I often notice people, especially at the school gates, who try desperately to fit in, to be part of the clique because they want to feel as though they belong somewhere. I know a little of how they feel. I’ve always felt a little on the side-lines, a bit of an outsider, a loner, when all around me groups of friends are laughing together, safe in the knowledge that they have their ‘tribe’ around them.
When I was growing up I spent a lot of time indoors, helping to take care of my twin brothers with my mother. Her husband, my stepfather, disappeared when the twins were born so she was left, single parent to five children, I was 10 years old. Consequently, because I needed to help out at home I missed out on many of those critical friendship interactions that kids need to go through if they are to become emotionally secure, well-adjusted and comfortable around friends.
As a result, I turned into one of those people who felt slightly on the outside around groups of friends. In fact, I actually preferred to be on my own, it was easier than navigating the sometimes-hostile waters of friendship groups. But there were times when I felt that I should try to make an effort. It is, after all, our biological imperative to be part of the group. If we were still living in caves we would seek group connection for protection, for a mate, for a share of the food – for survival.
In my efforts to fit in and blend into my preferred group, I tried to be the person I felt I should be, but in doing so it felt false. I wasn’t being my authentic self and I felt more and more on the fringes. I was trying to fit in, to prove my worth. But all I was doing was suppressing my own true desires for the sake of fitting in. I felt as though just being me wasn’t enough to make people like me and invite me into their friendship.
We all want to feel as though we belong; to feel as though we have found our tribe but sometimes the price we pay, pretending to be something we’re not, or doing something we don’t want to do, is just too much and it drains our power. When we’re young, we might wear clothes that we don’t like so that we belong, or we might drink alcohol or do drugs with our friends just to feel as though we belong. We might try to project an image of ourselves that is not the real us, such as trying to appear to be outgoing, when in reality we know ourselves to be introverted.
Since those days, I’ve come to realise that fitting in or not fitting in made little difference to my life. I came to truly realise that I was happier with myself or a small select group of like-minded people that I got along well with and who accept my quirks rather than a large clique who don’t really know me at all. I have since learnt that to be true to our own nature takes strength, but it allows us to be truly happy. There is no pressure to follow the crowd or be part of a group I have no real interest in.
I’ve also learnt to be proud of being me, of my uniqueness. My strengths and weaknesses, preferences and dislike are different to other people – I appreciating these rather than trying to be like others, with their likes and dislikes. Only by being ourselves can we grow and flourish and be our true selves. Only by being comfortable in our own skin, will we get to a point where no-one can make us feel as though we’re not quite enough.
The social media culture of comparisons lead too many people to feel as though they’re not good enough, not active enough, not slim or pretty or clever or popular enough.
But if we’re being who we really are, being our true selves, and we’re fulfilling our own potential to the best of your ability, then we are enough.
If we let go of who we think we should be and just be who we really are, we’ll no longer worry about who we are and why we are not good enough to be part of this group or that group.
A friend told me that when she meets with her village friends, about once a month they tend to have a few drinks. She doesn’t usually drink so on these evenings just one glass of wine would get her a little tipsy and she would feel awful the following day. Not least because when she’d had a drink, all her inhibitions disappear, as is prone to happen, and she would say things to people that she wouldn’t normally say when sober. The next morning, she would regret drinking and promised herself that next time she would not drink. The problem was that people expected it of her now, so it was not easy to say no, without looking like she was being unsociable.
For many months, she told herself that next time she’d refuse, but when another evening out came around she would feel pressured to join in with the drinking for fear of being excluded by the group.
Eventually she made the decision to avoid alcohol altogether. And despite her fear that she would no longer fit in, her village friends accepted her decision and respected her for it. Eventually she came to realise, that had they decided she wasn’t ‘fun’ enough then she’d have known that they were not true friends anyway and not worth her time.
“Don’t change so people will like you; be yourself and the right people will love you.” ~Unknown
The need to fit in comes from our fear of being rejected. Because of this we might be a little too needy and will perhaps care a little too much about what others think of us. We will see their approval of us as a measure of our self-worth. But, our inauthenticity convinces no one and drains us of personal power in the process. A sense of belonging may feel comforting and safe but to sacrifice our true selves for the sake of it is not healthy.
To be true to our own nature takes strength, but only by doing so can we be truly happy.
Image courtesy of Pixabay