Read & Watch

Fitting in

It’s starting to happen. Approaching seven years old, my daughter’s becoming preoccupied with what others think of her. And what they think is starting to inform her choices. She no longer chooses to wear her cute and kicky hats indoors. No one else wears them, after all.

That pre-historic amygdala at the base of her brain is starting to run the show. It tells her, in its lizard-y rasp:

“Keep your head down, kid. Take your hat off. Fit in. Play with those girls even if they’re mean because they’re cool. Put down the salmon and pick up the cheese pizza (I mean, seriously…what’s WRONG with you? All kids like cheese pizza and French fries). Pretend you’re crushing on Justin. All girls your age like him. Above all else, fit in. For the love of God, Child. FIT. IN.”

Excruciatingly painful to watch.

Because all I want, as her Mama, is for her to recognize and love herself as her own person. As she is. For her to not need/want to be “less than”, “more than” or anything “other than” the wonder that she is. Naturally.

And if I’m being honest, I want the world to appreciate her for all that she is…without insisting that she fit in.

I wish the same, of course, for myself.

I have made countless choices in my own life that have been informed by my own lizard brain:  I have used a voice that wasn’t my own; shared opinions that weren’t my own; exhibited styles that weren’t my own; and professed love that wasn’t my own. Every one of these choices has led me down a path of discontent, all in the name of fitting in.

Fitting in with whom, I am not sure. With the cool kids, I guess. Fitting in to what end, I am less sure. So no one will see me for the magnificence that I am? Meh, that doesn’t sound like me. Besides, we’re all cool kids in someone else’s eyes.

Here’s what I’m learning:

I think that fundamentally we don’t want to fit in. I think fundamentally we want to be appreciated for who we are. In fact, I suspect that is our deepest desire.

Try this on for size and see how IT fits:

“I’m different. And I like it.”

No screaming hand-waving LOOK-AT-ME-AND-HOW-CRAZY-OUT-THERE-DIFFERENT-I-AM. Just different. Naturally so.

A final thought. Next time you feel pulled to be other than (less than, more than) glorious YOU, take a moment to pause. Breathe. Then ask yourself these two questions: “What do I REALLY want here?” and “How do I want to show up?”

I bet that quiets ye olde lizard brain. It detests those questions (the ones that bring you out of your head and into your heart).

Then please come back here and tell us in the comments what shifted.

That’s the work. It starts with you. It starts with me. It starts with my kid.

Off we go…wearing our kickiest hats.

16 Comments

  1. brilliant post tanya! i think our kids are struggling with this and it is heartbreaking to witness. does it remind you of everyone?

    Reply
    • Thrilled to have you here, Paula!! It really is something to witness in our kids. And I’m finding that I feel called more and more to model for my daughter that I don’t NEED to fit in…in fact, I’m doing everyone a disservice if I try. That “original” is not only good, but imperative. Do you have the same experience? I’d love to hear how YOU model it!

      Reply
  2. This is heartbreaking (and of course, amazingly-written Tanya!) It’s sad to see her change like this. As long as she stays the sweet, loving, thoughtful, kind-hearted girl she is, she’ll never have problems making wonderful, long-lasting friendships. It’s a very tough lesson to learn though. I think we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. I guess it is all part of growing up…. :(

    Reply
    • As adults, I’d love to say we outgrow that need to fit in, but it really does seem to endure. My hope is that we can turn that on its head and learn to first appreciate ourselves AS WE ARE…the rest of the world will catch on. Have you had any experiences you’d like to share where you chose NOT to fit in because it just wasn’t right for you?

      Reply
  3. Nice post T. This reflects my experience at a work conference this week. I was in a room of about 200 people I had yet to meet, hearing a presentation from some senior people in my organization. I knew there was a fundamental flaw in the content, and my first instinct was to say nothing, sit on my thoughts and have a one-on-one chat with the presenters afterwards. Nice and safe.

    But then I realized my point was of value to the presentation and the way the people in the room would think about it. So I put up my hand and spoke up loud (to be heard through the cavernous hall). My comment was addressed and appreciated by the presenters, but most importantly, I felt good that I didn’t take the easy route, that I contributed.

    Not an earth-shattering example of being true to oneself, but it was a reminder to me that people have the opportunity to challenge themselves, in ways big and small, everyday. And it’ s always worthwhile to take advantage of those opportunities.

