Do you sometimes feel that you just don’t fit in? I am happiest when I am slobbing around at home in scruffy jeans, reading a great novel, writing, spending time with my nearest and dearest or playing with my dogs.
But sometimes, when I look at what others are doing: dressing up, going to parties, drinking cocktails and shopping for designer clothes – I feel painfully different from many of the people around me.
I’m not good at social chitchat: I always seem to wear the wrong things and say the wrong things. It feels like there was a class at school on how to dress and behave at social functions that I missed out on. It can make me feel that I am just not like everyone else and I’m not good enough.
I know I am not alone in having a hard time to fit in society’s expectations.
I have a friend whose family are always asking her when she is going to ‘settle down and have kids’. Also, people often ask my teenage son, a talented photographer, whether he is looking for a ‘proper job’.
But recently I’ve realised that there is room in our world for many different kinds of people. There is not one way of being successful or happy – there are a million ways and all we have to do is find our way.
Here are four strategies to help you find a sense of belonging in the world and in your life:
1. Finding your tribe is more important than ‘fitting in’
Honestly, if you have to change yourself to fit in with a group of friends, then they are the wrong friends for you. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them, they are just not a good fit for you.
Instead of changing to meet the expectations of others, spend your energy on finding your tribe: the people that think in a similar way to you, have similar values to you and like to do the things that you like to do.
Finding your tribe is like coming home. Suddenly, you don’t have to pretend anymore. You can be yourself and others love and appreciate you just the way you are.
You can find your tribe online, by joining groups with interests that inspire you, or out in the world by following hobbies or helping causes that are close to your heart. I have found my tribe in the online writing community and by joining a local conservation group that protects the woodland near my home.
2. Learning what makes you happy is more important than trying to fit someone else’s idea of a successful life
Unfortunately, many of us spend time thinking about what we ‘should’ be doing, rather than allowing our hearts lead us in the direction we really want to go. There can be a lot of pressure from peers, family members and society to take the acceptable paths of study, getting a good job, earning money, achieving promotions, having a nice home and car and then perhaps marriage and family.
It sometimes takes great courage to stop and think about this path and decide what elements we truly choose for our own lives. If we define accomplishment as having these things, we limit what success can be for us. Perhaps success for you is having an afternoon each week to paint, or hike in nature. Or maybe it is having a great circle of friends who really ‘get’ you and where you truly fit in.
Your idea of success could include being your own boss, traveling or doing charity or environmental work. When we don’t limit ourselves to the ‘sensible’ options we are free to find the work and relationships that will truly make us happy.
3. Aim for a meaningful life
Much of our focus on outward signs of success such as making money or shopping might come from an underlying fear that our lives are meaningless. Viktor Frankl, the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, said that ‘When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.’
Simply by asking the question ‘is this meaningful to me?’ we can begin to look at our lives differently, choosing activities for their inherent satisfaction rather than for the approval of others.
Doing activities that are meaningful to us enriches our lives and gives us satisfaction far beyond that which we can achieve by meeting others’ expectations.
It is possible to take meaningful actions every day and they don’t have to be big world-changing activities, simply recycling more or upholding a beloved family tradition can add to our sense of meaning. The important thing is to choose things that are really meaningful to you.
4. Choose to serve your own values rather than society’s
When you think about the acceptable paths as prescribed by society, consider whom they serve. Getting a job with a monthly pay packet might seem to serve you, but actually, you are just using your talents to make money for others. Buying designer clothes or fancy cars might seem to be rewarding you, but actually, you are lining the pockets of big business.
And countless studies have shown that materialism doesn’t make us happy anyway. I’m not saying that having a steady job or buying nice things is wrong, I’m simply suggesting that you question everything and act upon your own desires rather than society’s expectations.
When you choose to do the things that serve you, rather than politicians, big businesses, and even family and friends, you will being to live a more authentic life and discover a deep sense of belonging that can never be found by merely fitting in.
If you think that you don’t really fit in modern society, let us know in the comments below.
Copyright © 2012-2023 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.
