“Belonging has always been a fundamental driver of humankind”Brian Chesky
We all want to be loved, have healthy relationships and a sense of purpose in our lives. Life itself can be visualised as a wave where it ebbs and flows, rises and falls, and continually changes, adapts and alters parts of its path. We can all feel at times in our life like we don’t fit in. This could be shyness from a young age, moving into a different cultural dynamic or even a career change in a new city. In this article we will strike a healthy balance on ways you can create stronger and healthier social dynamics, connect with others more deeply, yet also find your own way, your unique path that does not have to follow convention. It is very important for our health to have human interaction and relationships, but that does not mean you have to follow the norm in each new location. Sometimes the stars that shine brightest innovate first.
Why do we want to fit in so badly?
According to Psychiatrist Joanna Cannon, 2016;
“Familiarity is the social glue that bonds people together, and we deliberately seek out the similar and the recognizable in order to feel secure. If we’re doing the same as everyone else, we must be doing it right, and finding a reflection of ourselves in those around us is a form of validation.”
It is perfectly normal to want to fit in for validation, security of other humans, opportunities to find love and more. Joanna Cannon further discusses the idea that from an early age on the playground we mimic other children’s behaviours to validate ourselves. As adults, we priorities ordinary and can exclude others because it makes us question our own validation of ourselves that we have been working on for decades of our lives since the playground.
It is motivating for us to be part of a group. Art Markman, Ph.D. looked at a series of studies which showed that people with simple things such as the same birthday worked harder together to complete a task as it showed that sense of belonging to another person with the same birthday. This study also showed how people can feel more warmth to one another just from a simple connection of belonging.
According to Blue Zones social isolation can cause a decrease in our mental well-being due to stress hormones rising when our self-worth decreases. They also suggest that a sense of belonging can actually increase your lifespan;
“Dr. James House at the University of Michigan found the chance of dying over a period of 10 years increases by 10 percent for people who live alone or have only a few friends compared to people with more friends and family.”
Why you may feel like you don’t fit in anywhere
It is normal to feel insecure at stages in our life and not have a full understanding your self-image and identity. We will now explore some reasons why you may feel like ‘I don’t fit in anywhere,’ and once you begin to understand this further you will then have deeper foundations to explore ways to create the life you desire. Please note all of the below pointers are perfectly normal and we will have all faced such challenges at stages of our lives. The most confident individuals will have started off as a shy or self-conscious induvial at a certain stage of their life.
- Rejection: Everyone on the planet, past present and even in the future will at some point in their life if not more frequently receive some form of rejection. When you are in the mindset that you are not fitting in a rejection will have a particularly deep impact on you. When we exchange information it is simply an exchange of data and all that happened in that one situation was that the data did not transfer from one person to the next smoothly. Perhaps your body language did not match you words with authenticity or perhaps you were rushed and stressed on that day. This is all perfectly normal and happens to us all as human beings. Imagine saying hello to someone you sit next to on a train with a smile and you ask them how their day was? Such a simple question in a kind manner would normally receive a positive response. Having said this many people may in fact respond slightly awkwardly to such a question. In reality this says far more about that person than it does about you. Perhaps they are having a bad day, perhaps they are quite shy, perhaps they have something going on in their lives. If you are kind and positive towards other people when you first meet them, responses from others often says a lot more about them than it does you. In a situation whereby you face a rejection, take a positive stance, learn from the situation, wish them all the best, walk away from the situation and grow as a person.
- Interconnected: We live in such a fast paced world which is so interconnected now. It is truly wonderful that we are developing cross cultural dynamics and what matters is human kindness, compassion and equality and respect for others. Coming from a different cultural background, different belief systems, the way we look, and emergence of new ideas and more can case us to feel uncomfortable in new scenarios and dynamics. Be proud of who you are and learn about new cultures and the world with an open mind and compassion.
- Introverted: If you are an introverted individual this of course does not mean in anyway that you are not a happy individual. You may be very happily married, have children and a good job, but you have a close knit family and perhaps parties and social gatherings make you feel uncomfortable. This does not mean that you need to drastically change who you are or become an extrovert in any way. Every human being can benefit from becoming a better communicator and learning how to create deeper connections. See more below.
