Why are we so fixated on fitting in? Why are we so quick to buy into this level of achievement that feeling we fit in will give us?
Think back on the earliest memories you have, when what you wanted most was to feel accepted by your family. You would (and likely did) do anything to be wanted and to fit in.
Can you recall the birthday parties that for some reason you weren’t invited to? Do you find yourself still thinking about the sleepovers that you were excluded from or even wondering why your friend picked that other girl to sit beside at school? Each crushing event left you asking, why do they not like me? What am I doing wrong?
That’s when you unconsciously started moulding yourself so that others would like you more, want you more, and include you more. You realised then, that the best way to ensure you were accepted and felt like you belonged, was to immediately adapt to what others expected of you. You needed to become more them and less you. It was best that you highlight your similarities and hide your differences. You partook in conversations where others were bitched about. You knew you shouldn’t have, but you let your silence speak for itself. You passed on gossip and stories in an effort to be liked. You may even have attempted to bring others down in order to raise yourself up. You allowed yourself to embody mean girls, just because it was easier. The alternative was to stand up and stand out and nobody wanted that.
The irony isn’t lost on me that the measure of our success and fulfilment today as women in our thirties, forties and fifties, relies heavily on us now being incredibly comfortable being exactly who we are and feeling free to show up to the world and express ourselves in all our authenticity.
You did all this, when you were younger so that you would fit in and be accepted. I wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere and with someone. I was so afraid of being abandoned, of not being included, that I fully abandoned myself.
But here I am now, with the wisdom of some passing years and a heart so full of loss and hurt that I see now that all that time trying to fit in was such wasted time. It didn’t bring me closer to where I wanted to be and it didn’t draw me closer to being who others wanted me to be either. It just disconnected me mostly, but not exclusively, from myself.
I am done now with trying to appear less Niamh. I am finally finished reshaping who I am, wedging myself into their idea of me, forcing myself to be something to others. They never asked me to. This was entirely my choice. It may not have been entirely my fault but it absolutely is my responsibility to fix it. And so now I am stepping back from it.
Who I am right now was never meant to be crammed into fit the expectations of others. Who I am now is who I decide I want to be. Who I am now is so much more than I ever thought possible.
I am unapologetic about expressing my thoughts and my feelings even though I know they may not always land in the gentlest way possible. My intention is to always be true to myself first. It is never to alienate or to cause offence but that may happen.
I’ve come to realise that being me is the entire point. I’ve discovered that the times I am most honest with myself is the time I attract more truth and honesty from others. The times I express my needs and desires have coincided with me receiving more of what I want and need.
I was never supposed to fit in, to blend, to be the same. I see that now. I see that in order to inspire others to change I have to show up fully as me. To reveal my flaws, to share my losses, so that they can witness me transforming who I was then into who I am becoming today and tomorrow. Being me is the centre of this.
I was never meant to fit in. The realisation of this is liberating. That day I posed that question in my journal shifted everything. “What if I didn’t need to belong?” What if I decided that success in my life was in fact being much more me, even if that meant being more alone, while doing it. “What if I didn’t need to fit in?”
I honestly had never asked myself that question like that before and I certainly had never given myself permission to answer it. The truth I discovered was that there was light in letting go of that need. There was freedom in allowing myself first of all to think about doing things differently and then ultimately making different and better choices for the life I wanted for me.
Please don’t allow your life to be determined by the wishes of others. Don’t allow yourself to get so lost in trying to fit in that you forget just what it is you want from your life, who you want in your life and who it is you want to become. If you continue to stay where you think you belong, even if you don’t feel it, you are limiting yourself from being in a place where you could grow, where you could be of real influence and value to others.
Change only comes from people who are prepared to think differently, who are different and already behave differently.
Some of us are here to contribute and shape this new sense of belonging. Some of us are here to stay the same. Which one are you? Are you here to fit in or to stand out? It’s your choice.
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Founder of The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme for women going through their own Chiron Return and host of The TOUGH LOVE ENERGY™ Podcast. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. niamhennis.com.