How important is fitting in to you?
For me, it started way back in grade school. I wanted to fit in with everyone and didn’t do too much to stand out. I did pretty well at it most days, but the “talks too much” tendencies often landed me smack dab in the front of the class seated usually among the troublemakers and those that should be kept an eye on.
Did you try like crazy to fit in at sometimes a cost of who you were and who you were meant to be?
Did you ever feel like you started to change who you were, not because you wanted to but because it would be easier and something you should do?
If I really think about it, I’ve always been drawn to people and places that weren't just like me.
A new person transferred into school, and I was the first one to try to learn more about them and ask them to sit with us for lunch.
My love of travel and learning more about different cultures, destinations, and meeting people throughout the journey is likely what drew me to a career as a travel advisor.
This small-town girl sometimes felt like she was dropped off here from another place she was meant to be and felt lost. But that is only IF you think you need to fit in with where you are.
It’s been a challenge for me over the years when you enjoy and embrace who you are only to find that sometimes it comes with a cost.
Some people want to label you, put you in a box or categorize you, and that seems to really come to light when you become a mom.
How many months along are you?
Are they walking yet?
How old are your children?
What activities are they involved in?
Where are they going to college? What are they going to do for a profession?
You try to find this common interest in the age your children are, what they do, or achieved certain milestones. Think of how many conversations go back and forth of commonalities as a way to feel connected to the person you are talking to.
Now, there’s me who had six kids within 5 years including quadruplets. You can probably laugh at how many times I actually had a back and forth conversation that didn’t come to a screeching halt when the words “quadruplets” were uttered. I try never to lead with that because it automatically shifts into several questions about what it is like with a shocked look on their face. Yep, no fitting in there. But I get it; I would probably be the exact same way if someone told me they had quadruplets.
I guess I’m lucky because it was one way I was nudged to know that fitting in just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
My kids felt it too. There’s no easy way to fit in when they show up together looking like their own basketball team. They got used to all the questions too and weren’t meant to fit in either.
When you embrace the fact that fitting in not only doesn’t matter, but it is actually good for you, it feels like a huge social weight is being lifted off of you… ahhh!
Thus three reasons why not fitting in is good for you and your kids.
First, let's talk about the social aspect.
Social status, social life, social structure, social media, should I go on?
Remember that feeling when you didn’t get invited to that ever so important party? You thought that was the end of the world, but that feeling is way worse when it is now your child that doesn’t get invited to the “it” party.
Plus today, the added layer of social media means that we get to see what we are missing out on in real time—fun.
Are you or your kids in the right circle, or clique, and if so, are you/they even happy?
Social media is often a snapshot of time that portrays typically the positive. The need to fit in tugs at you when you see that you or your child aren’t a part of a photo, are not tagged, do not have enough likes or not enough friends. Even typing it, I can’t help but notice how petty and insignificant that all sounds.
Do what you want socially because you want to do, not because of what you think you should do or what others expect of you.
NO ONE IS LIKE YOU (OR YOUR CHILD).
If you were anything like me while raising your children, you tell them something like:
Be proud of who you are.
God made you unique and not like anyone else.
Be who you are, not what others want you to be.
It sounds good, and many days you really believe it, but the fitting in mentality is the exact opposite of what we tell ourselves and our children.
Funny, we use this saying so much when it applies to our children and our lives. “We want them to be healthy, happy, and independent.”
Except we don’t often act that way. When we do something against the fitting in norm, we often tell ourselves and our kids not to do it.
Isn’t that what being independent is?
The possibility and the thought of them standing on the outside looking in feels excruciating to a parent. We place too much emphasis on the happy and not the independent.
We should add a disclaimer to the happy part (not at all costs).
How about we want our children to be healthy and happy while being independent.
Now, if anyone says that my daughters are like me, I hope it is because they are independent. It took me a lot longer to accept not always needing to fit in and to like being independent.
The best example I can be for them is to show them I love who I am and that I trust in them to be the best versions of themselves.
So, what if it feels lonely not fitting in?
If you are a very introverted person, it might be okay to spend more time alone feeling perfectly fine and confident in who you are.
When you are a social person (like me), this is where I realize I sometimes sacrificed who I am, just to find some people to be around. In all honesty, I sometimes nudged my kids to do this too because of my own uncomfortableness of them going it alone.
Here’s the great thing!
Not fitting in doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. In fact, there are plenty of other non-fitter-inners out there too.
If you look, they are out there. An added bonus: The more comfortable you are not fitting in, the more other non-fitter-inners are drawn to you. And guess what? They are pretty cool.
I want to share more helpful ways to not fit in and love yourself more for it.
Stay tuned for the next blog and learn how.
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.