- Trying too hard: When we feel like not fitting in and then we do all of a sudden create a connection and make someone else smile, it is possible that we can try too hard. We can try too hard to belong. Becoming happy with ourselves is the key to fitting in, because we show up with authenticity and we share our story with others and we are kind enough to listen to their story too.
- Friends Changing: If friends move to a new job or new city, they will naturally make new friends and connections. This may lead us to feel ‘second best,’ at times; but it is important that we practice compassion and be happy for our friends, and try to keep a connection with our friend as well. We can accept that we may not speak to them as regularly as we used to, but we can plan a monthly call, and make the most of events and times when we are together.
- Not being in the right social group: We may forcibly be in a social setting due to college or work that we did not choose to be in. Rather than trying to be someone you are not, it is better to be polite and ask kind questions to the people in that group with a desire to connect, but all the while maintaining our principles and values accordingly.
- Not opening up/ being closed off: When we have suffered pain, it is natural for us to protect ourselves and to close our mind and hearts off to others. However, if we do so, we risk missing out on many beautiful connections in life and not being our authentic best self. Practice self-acceptance and self-compassion to process your emotions and then organically open yourself up to others.
- Too concerned about the opinions of others: If we keep our guard up and look through a lens of trying to get others to approve of us, we will never be our authentic self. Ironically when we live up to our principles and values instead of shying away from them, others will look up to us much more. It is OK o disagree with someone, but be respectful and open minded in that process.
- Not being present: When we are fully focussed on another persons body language, mannerisms and tonality, we can calmly respond to that person and understand more deeply what they are saying beyond just their words. Everyone’s minds wander often; when we notice this happening choose to focus actively on the other person and re-engage your thoughts back to them.
- Being self-conscious: This can also strongly relate to being too concerned about other peoples opinions. This can also go deeper as we maybe self-conscious about our appearance, or have carried over an anxious thought from an earlier event.
- Not accepting your own individuality: We may be self-conscious of our sense of style, our sexuality, in believing we are good enough, and many other areas of our life. Everyone at times in their life can be insecure about ‘who they are,’ in certain areas of their life. This is normal so be kind to yourself.
- Shyness: Being shy about who we are in certain life domains can cause us not to have deep connections as we can either hold ourselves back or people can feel uncomfortable if you feel uncomfortable in yourself. It is natural for people to feel relaxed around people who are confident and relaxed themselves and vice versa.
- Not chasing your desires: People are attracted to those who are passionate in life and people who know their goals and run after them. Happy, positive and courageous people inspire people and this is contagious in the room.
- Not listening to others: If we learn to leave our ego at the door, listen to others intently with compassion and empathy, we will connect much more deeply. We can all at times be guilty of making quick judgements about what we assume they will say.
- Not trying enough: If we act with self-indulgence and self-interest too often we will alienate people. Make the other person feel like the most important person in the room and be willing to give an extra 10% in conversations. Ask them how they are and genuinely mean it and so forth.
- Not expressing our true feelings: As we have read sharing your life with passion will engage people tremendously. If we do not act in alignment with our values and principles with confidence, then we may appear to be someone we are not.
- Social anxiety: Crowded rooms and noisy environments can put social pressures on us to act or look a certain way. Don’t let this happen! Be your authentic best self with empathy, compassion and live your life with passion. From this foundation you can always be yourself no matter the environment.
- Having different beliefs to your social group: It is OK to have different beliefs to others in your social group. If you can keep boundaries, express your ideas and listen to the ideas of others with kindness and curiosity, then you can grow as a person.
How to feel like you belong?
- Pursue new hobbies: Take up new hobbies with things that resonate with you and your passions. Do not focus on fitting in, instead be consistent with the hobby, get better and learn new skill sets. Be kind and positive with people you interact with. In time your passion and new found skill sets will give you more confidence and a stronger sense of identity. Naturally from this people will be drawn to you.
- Practice mindful communication: By being present minded and engaged with another individual we can empathise better with what they are saying; their needs, values, the undertone of their words. Mindful listening can open up deep connections with others. In our article apology language we also discuss how to create more harmonious relationships and make deeper connections with others.
- Practice mindfulness: When we practice being in the present moment and observe our feelings, thoughts and emotions without judgment we can be authentic with ourselves and from this organically explore what makes us happy. Our wellbeing training has exercises for mindful thing, emotional intelligence and meditations. It also shows you how to build up strong social connections and create a sense of identity surrounding yourself with positive constructs for your happiness.
