Are You Just Fitting In Or Do You Belong?

Most of you probably already know who Brene Brown is but I just discovered her “brilliant self” because of a notification on my LinkedIn that said I might want to follow her. They were correct. Her books have introduced me to a whole other level of knowledge and way of thinking. When I sent my oldest son one of Brene’s quotes, he got all excited because his mom saw the same greatness in this woman’s insight as he did. Yes, he follows her too.

Last night I started reading Brene’s book The Gifts Of Imperfection. When she starts explaining the difference between “fitting in” and “belonging” , my mind started identifying all of the times I was guilty of morphing myself to fit in with who I was with at the moment.

I’ll take it all the way back to when I was a kid: My best friend in grammar school was the pretty and popular one so we always did what she wanted to do and I just fell into place and was the “follower”. Teenage years, when everyone but me was trying hard drugs, I wanted to try it because I felt like the outcast. So many times I could have died because I wanted to “fit in”. On into my adult life…and there are so many examples in this catagory that it would take forever to muddle through them all so, since they are pretty repetitive, I’ll just share a couple. When I was in my early twenties I was married to a military man and we lived in England. I worked full-time in a facility on the base and all of the women talked real “bad ass” with a lot of slang. Well, at times, I did the same. It’s like I heard myself but I didn’t feel like I was being myself. Of course, I didn’t even know who I was at that point in my life. Just a young girl from Tennessee out in the world and far from home. At some point, I found myself going on a weekend trip to Liverpool with two of the ladies I worked with and mind you, this was in the early 80's! One night we went from Reggae House to Reggae House dancing that slow swaying dance and smoking pot openly. I distinctly remember standing behind a man with long dreadlocks and I just had to reach up and touch his hair! This was all so foreign to me and it was an amazing experience to say the least. As we walked from place to place, there was a police presence but if they got to close, a beer bottle was thrown (not by me) and the police moseyed on in the opposite direction. Keep in mind, the police did not carry hand guns in those days. Again, I am talking the part, dressing the part and acting the part because I wanted to fit in with these new friends. I have to admit though, 34 years later I can honestly say that this was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had! Now for the latter part of my adulthood, say 15 years ago, divorced with three teenage sons. Dating… I hate dating. It is awkward and feels like a win or lose situation to be in. At 40, you can’t just throw all of your honesty and open baggage on the table and say “here it is buddy, stick or run”. So, what did I do? I did the things the guy wanted to do and became the submissive. Even when I met the man I eventually married. I honestly loved all of the things he did, we shot pistol matches together, shot compound bows, went hunting, built things in the garage and basically were attached at the hip. However, I failed to continue doing the things that ”I” loved to do. Gone were the kayaking and hiking trips. The daily workouts and healthy eating were things I had to do when he was at work because he did’t want to do them with me. I didn’t go out with my girlfriends because he never went out with any guy friends. I was “fitting in” with my own mate instead of being my total self.

Now, present time and single again I can finally see this pattern for what it is. Thanks to Brene’s writings, this is an “in my face eye opener” that shows me I shouldn’t have to try to be what others might hope I will be for them but to just be “who I really am” and if it doesn’t fit into their expectations then SO WHAT? They can “stick or run”. Life is too important to be anything short of what and who you are at heart!

Like Brene says in her book, “Belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

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