There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing your own thing, living an independent life, or waving a giant "loner" flag as you eat lunch all by yourself. It's confident and cool AF. But I'm sure that, at one point or another, you have worried that you don't fit in.
And haven't we all? This world of ours is so ridiculously social. We not only have our phones on us 24/7 (which may or may be blowing up with messages), but we also have to contend with the overwhelming presence of social media. It all serves as a near-constant reminder that people are out leading terribly social lives with all of their friends and acquaintances. Meanwhile, your phone is cold from lack of use, and nobody has liked one of your Facebook updates in days.
And that's just in the digital world. There's still your office, where you can feel like you don't fit in. And school, where you might be the "outcast." It can get to the point where you wonder if eating lunch alone is a choice, or something you have to.
It can really hurt, mostly because the fundamental need to belong is rooted in our evolutionary history, according to Kim Chronister, PsyD, in an email to Bustle. "Not fitting in can affect us both psychologically and physiologically," she adds.
So how can we fix this, if we want to feel better? Why aren't you scooping up friends, and feeling like a valued part of society? Here are some reasons why you might not be fitting in, as well as what to do about it.
1. Your Friends Are Changing
Remember when you were really young and thought wholeheartedly that your BFF would actually be your BFF? If he or she is still around, congrats on an awesome friendship. But it's much more the norm for people to change and drift apart. For example, your friend may get married while you're still living the single life. If that has happened, don't agonize over no longer having things in common. It may just be time to let 'em go.
2. You Haven't Found "Your People"
If you feel like a stranger at work, or live on the periphery of your friend group, it could be that you haven't found "your people." These are the ones who truly get you, and want to know you on a deep level. To find them, you have to immerse yourself in things that are unabashedly you. "If you like it, someone else likes it, I can almost guarantee it," said Melissa Kirk on TinyBuddha.com. Connecting with someone over shared quirks and interests will pretty much guarantee a good, true friendship.
3. You Aren't Opening Up
Remember, to find and fit in with your people, you have to be your truest self. "Practice being open, saying what you feel, and being present with them," said Kirk. "See how they react. The ones who stay with you in those moments of vulnerability, not judging you or criticizing you, are truly your people."
4. You Worry Too Much About What Everyone Thinks
If ever there was a way to come across as awkward and uncomfortable in public, this is it. Caring too much about what people think will only get you stuck in your head, and it can be super off-putting. Try giving yourself a break, and loosening up a bit. People will feel comfier around you, and be more willing to accept you into their lives.
5. You Haven't Owned Your Uniqueness
Again — and I can't stress this enough — you have to own your uniqueness. Not doing so will only leave you with shallow friendships and coworkers who don't "get you." So go ahead and confidently be yourself. "The sooner you embrace the truth of who you are, the sooner you’ll find where you fit and start feeling more joyful and fulfilled by your life and relationships," said Stephanie Zamora on HuffingtonPost.com.
6. You Are Painfully Shy
Its OK to be shy. After all, not everyone is a center-of-the-circle, life of the party type. But being too shy — to the point where you are totally unable to chat with new people — can be quite the hinderance when it comes to fitting in. According to Marty Nemko, Ph.D., on Psychology Today, if you are this shy, or even have social anxiety, it may be time to work on it with a therapist.
7. You Constantly Feel Judged
It's one thing to actually be judged, and it's something entirely different to simply feel judged. Call it low self-esteem, or a thin skin, but having easily-hurt feelings can make fitting in feel impossible. "Of course, it’s totally OK to have different hobbies or interests ... but if you feel judged ... it closes the door for you to connect ... and build a bond," said April Starcadder on TheMuse.com. The best thing to do is be open to new opinions, and remember that not everyone is trying to hurt your feelings.
8. You Don't Listen
Friendships are a two-way street. You talk a bit, your friend talks a bit, and the whole relationship stays equal and balanced. So if you find yourself being shunned by friends, or feeling like no one likes you (sad, I know), it could be that you need to listen more. The next time your friend tells a story, really hear her. Don't offer a story of your own, or try to one up. Simply listen, and she'll be more likely to do the same for you.
9. You Are Trying Too Hard
There's nothing wrong with putting effort into your relationships. But pay attention to where and why you're putting in that effort, as it may all be futile. "One of the most common mistakes we make when we feel like we don’t belong is to try and fit in," said Zamora. "If you feel like you don’t belong, there’s a very good chance you don’t, and this isn’t a bad thing!" When that happens, politely move on to someone more deserving of your attention.
10. You Aren't Trying Enough
While there are some people on this planet who need no invitation to be graceful and charming, most of us are kind of tired and kind of shy, and need a little bit of prodding to be social. So if you're at work, for example, and wondering why no one is talking to you, take it upon yourself to move things along. Be chatty, be nice, ask people about their day. "It’s likely that one of those office friendships will turn into an invite to happy hour or book club or a birthday party — and at the very least, you’ll feel like you fit in at work," said Starcadder.
11. Your Outsides Don't Match Your Insides
I've struggled with this for years, because I believe people should be open and willing to talk to anyone, regardless of what their shirt looks like. But there is something to be said for expressing yourself outwardly as a way of connecting with like-minded people. So if you're really struggling to fit in, consider spiffing yourself up a bit. After all, things like clothes and jewelry and haircuts are conversation starters and can let people know what you're all about. And there's nothing wrong with that.
The next time you are feeling down and out and rejected, keep these things in mind. And be sure to reach out to the people in life who do care. "See those trusted supports as part of your 'real life' and the circle you are not fitting in with as your 'work life,' 'acquaintances,' etc. so that you are less focused on fitting in and more focused on what truly matters," Chronister says. It can also help to remember that there's nothing wrong with you. Sometimes fitting in just takes a little bit of effort, or the willingness to let go.
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