- Chase your dreams: By living a meaningful life and a life of purposeful pursuit, you will share energy and passion with authenticity. People will admire you and such energy is contagious. Explore Meaningful Paths to find your own life of meaning.
- Embrace who you are: The person who is most authentic and in tune with their Positive Psychology Strengths will feel ‘alive,’ and this foundation of authenticity is naturally attractive to other people.
- Know your worth: Knowing your worth is not the same as being arrogant. It is about having respect for yourself and having boundaries for when you need to be kind to yourself. It is OK to say NO to others and to share another option. For example you might accept one social invitation and decline another; you do not need to chase every person, social group or invitation.
What is loneliness?
Are loneliness and social isolation the same thing? Loneliness can lead to social isolation and social isolation can lead to loneliness.
It is possible to see people regularly but feel lonely as they may not have meaningful connections with the people they interact with. For example someone may say hello to their colleagues but rarely go any deeper into the conversation.
It is possible to be a very social person, but long working hours, moving location or a global challenge such as COVID-19 can result in social isolation. Over many weeks and months, such isolation can result in that person feeling lonely.
It is important to distinguish between loneliness and social isolation as it may help us to understand why we feel like we don’t fit in anywhere. Learning how to combat loneliness can be a vital first step in helping us to fit in and connect with others.
What does loneliness feel like?
Feeling lonely can result in increased anxiety, depression and a lack of hope. We may feel less energised to do day to day tasks and this can become a vicious cycle leading to less action and a further deepening of a depression. When we lack hope, we start to lose the will to act and partake in anything meaningful to us. Hope is the key word here, as when we feel hopeful about something, we believe that the future can be better and we can find the desire to make it so.
How to deal with loneliness – things to remember
- People love you: When we feel lonely, we can lose sight of our blessings. Write down one person you are grateful for in your life today. Tomorrow write down one thing you are grateful for – a view, a butterfly, a song on the radio; no matter how small. By actively writing down your blessings you will begin to train your brain to see the positives. The positives are always there, whether we can see them or not. We can increase the scope of our personal lens.
- You don’t need to change who you are: We can grow and become our best self, but we do not need to fit in to be happy. Be kind to yourself and practice small steps to becoming a healthier and happier version of yourself each day.
- Give yourself time: By practicing small daily tasks to become happier and healthier each day; one day we will stop and look up to realise how far we have come; embrace that moment and choose to be happy.
- Work on yourself: 1) Practice gratitude and write it down. (2) Spend as much time as possible in nature (if you live in a city try your best to go to a park or buy some plants and flowers for your home). (3) Move each day and exercise in any way that you can. (4) Read or watch things that inspire you.
- Patience: We have spoke about giving yourself time, also give your body time, give your mind time, give other people time, give nature time, and give the world itself time. As we work on ourselves and become more proactive and busier, things will start to fall into place. When we do not actively move or actively engage with things that are good for us, time can stand still.
You don’t need to fit in to be happy
“Fitting in is boring. But it takes you nearly your whole life to work that out.”Clare Balding
In our video interview with Transformation Coach Osha Key, someone asked how to make instant connections with others? Osha shared that you need to know who you are and be fully connected with yourself. You can read someone’s energy, someone’s needs, read them at their level. Its about being curious and leaving your ego aside. It also requires a lot of self-acceptance and self love. because you will be too much up in your head and not relaxed in your body.
Please explore more about self-acceptance in our article – you are good enough and this is why.
A sense of belonging is very important in order for us to feel that we matter, we have love and we have security within social groups. In order for us to feel like we fit in we first must work on ourselves. Working on self-acceptance and creating a healthy relationship with ourselves will not only make us much happier and be able to work through life’s challenges in a healthie manner; but ironically through practicing self-acceptance we will become much more authentic, have a stronger sense of our own identity and from this others will be drawn towards us.
Practice mindfulness and mindful lisetning to increase authentic empathy with others.
Partake in new hobbies and social groups for the purpose of your own passions and allow organic connections to grow through this process.
You may also enjoy our overthinking quotes section of our platform, which can help you with self-reflection, inspiration and self-compassion.
Thanks for listening.
Friends Nourish the Body and Soul – Blue Zones
It Is Motivating to Belong to a Group | Psychology Today UK
We All Want to Fit In | Psychology Today