To fit in or not to fit in, that is the question, to echo Shakespeare’s perennial question about being or not being.
In a previous article, we wrote about what others think of you. To be sure, it’s a crucial topic – one that can dominate your thoughts and behavior.
It’s such an important topic that we want to delve further into how we relate to others – in our thoughts, feelings and actions. Many of our fears and doubts come from what we “think” others will do or say about us.
This need for approval starts out as legitimate concerns for our safety and security. In early childhood, we need protection by a caregiver. But as we will discuss, all of this energy can be flexibly used and transcended as we mature. More details in a moment.
Let’s look then at this important part of our lives – in how we relate to others – more closely.
The Need to Belong
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent,” as John Donne famously wrote. We are all connected, in spite of our differences.
It’s a basic need to belong. But belong to what?
As an infant, we need to be seen and known – and provided for – by our caregiver. With this support, we feel comfortable.
Lacking this basic attachment experience, we may grow up either needy or overly isolated from others. Coming from childhood behavior, acting either clingy or distant from others is a way to feel protected. As we grow up, though, it doesn’t work too well.
In adolescence, we want to fit in with our peers. Later on, we seek belonging in cultural groups and with others having common interests (like joining a club).
We’ve come to an important point: if we keep growing spiritually, we can eventually feel like a citizen of the world. We know that in truth we belong to the cosmos itself.
Key Words for Belonging
To guide us, let’s note a few key words (both pros and cons).
approve / disapprove
accept / reject
include / exclude
connect / separate
acknowledge / unacknowledge
Feel into these words for a moment…They might bring up a certain sense of belonging (or not belonging). This energetic of being a part of or separate from accompanies us throughout life.
How we fit in depends on how we respond to the situation we are facing.
Here are some choices that can come up. You can use these questions to address fitting in with a particular group.
Do I fit in or stand out?
Am I pleasing or rebelling?
Am I accepted or rejected?
Do I get along or step outside the norm?
There may be no easy answers or black-and-white solutions in real-life situations.
Life is a series of challenges, conundrums, and riddles. Sometimes there are answers and sometimes it’s about learning to deal with uncertainty.
For instance, here are a couple common challenges:
How do I pursue spirituality and get along with my (conventional) family?
How do I become a holistic coach and healer without becoming an outcast?
Finding Common Ground (A Good Strategy)
Here’s a practical tip for dealing with situations where you feel at odds with others.
Look for a common ground. But how? We can build a bridge with the language we use. This approach includes avoiding using jargon or specialized terms that may be confusing or triggering. For example, instead of saying “EFT tapping” “or “going into an altered state or trance,” talk about ”relieving stress” or “relaxing.”
The idea here is to be thoughtful about others (with those who might judge you negatively for a different view) instead of focusing on your own worries. And there are times when following your heart means that you do need to be more confrontational or disruptive with others.
Such challenges are part of spiritual growth. By following our heart, answers will come.
As poet Rilke advised, first ask the questions. Then someday one will grow into and live the answers.
A Powerful Example
A lady we helped, whom we will call Maria, was dealing with fears of criticism and rejection from people, and one person in particular. Even thinking about him caused her to break out in a rash. Maria sensed this resistance like a force field around her, preventing her from going forward.
After doing some hypnotherapy and holistic EFT, things dramatically shifted. Maria relaxed and felt free of this pressure. She was able to open her heart and move forward without resistance.
The following week she reported that her intense allergic, physical reaction to this person had just about vanished.
Finding the Balance
Our body needs balance by proper self-care (nutrition, exercise, sleep, sunlight). So, too, our outer relations need continual balancing as well.
We find that balance by living fully, being present in the moment, which includes getting up after you’re down.
In other words, it’s not about either/or – just belonging by being dependent or independent. There is a time for both. Sometimes our partner helps us in areas where we need it. Companionship is important and wonderful.
At other times, we need to be alone and explore in solitude. Ultimately, we are interdependent, which results in a blend of being together. We can be both self-reliant and work together for the greater good.
With awareness, we can tap into the intuitive flow of life.
Ultimately, the goal reaches beyond just survival. We learn to be with other people (and ourselves) with more genuine love, kindness and compassion. In effect, we understand others better once we understand ourselves better.
Our mission then goes beyond just to “fit in,” but to contribute. We don’t want to just get along – we want to uplift and support.
We won’t settle for just being safe and secure. We want to be fully alive, with an open heart and mind. When we connect with our soul, when we tune into our awareness, artificial boundaries disappear.
We no longer need to “fit in” since we are already a part of everything. We can let go and let be, while still learning, growing and having discernment.
Then fitting in becomes just another interesting aspect of life – one we can learn, use and transcend, as we move forward into greater wholeness and awareness.