Don’t hide who you are just make others like you.
You’ve heard people say it, from your kid to your co-workers (and maybe you’ve said it yourself) — “I just want to fit in.”
Seems logical; after all, every human craves connection, right? Definitely. But, I’m here to tell you, word choice matters a great deal in our pursuit of connection.
Why? Because there is a BIG difference between “fitting in” and truly feeling like you “belong.” And that difference has a surprising impact on your self-esteem.
It’s a natural instinct to hunger for other humans in our lives. We long for camaraderie, acceptance, feeling desired, and that doesn’t even touch on the “biggies” — being liked … and loved. And in effort of securing those things, we often find ourselves busting our ass to “fit in,” all in hopes of avoiding rejection.
Take Jessica for instance. She’s a thrift store junkie with a flair for making high-style out of others Buffalo Exchange trade-ins. She’s a “Never-Pay-Full-Price” fashionista.
Her one bedroom, 5th floor walk-up, studio apartments has just about enough room to eat, sit, pee, and do her hair. All at the same time. She’s quirky, very earthy, and laughs at stuff that causes others to say, “Are you for real?”
Her education (Yale honors, MBA in International Business) landed her a key position for a Wall Street investment firm, known for cut throat buy-outs and takeovers. An interesting environment for Jessica, given that she’s more of a sweet, meek, hearts and peace signs kind of gal. Yet, never judge a book by its cover because her magical mind processes the intricacies of a hostile takeover like a steel trap. She is stealth at her job.
But, what most people don’t know about Jessica is that she has a hard time feeling like she belongs; even though she’s figured out a way to fit in.
What’s the difference you say?
“Fitting in,” as I define it, means blending in … following the crowd, seeking sameness, sacrificing your own personal beliefs, values, interests and standards to align with the crowd. In contrast, “belonging” is feeling embraced, accepted, and valued for being exactly who you uniquely are, while feeling unified via a common connection that binds you to a person or group without fading pieces of yourself out.
Jessica fits in with the other sharks in the firm who are circling their prey, ready to blindside the innocent, unsuspecting corporations they overtake. She’s good for all the background shenanigans needed to get the deal done, but she’s never asked to the ball. God forbid she join the stylish boys and girls at the final negotiation table in her black, Ann Taylor circa 2009 Refined Tweed Suit, with the matching Pencil Skirt and Valentine (not Valentino) faux calf-skin, metal studded booties. I mean, c’mon gurl. We know you’re a business dominatrix at heart, but the outfit is enough to leave any competition handing the business over out of fear alone!
Yet at the same time, though Jessica’s quirky, eclectic ways, and simple demeanor outside of the “shark tank” fits better with Junior Management team, they shirk away from her, as well, in fear that the “sharktress” might turn on them in a heartbeat, for a misspelled word in a takeover document.
Thus, poor Jessica finds her way to fit in at the surface level, but she never feels like she actually belongs.
Can you relate? Most of us try very hard to fit in wherever we go in life because we’re told that doing so (fitting in with the cool peeps) can help us get ahead with less stress. So, do you change to blend in or find a way to belong while remaining true to yourself?
It’s easier to blend but your self-esteem is stronger when you stay true to you. So, here are 5 ways to give up trying to fit in and finally feel like you belong:
- Love yourself first
Confidence is cool, sexy, and it rocks. If you love and have authentic confidence in yourself, then you’ll hold your own anywhere, even if no one else showers you with attention. People are drawn to people who like themselves. If you doubt yourself, others will doubt you, too.
- Stop making up stories
Quit creating stories about why you don’t fit in. “They’re all just too <insert negative assumption about others> to ‘get’ me.” Instead, create a new story about why you do BELONG — you in all your cool glory! Also, don’t assume that the people you’re trying to connect with are the keepers of the keys. Cool peeps hang out in lots of different nooks and crannies of life where “fitting in” isn’t a criteria for acceptance. If one pathway to connection isn’t welcoming, seek out alternative paths (and people).
- Focus on your WHY!
If belonging, not fitting in, is what’s truly important to you, be clear on your why! Does belonging make you feel secure, loved, accepted, desired, etc? Once you know your WHY then show up as if you already belong. Honestly, it makes the busy talk go away. And remember, it takes more than fitting in to get ahead in life. It might help, but it isn’t the holy grail of success!
- Connect the dots
Maybe you’re the nerdiest nerd, or dreariest dresser, yet, regardless you’ve got something that someone (maybe everyone) admires. Help connect the dots for them so they can see what they’re perhaps overlooking. Don’t wait for others to invite you, create the environment of belonging by reaching out to others, as well (maybe they long for connection, too).
- Dig your difference
Just like loving yourself first, you’ve really gotta dig your “differentness.” Own it, rock it, be it! Your differentness is opposite of the 99.9 percent of you that makes you like every other human walking the earth. Stand proud in your .1ness and let your differentness shine, not hide in a closet. If others don’t get it, then that’s their .1ness flashing and move on until you find your tribe.
We all have moments of just wanting to fit in.
Reaching, striving, and yearning for that “accept me as I am” feeling is normal. But, your self-esteem suffers when you hide parts of yourself away. The antidote is dropping the sameness crap and embracing our differentness (our own and others’).
The differentness = our unique, true self.
And when you live in your true being, you’re more likely to find yourself drinking the sweet nectar of belonging, rather than the bitter cocktail that continuously leaves you with a hangover from trying to fit in.
How about you? Isn’t it time to go dig your diff and belong?
This article originally published at YourTango.com