When I typed out the title to this blog, I’m going to admit it felt a little weird. “Don’t feel pressured to fit in,” I wrote as I shook my head. I have learned through experience that fitting in doesn’t always work out. In some cases, it’s simply impossible, no matter how hard you work at it. Learning that took a long time for me. Coming to a place in my life where I could accept that I would never fit in, where I thought I was supposed to, didn’t come easy.
That’s why it felt awkward the first time I typed “don’t feel pressured to fit in” onto the empty document that would become this blog post. Because I spent over thirty years doing just that-feeling pressured. Fighting and trying to fit in, agonizing over the fact that I couldn’t find a way to fit in, mentally beating the shit out of myself because I didn’t fit in, and desperately wishing that I could fit in. I felt so pressured to fit in that it consumed my life. I felt so pressured to fit in that it’s all I thought about and all I focused on. I felt so pressured to fit in that the fact that I didn’t fit in nearly ruined me. The fight to fit in was so hard that I eventually gave up. The fight lead me to not want to fit in at all. And that’s when my entire life changed for the better.
Why I Wanted to Fit In
I grew up in a blended family with five half siblings. For most of my childhood, it was the thing about me that I loved the most. I idolized my brothers and sisters. I put them on a pedestal so high they must have been able to reach up and brush their hands through the clouds. They were absolutely amazing! They were so cool! And me? I was lucky. Lucky that I was their little sister.
Looking back, I realize that being their little sister wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. For starters, I pretty much had seven parents. So every move I made was not only watched, it was analyzed by seven separate set of eyes who all saw different things. You want to talk about pressure? I have pressure stories for days! Having so many people pushing for your success and showing disappointment in your failure creates an extreme amount of pressure in a growing person’s life.
I constantly felt the need to be better. I thought that maybe if I was closer to perfect, I could finally fit it. So, I kept changing myself and working hard to be something more. I pushed myself everyday to be better because I thought this would help me find a valuable place in my family. But, it seemed like I was always coming up short somewhere. And my efforts never paid off.
By grammar school, I developed a poor self-image. I truly believed that I wasn’t good enough and that was why it seemed I never could quite fit in. I was surrounded by expectations. Even if I met one or two of them, I failed to meet others. The pressure of having all those “parents” lead to a great amount of stress in my life. And the stress lead to anxiety. And before I knew it, I was so busy trying to fit in that I stopped enjoying my life COMPLETELY. I suffered from depression, juggled suicidal thoughts in my mind, and had zero self worth.
To top it off, somewhere in high school I realized that I would never truly fit into my family the way I had wanted. That was a hard pill to swallow. That pill only got bigger as I entered college and moved into my 20s. All those years of my childhood I had developed a false hope that I could someday have the same relationship with my siblings that they had with one another. Being an active part of this blended family always made me feel like I was half of something. And being half of something had left me longing to be whole. I searched for my missing pieces daily, but I failed to find a solution to make me feel complete.
Although I knew in my heart that I would never fit in, I subconsciously tried to tell myself I still had more work to do. So with continued false hope, I spent my college years and early adulthood years continually pursuing my quest to fit in. It was a roller coaster ride of extreme highs and lows that were both excruciatingly painful and powerfully enlightening.
I rode that roller coaster all the way into my 30s and straight into motherhood. Just as I was getting my feet wet as a new Mom, my ride stopped. It was the journey of motherhood that shut down my roller coaster and lead me to new beginnings. It is truly amazing the strength you can carry when you wish to do something for your child. It’s a strength that you could never seem to find for yourself.
A few years into motherhood I realized that I didn’t want the pain I faced trying to fit in to trickle down to hurt my son. As I looked at him, and incidents surrounding him, I realized how toxic my family relationship had been in my life. And as if all those years of wanting and hoping and fighting were simply fleeting seconds in my life, I no longer wanted to fit in with my family.
It was a strange revelation for me. One that came as a complete surprise given all the time and effort I had spent trying. It’s like the electricity suddenly flicked on and shed light into the smallest cracks of my life, lighting up a truth I had been completely blind to before.
