For most of my life, I never felt like I fit in anywhere. I thought I’d eventually find “my people” and when I did, then I’d feel as if I could bring all of myself to them. I’d know they were “my people” because they’d reassure me that all of who I am was welcome. Basically, I was waiting for someone to give me permission to be fully who I was.
Most of us think that fitting in means that who you are is in alignment with the social norms of a group, which means finding a group whose norms are as unique as you are. I’m not sure I think this is possible or even desirable.
There are norms everywhere and that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing humans do. Take the idea of being image-conscious for example. When we think about that, we often think about people who seem to dress perfectly, have an immaculate house and live a seemingly perfect life. But I remember being 19 years old and living in a Buddhist monastery and realizing that there was an image consciousness there too. But the image in the monastery was ratty jeans and funky shirts—basically, you should be getting your clothes from Goodwill. Even in the monastery, there were aesthetic norms, they just looked a little different.
People also tend to believe they have to fit into these made up social norms.
There are probably evolutionary and biological reasons for this that have to do with not getting cast out of the tribe. It’s not that don’t need the tribe, but we’re not bound to it for survival in the way that we were for much of history. We’re at a transcendent moment in human history, where we have the capacity to look at our biological and historical roots, and honor that we have these impulses, but that we don’t need to be driven by them.
We have a choice.
Take the idea of the perfect soccer mom as an example—she’s well put together, always on time, and her house is immaculate. Mothers everywhere tried to fit into this norm, but in the last ten years, the veil has been pulled back. The women we thought were the perfect soccer moms have come forth and revealed that they’re struggling to hold it together, their houses are a mess and they’re often very lonely. And that’s progress because it’s the truth. But then that can become dogmatic as well, and eventually, you find yourself afraid that you’re too put together for the hippie mom’s group and too hippie for the put-together mom’s group.
This goes on ad infinitum, and we find that, while we may never feel that we fit in anywhere, we can belong everywhere.
If this is the world we want to live in, we have to be willing to be what I call culture creators (or system architects) – and being a culture creator requires going first. Going first takes radical self-trust.
Let us be the ones who go first.
There is a risk to going first, and sometimes it will be hard. Some people might judge you in just the ways you think they’re going to, and you might actually lose friends. However, it will often also be much easier than you think. Most people I’ve worked with when they’ve taken this kind of risk and shared more of who they truly are, have actually found out people like them better! Often they’ve also found out that the people around them had the same quirks as them, the very ones they were originally afraid would have them cast out.
One time I was in a group of super high achieving coaches & entrepreneurs, the kind of people who launch million dollar business, and I didn’t think I had anything in common with them. Honestly, I was afraid they wouldn’t accept me and might look down on me. Later, we did an exercise around childhood experiences, and I what I found was that these people had whacky, lonely childhood stories, that I totally identified with. I found I actually had so much in common with these people who I had thought were so far out of my league.
I realized that even if I might not “fit in”, I totally belonged with these people.
But if we’re choosing to go first, we need to be willing to get curious with the assumptions we’re making about how other people might respond. Our assumptions are not always wrong, sometimes they’re based off real data. But, often they’re actually based on data from other situations, and not true about these people at all.
Many times our desire to disengage comes from a preemptive fear and isn’t based in reality. The risk is being willing to find out. The reward is living a life of truth.
If you want to learn more and hear me go into greater detail, watch the video below and feel free to leave your questions and comments and I will answer asap.