Belonging Versus Fitting In

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 6.01.16 AMThere’s something really magical about you.  Yes, Y-O-U! The world really, desperately, needs that special something that only you can give. It is your uniquely special reason for being and never – ever, please! – let anyone tell you that you need to hide it. If the people you’re around cannot appreciate what makes you YOU, then you are hanging around the wrong folks.

We’ve all been in situations where we so desperately wanted to fit in. In school, we tried to dress like the popular girls so that they’d see us as one of them. We cut our hair like everyone else, listened to music we weren’t crazy about, tried to tell stories and jokes that sounded like the stories and jokes others told. But in the midst of all that, we stuffed our own self in a box. We were so desperate to fit in that it seemingly didn’t matter.

But it does matter.

We all need to have a place where not only belong, but where we truly fit in. Where we are free to display our quirky, amazing selves. Where we can laugh, sing and embrace our miraculously wonderful individualism. Where our personalities shine and we are surrounded with unconditional love and acceptance. When we are immersed in that world, we are who God intended and that sense of belonging empowers us and brings us peace and contentment.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown shares the difference between fitting in and belonging. Created by a list of eighth graders, the wisdom is profound:

  • Belonging is being somewhere you want to be, and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere you really want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.
  • Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.
  • I get to be me if I belong, I have to be like you to fit in.

As parents, we must do everything we can to cultivate a home where I children feel like they belong. Where we embrace their talents – as different from ours as they may be – and celebrate their uniqueness. Yes, it is hard to set aside the hopes and dreams we’ve built in our minds to embrace the ones God has set upon our children’s hearts. But to not do so would be setting our own children aside; empathy and acceptance give them a sense of belonging.

As leaders, we build loyalty and a culture of performance when we are able to accept the talents and uniqueness of our team and peers. Everyone will bring their own brand of skills and opinions to the team; as a leader, we must ensure each is respected and heard. When the people we lead know they are respected and their individual ideas are welcome, teams will flourish. Be the leader that creates a culture of openness and mutual respect.

Not fitting in is a miserable existence. I’ve worked in jobs and had relationships where I felt like I compromised much of my sense of self to fit in. Trust me when I say the price of admission is not worth the ride. Life is too short – and the blessings available too many – to willingly accept the compromises necessary to fit in. Choosing to fit in is a conscious decision. Making the decision to find a place where you belong takes courage and bravery. But do it! For when you find that place where you truly belong, you will find the very best of yourself come alive.

The outrageously wonderful life flourishes where we know we belong. Don’t stop until you find it!

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