe in myself. After studying and reading about why I do what I do and how I came to believe what I believe I have been able to change my life drastically. I feel more confident and in control of my results now.
I needed to feel at home within first to improve my mental health and enjoy a more rich and joyful life.
I now know, that the beliefs about myself that were not serving me were put there by others before I had the ability and knowledge to reject them. I now know, that there’s a powerful part of my mind which controls my behavior and ultimately my results.
If that is something you’re into here’s the book I am reading now.
Do the work to feel at home within and you will notice how everything else starts to shift for the better.
You have to know and understand that you already belong.
You are where you are supposed to be and you are part of something bigger. You already belong. You just need to accept it and redefine what belonging truly means (not fitting in).
Keep standing in your truth, discovering how your brain works and internalizing thoughts that can help you grow and expand into the unique being you are meant to be.
I know there are dark days in which we feel unimportant, helpless and alone. I want you to know that those days won’t stay forever. They will pass. I promise. Here is a great “feel better” article you can read if today is one of those days.
You deserve to feel like you belong because you do.
True belonging can only happen when we show ourselves as we are. Stepping in your truth and willing to be different or not fit in is the first step to living a life that is authentic to you.
It is hard to walk a path few are walking. It’s tough going against what seems to be the majority. But maybe IT’S WORTH IT if when you lay your head on the pillow you are happy with the life you’re living. It is worth it if your work means something to you. If your definition of success is only measured by the joy you feel each day.
Maybe it’s worth it if when stripped from all things and titles your character remains untouched. But above all, I know it is definitely worth it if you’re living an authentic life that is defined by what YOU know to be success and where you accept and present yourself as you are.