    Reply
    • What a gift to your colleagues that you found your voice. In fact, I make up that you stepping into that role actually gave others permission to say what was on their minds too. Keep flexing that muscle, G. The world needs to hear what you have to say…you know that nobody benefits from you swallowing your words.

      Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  4. Tanya, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Again. The ‘fitting in’ does start early, and I hope I’ve helped to support the uniqueness of my teens, as they follow their bliss, rather than a posse of lookalikes.
    Your writing is superb and welcome and refreshing.
    Thank you,
    Rea

    Reply
    • Thank YOU, Rea. For your kindness AND for being a beacon + model of uniqueness for your kids. They get it. Because they get you.
      XO

      Reply
  5. Brilliant post Tanya. It brought me to tears. I too have dreams for my girls {who are 3 & 6} to grow up accepting every inch of their own natural uniqueness.
    I also love this post because it makes me feel so acknowledged.

    “I’m different. And I like it.”

    I love this message. I love you for writing it.

    Sending you love that’s “uniquely” mine!
    Jac

    Reply
    • Jac, thank you thank you, for showing up. In all that you do. In all that you are. You are loved because you are different. And I’m thrilled to know you and your fierce and loving Mama heart.
      XO

      Reply
  6. I wish my grandson, who is 12, could read this and understand what you are saying. He is different and knows it and doesn’t try to fit in but tries to appear invisible. Very sad for us who are seeing this. Sad thing is he is a wonderful, intelligent kid.

    Reply
    • Couldn’t hurt to send this to him. Being seen when you feel like you are invisible (by choice or not) can be an incredibly powerful thing. You are exactly the kind of grandma that makes the world sing, Lynne. And woman. XO

      Reply
  7. I’ve never felt like I fit in, never felt like I should drink the koolaid or wear the uniform….and I’m called on it frequently.

    I’m seen as a wild rule-breaker, which I find highly entertaining. I have lots and lots of rules, it’s just that most of them are of my own making, based on my experiences of life.

    And the evidence that leads to their label? Odd choices in clothes (and lately hair colour), and my random powers of observation – which can fail me in real-life encounters with people. I can be obtuse about those social situations that seem common amongst those in the “popular” tribe.

    I’ve focused my energy on finding my soul-family, to great success in the last year. I feel safe, comfortable, challenged, encouraged, and never alone.

    For the first time in my life, I actually feel like I fit in.

    Hugs and butterflies,
    ~T~

    Reply
    • Teresa…this makes my heart SOAR! Every last piece of you that you’ve described are but some of the reasons that it’s a damned finer world with unique you in it.
      And pouring energy into finding your right people rather than attempting to be the square peg in a round hole is far more efficient, non?
      So very glad you are home.
      XO

      Reply
  8. Hi Tanya
    Milla shared this piece after our last book club meeting during which the topic of community came up. It’s from Jean Vanier:

    I have always wanted to write a book called “The Right to be a Rotter”. A fairer title is perhaps “The Right to be Oneself”.

    One of the great difficulties of community life is that we sometimes force people to be what they are not: We stick an ideal image on them to which they are obliged to conform. We then expect too much and are quick to judge or to label.

    If they don’t manage to live up to this image or ideal, then they become afraid they won’t be loved or that they will disappoint others. So they feel obliged to hide behind a mask. Sometimes they succeed in living up to the image; they are able to follow all the rules of community. Superficially this may give them a feeling of being perfect, but this is an illusion.

    In any case, community is not about perfect people. It is abut people who are bonded to each other, each of whom is a mixture of good or bad, darkness and light, love and hate.

    And community is the only earth in which each can grow without fear, towards the liberation of the forces of love which are hidden in them. But there can be growth only if we recognize the potential, and this will never unfold if we prevent people from discovering and accepting themselves as they are, with their gifts and their wounds. They have the right to be rotters, to have their own dark places, and corners of envy and even hatred in their hearts. These jealousies and insecurities are part of our wouned nature. That is our reality.

    (Jean Vanier, originally from his book “Community and Growth (1989); reprrinted in Jean Vanier “Essestial Writings” (2008)

    Reply
    • Lisa…this is phenomenal…all of it…and these words specifically still me: “In any case, community is not about perfect people. It is about people who are bonded to each other, each of whom is a mixture of good or bad, darkness and light, love and hate”. There’s so much I want to say and hear about this statement. So much.

      I do believe this will need to be trotted out beyond the comments section and shared with my world. Thank you for bringing this to my light, my dear friend.
      XO

      Reply

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