Last night I had this revelation of sorts. I was thinking about my family. As an adult, not a teenager in highschool, but as a grown woman I tried my entire life to fit in with them. But I was nothing like them. I was the complete opposite of every single thing that defined them. I longed to fit in to their little unit. But at what cost? It was far too great. I can see that now. I can see everything very clearly now as sometimes age and experience can do. I was willing to compromise me to just be accepted by them. In looking at them now I realized that they never would have seen me. They still don’t see me. And they made it very hard for me to see myself. And as I take a step back , I realize I never wanted to really be part of a family like that anyway. I see how desperately I just wanted to belong. I find this sad, yet liberating; Sad that I was willing to compromise who I am, liberating because I know now I will never do that again.
Belonging with them took away me.
It reminded me of the Ugly Duckling story. All the little ducks in the family, all the same just following each other’s lead. And that one duck, that wasn’t a duck at all, that stood out. He was different. He felt alone and scared because he wasn’t like the others. He felt like he didn’t belong and was bullied and made fun of for being different. But in the end, when he looked at himself, he realized he was this beautiful swan. It was OK that he was different because being different set him aside from all the rest. Being different made him beautiful.
Throughout my life and throughout many of our lives there have been times we felt like we don’t belong. Many circumstances can make us feel as if we don’t belong. Many things make us feel different. We aren’t on the basketball team, or the cheerleading team, or the swim team. We don’t have the “in” clothes, or the extroverted personality, or aren’t in the group of kids with a title. Do we need a title to fit in? Do we have to belong to a group to actually feel like we have self worth?
Could feeling like we don’t belong perhaps and most importantly be a good thing?
Can being in a group take away your self worth?
In highschool I simply did not fit in. I was not comfortable being with the other groups. And If you don’t feel comfortable that is a signal that you are trying to be what you are not. I wasn’t comfortable not being myself . I would have rather been alone. As a teenager being alone felt lonely. I hated the feeling of not fitting in and feeling lonely. I was more of an observer, a thinker, a feeler. At one point I even envied those people who were the life of the party and everyone wanted to be with. I still wonder if those people are truly happy or are just acting like they are.
There are in fact some people who thrive in groups and who are being themselves when they do back flips off tables. I know someone like that. I love that he is and always has been very true to himself. He wasn’t really in a group though. He was just someone everyone wanted to be around. He wasn’t a facade or an impersonator. He was the life of the party because that is just who he was and is. He belonged everywhere because he was comfortable in his own skin being who he was.
You can be the life of the party. You can be alone in a corner. As long as wherever you are you feel at peace with who you are.
So when I speak about trying to fit into a group or feeling like you belong I am more addressing what we are trying to do for other people to some how feel different about ourselves. Are we trying to change ourselves to become something we are not just for a temporary feeling of fitting in?
As an adult I embrace being alone and would much rather be secure in who I am, and be alone, than act like someone I am not. It wasn’t until recently that I pondered the idea of not belonging as a good thing. Because what am I choosing to belong to? I am choosing to be fake? I am choosing to be a follower? I am choosing to do what pleases others just to fit in when it means compromising myself? If belonging means I am not being me then I choose to not belong with those groups of people.
From high school, to work parties, to birthday and baby showers, we are all put in situations where it may evoke feelings of whether we fit in or we don’t. As we get older the situations may change from sitting at a lunch table alone as an 11th grader, to sitting in the corner alone at a work party. But we to differentiate how the situation makes us feel from the way we feel as a person.
We cannot allow others to dictate how we feel about ourselves. We cannot allow our desire to fit in with others, the ability to take away our desire to be OK with who we are.
Often times the association of not belonging comes with the word lonely. If we don’t belong then we are lonely. I think we should challenge that. I think that belonging should have more to do with accepting who we are than who we can group ourselves in with. And sometimes you can be alone and not be lonely because you are infact totally at peace with who you are and where you are.
As if life weren’t challenging enough, throw in being abused. Do other people know you were abused? Do they treat you differently? When you enter a room do you wonder what they are thinking? Being abused can be a very isolating feeling. If you felt like you didn’t fit in before , how ever can you fit in now. Where do you fit? Living in this era of social media and being bombarded with commercials expecting perfection is a lot to try and fit in to. Sexual abuse has a way of making a person feel different in and of itself. It is very hard to find yourself when so much of yourself has been taken away. It is very hard to find your place in this world when the world is full of groups of people that don’t even know who they are yet others want to be like them.All of these things can swirl around in your head and create and absolute tornado of emotions, none that are leading you in the right direction.
When the focus revolves around other people; How other people act and how other people treat you; How other people make you feel about who you are and who you should be; How different situations and different groups of people can affect how you feel about you… Then the tornado will continue. You can only calm the storm when you put your feet on the ground and turn the focus away from them and on to you. You know who you are. And it has nothing to do with them.
You have to make today be the day that you being you no longer has anything to do with them.
Like in the Ugly Duckling story we are different. We are different because of our circumstances. We are different because we have been through tragedies that have made us feel deeper, seek enlightening experiences, and find a peace wherever we may be. We cannot find what we are looking for in other people’s approval. We are different because we belong by being true to ourselves. We belong on this earth. We are meant to be. And we may even be different because we were born with a purpose far greater than fitting in with others.
We are different because our life is no longer about fitting in, or following anyone. We are strong in ourselves. We are not like all the other little ducklings.
Because we are swans.