The True Cost of Fitting In

A sense of belonging is fundamental to our existence. We all desire love and belonging, and are all striving to be accepted by loved ones. Brené Brown, in The Gifts of Imperfection says this “fitting in gets in the way of belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

Isn’t that tragic? We try so hard to be accepted and to fit in amongst our peers, friends and family and in doing so, we betray our authenticity. With my journey of recovery from burnout, I have spent a lot of time thinking about who I really am and who I want to be. I’ve changed careers, ended relationships and made radical changes to my lifestyle. I’m working hard to align my life to my authentic self.

I’m also teaching my children to be true to themselves. They are still young and finding their own identities but we have discussions about not needing to be the same as someone else. It is difficult to encourage them to be themselves, knowing that they will be judged and influenced by peers, teachers, employers etc. Our instinct to protect them from being ostracized interferes with this ideal of being authentic.

Through my recovery, I’ve changed a lot as a person and I don’t value the same things anymore. I used to be an ultra marathon runner and I can’t run anymore. I don’t belong in that circle any longer. I have broken out of the corporate rat race so I struggle to connect when people are badmouthing their bosses and companies. I don’t listen to the news because it is so negative and I don’t want to be caught up in the panic that our country and world is doomed. I believe that things will be how they will be, and we will all survive. There’s no point dwelling in the misery and spreading the fear.

I am interested in living on purpose, in following your dreams and making the most of your life. I’m interested in how creativity heals and creates a channel of unique expression for all of us. I’m interested in learning and growing as a person. Not many people want to talk about this however. I appear naive and foolish for wanting to live a good life. I’m apparently supposed to face reality and be in a cubicle earning money to pay bills. I really believe that life can be more fulfilling than a job, bills, chores and death.

So in my discussions with old friends, I don’t fit in. But my alternative is to alter myself and my behaviour to be part of the greater group. I’m not prepared to betray my authenticity in that way. I want to be me and I’m interested in different things now. I guess I need some new friends, with similar interests and aspirations.

Many people struggle to understand what I’m doing. I’ve been called a housewife by a few people lately, and I’m trying not to be offended. I’m building a new career in my forties, on limited energy while recovering from burnout. Being at home is not by choice. I wonder what they would call me if I was a man. I think the main issue people have is that I don’t fit into the correct box. Corporate worker, no. Entrepreneur, no. Writer, well there’s nothing published so, no.

Fitting in

I’ve done the best I could do to recover quickly so that I can get my life rebooted. I’ve worked hard on my book and I’m happy with the outcome. I’m not the kind of person who just slaps it together and pushes it out into the world. It must be good, it must have meaning and it must be able to help people. I’ve also taken a long time because I’ve been really sick. Fatigue is a hard thing for people to understand and often it is attributed to laziness or psychosomatic illness.

I’m making my own box, and that makes people uncomfortable. But I’m okay with not being in a traditional career box. I think that’s what the future looks like. My children will have jobs and careers that do not currently exist. Everyone has something so unique to offer that it seems strange to me to categorise our talents in the way we do. Let’s stop worrying about fitting in, and rather focus on being authentic. It is through the expression of our unique strengths and talents that we truly shine and connect with our life path more deeply.

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I am a champion for living your passion. Writing is my passion, my destiny and my calling. I am a mother of two beautiful daughters and a wife and live in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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