My ride on that roller coaster had come to a surprising and fast end. And now, I not only realized I would never fit in with my family, I completely accepted it. I didn’t want to fit in. I wouldn’t want to if it was handed to me as a token parting gift for all my years of service to the cause of trying.
That change in my life opened the door to amazing opportunities for me as a person. I let go of a weight that had held me down for so many years. I was finally allowed myself to fully embrace ME-the me that existed without all the extra work. I learned that all the time and effort I spent trying to fit in hadn’t worked for me because I was working with the wrong puzzle. I found that there was another puzzle waiting for me outside of my family. When I found that puzzle and my pieces fit, I finally found true happiness.
Things I Learned from Failing to Fit In
It’s unfortunate that we spend so much wasted time trying to fit in where society tells us we are supposed to fit in. The extreme pressure of being who and what you think you are supposed to be can take so much away from who you desire to be.
When I first realized I would never fit in with my family, it was at a time in my life where I truly thought it was the end of the world. The only worth I had created for myself in life was contingent on being part of a unit where I didn’t belong. I spent a lot of time ashamed of myself for not fitting the mold that I thought had been created for me.
When my son gave me the strength to see things differently, my life changed. I could finally be myself. I could actually celebrate being me with who I wanted to be myself with. It was one of those life moments you hear about on TV. It was both humbling and overwhelming and something I will am forever grateful.
Since I walked away from the family I was born into, I found a family that I fit into. I’m now surrounded by people who lift me up, who understand me, and who love me exactly for who I am. They don’t try to change me. I fit just right.
While there was a period of time I felt guilty and sad for no longer wanting to fit into the family I knew for most of my life, all the second guessing only lead me to the reassurance that I had made the right decision for ME. And that’s all that had mattered.
When I stopped pressuring myself to fit in, I realized how much I had learned about life along the way. Lessons I hope others can learn from my struggles. Things I learned by not fitting in.
- Don’t burden others with your expectations of them. You’ll be disappointed and they’ll be stressed. Expect nothing of anyone but yourself.
- When you decide to do what benefits YOU, you’re not being selfish. Fill your cup first. You can’t drink from an empty cup.
- Change is scary. Remaining stuck for fear of change is even scarier.
- Every single human walking this earth has faults, struggles, and failures. Some people are just better at hiding them than others.
- Just because some people don’t want what you can offer doesn’t mean what you can offer isn’t of extreme value to someone else.
- It’s ok to walk away from anyone or anything that doesn’t suit your life. It’s a survival tactic that can lead you to great places.
- Sometimes the people you expect to stand by you are actually the ones sticking the knife in your back. Although the pain may be excruciating, the suffering will pass and the lesson will be life changing.
- You should be proud of any decision that has lead you to a better life. A better life doesn’t only help you, it helps those around you.
- Life gets better. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. You never know what’s around the corner. Keep going.
- Be grateful for every relationship in your life, good and bad. They both contribute to your journey to your best self.
- Never criticize others. If not today, your house has been or will be made of glass someday. I’m sure you would rather someone help clean your windows than shatter them. Do for the same for others.
- Never judge other people because they don’t do life the way you do. There’s a reason their shoes don’t fit your feet. Stay in your own lane and keep walking.
- Be kind always. You don’t know the struggles people fight behind closed doors. You don’t know their story.
- Don’t feel pressured to fit in. If you find that fitting in where you are is impossible, you’re trying to piece yourself into the wrong puzzle. Keep searching until you find your perfect fit.
I know from experience that someday you will find a place where you DO fit in. When you find that place, you will realize why you failed to fit everywhere else. You’ll find a place where you fit both inside and out. Your true life’s happiness will be in the feeling that you’ve not only found a place where you fit in, you’ve found a place where you fit perfectly. And that, my friend, will be a moment completely void of pressure. That will be a moment where you’ll wonder why you ever felt pressured to fit in in the first place. Keep searching for your puzzle. It’s out there missing the only piece that can fit-YOU!