I have spent most of my life not ‘fitting in’ in one way or another but I only recently began to think about how important fitting in (or not fitting in) is in my daily life and for my well being in general.
How often do we hear the expression that someone’s ‘face doesn’t fit’? The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘face doesn’t fit’ as follows, “If someone’s face doesn’t fit, their appearance or personality is not suitable for a job or other activity”.
To not fit in, requires being different in some way or being perceived as being so. While in reality everyone is different, being the same is seen as a safe choice and excluding or ostracizing those that are not perceived as the same is often (and obviously wrongly) seen as a way to ‘cement’ that feeling of being the same and of belonging. History has shown the dangers of this type of thinking and parts of the world continue to be dangerous as this train of thought continues to be prevalent.
In addition to not fitting in because others see someone as different in some way, many people feel that they don’t fit in because of the way that they see themselves and how they relate to others. Not fitting in is not always the fault of the group but can also be a self imposed burden or blessing and is often subconscious. I am very aware that there are many ways in which I do not fit in that are entirely due to my own thinking rather than the thinking of others.
For most of my life I have not fit in. I think that I have been aware if this for as long as I can remember. Sometimes people see it and sometimes people are blissfully unaware of it. The fact remains, that there are very few places where I feel like I fit in and there are very few people with whom I truly feel that I fit in.
These are just some of the reasons that I have not fit in, over the years or do not fit in now.
My Accent – I started life in Manchester in the UK and my accent reflects this. When I lived in Texas in the USA as a 7 year old, I stuck out like a sore thumb! Later, when I lived in Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield and London, I still sounded different. Ironically by the time I returned to Manchester about 20 years after I left it, Mancunians couldn’t tell where I was from. Again, I was different! In addition to sounding a bit strange I also no longer had the shared memories or experiences associated with being from Manchester.
Nationality – As a Brit in the USA I was very different and rather a novelty. In Israel, I am different to Israelis born in Israel and I am culturally different to my South African, Australian, New Zealander, North American, South American and European friends and colleagues.
Language – I am an immigrant of 10 years. I am not fluent in my second language. I am different because I don’t understand everything that is said and because I can’t express myself well.
Religion – I have been different over the years because I have a faith and a culture that goes along with it and not everybody does. I have also been different because I don’t practice my religion in the same way that everyone else does who shares the same religion (in name) as me.
Parenting style – My parenting style has differed over the years in many ways to that of people in my social circles and this has often led to me not fitting in.
Political and world views – I was brought up in a home where I knew from a very young age that good people are good people and colour, religion, race, nationality, sexual orientation, economic situation, gender and such like have no bearing on this. I believe that all people are valuable and deserve to be treated as so. Strangely, I often don’t fit in because I hold these seemingly strange beliefs!
Weight, height, size and shape – I started off being different because I was short and small. Later on I was different because I thought I was overweight. Later still and I was actually overweight as a result of thinking that I had been overweight. Now I am flat chested, something the world finds very different indeed for a female who identifies as a female.
Children – I am different locally because I have one child. I was less different in the UK in this regard but in Israel, I stand out for it. It is a curiosity and something to poke and probe about.
These are only a small number of the reasons that I don’t really fit in. There are so many more that I could add to this short list.
So does it matter? How important is fitting in?
I used to think that fitting in was imperative. I knew that I didn’t fit in but I assumed that at some point, in the future, I would find my place and my people and that I would truly feel like fit in.
I am now older and a little wiser. Life is a learning curve and I am still learning and growing but I know now that for me, fitting in, is no longer important. In fact I would go as far as to say that I don’t want to fit in. For me, to fit in, means to bend myself to a shape that I am not. I know enough about myself at this point in my life to know that I am flexible and I will bend but I only want to do this in ways that suit me and certainly not for the benefit of those who require it of me so that I can neatly fit in the box that they have allocated for me. That isn’t me. That would be a bent out of shape version of me.
So there it is. I don’t fit in. I don’t want to fit in. Fitting in is no longer important to me.
This doesn’t mean, however, that I want to be different or to stand out from the crowd. Quite the opposite.
This means that the only place where I need to fit in is within myself. If I can be happy with who I am, what I look like, how I think, who I love and who I want to spend time with then I am fitting in to what and who I should be and to what I expect of myself.
So yes, I suppose I do want to fit in but not in the way that others may define it. I just want to be me because I am a perfect fit, for me, in every way and fitting better every day.