This Post Has 11 Comments
Number 4 is wrong.
Agreed. I was gonna say that
The article is perfect. I’m struggling because I’m ‘awakening’ so has been difficult to deal with myself and with other people. I’m ‘relearning’, I’m rediscovering myself. The way is paiful, but I am sure is worth it. Thank you so much for that. It helped me a lot! Adriana (29, Ireland)
Thank you! I have been struggling with this a lot recently. I have been working on me for a while now and i just got back to the dating scene and i find myself wishing i could tell the people im interested in that i am going out for girls night or going shopping or just in general “having a life” but i have no desire to do any of those things. I really needed this article right now. Thank you.
It is a hard row tp hoe when most everything i learnt as a trusting child at home, in school and at church turns out to be wrong. Wrong for me. I think you are spot on. Love yourself, trust your instincts and follow your heart. Have fun, thrieve and prosper
you are my kindred spirit. I have been looking for a people like you since millennium…
the rate of me fitting in in my society is 0% and its painful
‘If you think that you don’t really fit in modern society, let us know in the comments below.’
The irony is beautiful. Thank you. And I agree with your points.
I do, too, relate to this and the comments. It started after 3 brothers took their own life. And one niece who was dying due to cancer, but chose one friend to be with her when she died, none of her family. I realised how tired I get from people’s questions about my well being, or asking “if I’m alright” just because I don’t feel the need to appear ‘in the crowd’, because it feels overwhelming and demanding, and people are being brutal and forceful in their questioning. I hate it when people say: I’m always surprised when I see you alone, still, you are so beautiful! Or: strange, but you are so unreachable. With that they give you a feeling of being odd, when all I feel is: why can’t you just let me be me as I try to let you be you? Why do I always have to explain why I’m single? I’d love to answer: I’m tired of the bullcrap,…… but then I’m being rude and even more odd hahaha…but it feels that way. I’ve always felt great pressure in our large family, no time for each character, be similar. But we’re not. And I know how ‘lonely’ my other 2 brothers (1 and 2 years older than me) felt. By that same social pressure. They never felt really comfortable in the crowd, were either nervous or quiet, hid behind drugs to be able to perform. We understood each others feelings, the feeling of ‘not belonging’, needing personal space. Am I depressed, I wondered? No, I feel okay as long as people stop asking stupid and ignorant questions. I love the peaceful feeling my home gives me, I love my closest friends, my job, my son. I love to choose what feels comfortable for me, I wish people quit barging in on my personality.
this article is PERFECT! You have to love yourself because you have to live for yourself. I have been in this “weird society” for so many years and tried it ALL, could never have success or fit in. Now, i do things my way, what i like and love at my own time and im 10xs more happier. People today just want company because there miserable and sad, sorry not me! nobody talks, technology ruined people and people dont care. Everybody thinks im arrogant when im not, im not gonna make somebody or somebody else rich but me! i come #1 and expectations is nothing but jealousy and envy. I am NOT and never did or will change for anybody to like me, im perfectly fine and everybodyyyyyyyyyyyyy wants to change you or to see things from a different angle, NO! I am more than fine where i am.
I have been feeling the same way for years. Everywhere I go, I try to be nice to people and be kind because I wanted them to like me and be my friend but nothing was working for me. I was always sad and would cry a lot in bed because I had nobody to talk to, hang out with or express my feelings to. I had suicide thoughts because I am living in this world where nobody cares about me and it hurts. But on December 2020 I found an old video on YouTube of a girl who was going through the same situation as me but worse. It was a bullying story. I watch her video over and over again it made me accept myself for who I am. I also found similar videos on YouTube like hers’ and they also helped me a lot. Since then I realized that I don’t need to be like everybody else to be accepted. I can be myself like I always am when I alone in my own house. I don’t need to fit in. People who fit in have no career goals , no future, and no life. No wonder why they always get arrested, pregnant at a young age, and end up with fake and toxic friends who don’t truly support them. I for a few years I’ve been hearing stories of people killing their friends.