In 2017 I was struggling with who I was and so I wrote a short poem (more a statement) called ‘Why Don’t I Fit In?’ It was in my early days of writing, probably not my best work, but it expressed how I was feeling at the time. It is also one of my most visited posts and so I realised I needed to expand on this, because it’s obvious a lot of people feel that they don’t fit in and struggle against this a lot.
Now, fast forward to the end of 2020 and I’ve moved from struggling against fitting in to embracing standing out and being different. I spent most of my life trying to please others, jump through hoops, bend over backwards to fit in, to feel like I belonged in this world. In my early life I was always the outsider. School was horrendous for me because I was shy, lacking in confidence and found speaking up very hard. I was always on the outside of the circles in the playground.
Even in my adult years I used to have this re-occurring dream where I tried to arrive at school as late as possible because I did not want to be the first in the playground and have no-one to stand with. So the feeling of not fitting in was huge in my early years.
Over time I tried to fit in through different social groups. One way I managed to fit in (to the detriment of my mental health) was through binge drinking alcohol. It silenced the inner voices that lacked confidence, gave me false confidence and I fitted in with those who were drinking. I was the wild rebel, but I was a rebel without a cause, simply wild to try and escape my inner demons.
In my later years I tried to fit in, in spiritual circles, meditation groups and I fitted in for a short while, but before long when I eventually spoke up about different thoughts I had, I was soon ostracised by those same groups for daring to stand out.
In my forties now, in the change of life as a woman, I would say finally I feel that I fit in, but I don’t fit in with any specific group or belong to a tribe as such. I fit in as a human being, living here on planet Earth and I accept who I am, like who I am and no longer need to feel that I fit in or belong.
Once at a meditation circle I remember thinking about belonging and it came to my attention that the only place I needed to belong was within myself, everything else was superficial, not necessary.
If we can belong to ourselves, if we can rise up and take the stage as our unique unconventional strange selves, we fully belong, we fully fit in, we stand true to our nature and because of this we don’t care what anyone thinks of us and the burden of mental health pressure lessens, because we don’t try to be someone we are not.
So if you are reading this, craving and desiring to fit in; If you are feeling that you don’t belong, feel sad, depressed because you feel alone or like an outsider, please have patience with your journey.
Many creative people feel this way. Many thought-leaders felt this way. Those people who you may admire all began the same journey, feeling like they didn’t fit in, but eventually recognising that the only way through the painful acknowledgement of this was to go through it and out the other side accepting that, ‘No I do not fit in’, in the conventional sense and that’s okay.
Unlike some people, I don’t think you need to fix this and certainly don’t need to fix yourself. Yes, you may want to do confidence boosting workshops or do assertiveness training, anything that helps you feel comfortable in your own skin, but most importantly do that which boosts your sense of self, not deplete it.
SHY OR ANXIOUS?
If you feel incredibly shy or anxious and you feel this is blocking you from connecting to other people, you can get support with this, find ways to embrace what comes up for you and do small things each day to step outside of your comfort zone, but don’t do this to fit in, do this because it feels great to grow as a human being.
If you know you are angry more often than not and perhaps this is another reason you feel sad or depressed that you are unable to fit in, go to anger management, learn mindfulness meditation, get help with any addictions and work on releasing the pain that causes the angry outbursts that may make relating to others a challenge. See a therapist if this is what it takes, but again, do this for yourself, don’t do this for other people or to fit in to society. You may find that once you feel less angry, that those very groups you wanted to be part of no longer interest you anyway, you may enjoy the company of different types of people.
Trying Too Hard to Be Popular or Confident in Groups?
Sometimes we overdo it by attempting extra hard to fit in through fake confidence. Trying to be the funny man or woman, the wild child to get attention. We may fit in, but it can also be a way that we use to resist letting people see the real us. Deep down underneath all that bravado we fear that others will not like who we really are, and do you really want to fit in with the wrong group? A group who doesn’t embrace all of you, warts and all?
And more importantly, if we try too hard to fit in, we put out a really needy vibe. It’s not attractive and as a recovered people-pleaser I can say you will feel a whole lot better if you just be yourself instead of trying to belong. Learn to belong to you first and foremost.
Suppressing Your Opinions
When we bite our tongue or only express popular opinions, we both don’t get to be who we are, but also don’t get the opportunity to meet people on our wavelength. We also may not discover that the people around us may not be good company for us. I found expressing popular truths blocked me from conversations with very interesting people with different viewpoints. I was in a bubble that was not my bubble.
Hate the Way You Look?
Some people may feel they don’t fit in because they’re not pretty enough, slim enough, fit enough or they have birth marks or scars in places they would prefer they didn’t have. You can do one of two things, try and lose weight, cover up scars or find ways to embrace those parts of you that you dislike with acceptance and self-care. What you may find is the more you are able to embrace those perceived flaws, the less of a problem they become. For a long time I hated my teeth. I thought they were goofy and I hated seeing my smile in photos. One time a meditation teacher pointed out my teeth to me, stating how they were bright and shining out and all he could see was my teeth. It was pretty insulting coming from this man, especially when he was seriously obese and I was just accepting him for who he was. However, this made me work on how I felt about my smile. I started doing EFT (emotional freedom technique), which is a way of tapping on acupressure points. I did this while looking at a photo of me smiling. I cried during it and felt so much self-hatred, but by the end of EFT session I felt relief. I no longer hate my smile and it’s hardly noticeable to other people. So, it was my perception of my smile that brought about the type of negative attention I received. Once I embraced who I was, no longer did I receive negative criticism. If you choose to change, do so for you, not to fit in.
Do You Find It Difficult to Open Up?
Maybe it’s not that you don’t fit in, just that a part of you is scared to open up? Relationships take time to develop and if we only share superficial parts of who we are and never allow the deeper conversations to happen, we miss out on genuinely fulfilling relationships. Allowing our vulnerability is a strength not a weakness and if you are hanging around people who are also not sharing the deeper stuff, you will feel unfulfilled. Meeting people who are more on your wavelength happens when you become comfortable with sharing who you are, deep down.
Are You Truly Listening?
When you are with people do you care about them? Or are you always waiting for your turn to speak? Maybe consider truly listening, giving others a safe space to be themselves and by doing so you naturally become a warm inviting person that people want to be around. This however does not mean you never speak, but you learn to open up and relate differently.
Are You Struggling to See Your Uniqueness as a Gift?
And one of the most important things to face when we are feeling a deep sense of not fitting in is to look at our uniqueness as a gift. If we see how we think, feel or act as wrong or too unconventional or eccentric we are judging our natural character and abilities. We can’t feel a sense of belonging as a human being until we nourish those qualities of our unique nature first. Maybe you like snails and everything about snails fascinates you, but you think it’s weird to talk about it and not normal. Maybe redefine your definition of normal and let your unique interests shine out. This is the only way you meet those who will relate to the real you. They need to see the real you.
You may be an artist or a writer or a creator of some sort and think you need to make your art form fit into a certain box so that it’s more acceptable by society, but what if the world needs your eccentric flair? Your ability to look through the lens of your own understanding and create from that space instead. When you look into the world, what do you like? I imagine it is the unconventional or different people and creations out there, not the status quo, but the unique and unusual.
When I started to look at my weird quirks as a gift and not a curse, I finally began to own my power, accept myself and like myself. I probably feel more satisfied than I have ever done before and have no urge to fit in or belong. If I meet people I get on with great! If I don’t, great. It no longer matters to me. This is a far more empowering place than that of my past when I would reduce who I was to fit in and belong.
And so, in the words of Mandy Hale
“You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less travelled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though EVERYBODY is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in.”