One glance at the music collection I kept during my adolescence would probably raise some eyebrows. You might look at it and think I simply have an appreciation for a wide breadth of musical genres. I would be honored at that being your first assumption, and then I would have to break the news that you are wrong. What can be masked as high regard for a number of different artists is actually just proof of my desire to fit in.
I wanted to like the same things and look the same way as the “crowd.” I was chameleon-like in my ability to take on the musical interests and fashion sense of whichever friend, boyfriend, or group I found myself most connected with in a given season.
I valued particular albums, clothing stores, and shoe brands because I thought they were the key to fitting in. It turns out, the quest to “fit in” is deeply exhausting (not to mention, expensive!). In the process of constantly working so hard to fit in, I lost my most authentic self. I didn’t know what kind of music I actually like listening to, or what style of clothing I feel most comfortable in because I was only ever trying to be the person I thought others wanted me to be.
In the end, no matter how much I actually “fit in” socially, I felt a sense of emptiness because I wasn’t being me—and somewhere deep inside, I knew that.
Knowing now what I didn’t know then, here are some ideas for what to do when you struggle to fit in.
Know your identity
When we know our identity is in Christ, we can experience freedom from trying to be the person we think other people want us to be. We don’t have to contort ourselves to fit into societal standards, because we know who we are as a child of God. Trying so hard to fit in with a group is a way of bringing glory to our self and the people we’re looking to for acceptance. Knowing and embracing our identity in Christ brings God the glory.
Explore your interests
Do you know the music, writers, artists, and hobbies that you most enjoy? Or, like me in my adolescence, did your own interests get lost while trying to fit in with others’ interests? Spend some time peeling back the layers of who you are and discovering your own passions. Listen to a new artist, go for a run, visit a museum—try things you don’t typically try. Then, when you find what you love, own it. Own those passions and allow yourself to embrace them. They are, after all, a part of who God created you to be.
Find a group or club founded on similar interests
What passions of yours have you discovered? Now that you’re embracing them, find others who will embrace them with you! This may require you to move outside of the social circles that you are familiar with or that have been the most accessible to you (your co-workers who you see on a daily basis, for example). An internet search may help you identify local groups aligned with your interests—knitting groups, car enthusiasts, or running clubs, to name a few. You’d be surprised how many groups or clubs exist in your area, though it shouldn’t come as a shock to us—we’re all looking for a place to belong.
Volunteer your time
If you’re having a hard time finding the hobby or interests you most enjoy, try volunteering at a church, recreation center, or club in your area. This will not only give you the opportunity to explore different activities, but it will also allow you to meet more people. As you build new relationships, you may find a soul friend who you fit right in with. Not sure where to start? Reach out to your local Kiwanis, park district, library, or humane society. You can serve your community while meeting great new friends!
Feeling that we don’t fit in is painful and lonely. The worst thing we can do when we feel weighed down by the ache of not fitting in is keeping it all to ourselves. You matter—exactly who you are, no matter your interests or your passions. If you’re struggling to fit in with people in your area, keep in close touch with friends or family who live far away. Finding a counselor or contacting your pastor is a fantastic resource; these people will join you, help you to process your feelings, and might even have some great ideas of how you can get connected to people with similar hobbies.
We want to fit in—all of us do. God created us to be in community with others, sharing our passions and gifts with one another. It is so hard when we cannot find people who share or appreciate our interests. This, however, does not mean that you or your interests do not matter.
As we continue to discover more of who we are, may we never forget whose we are. You are His—a perfect fit for the God of the Universe.
I am Mallory—a wife, a writer, and a dog mom to Roger. I love dry humor, clean sheets, sunny days, and frequent reminders of grace. These days, I hang out at malloryredmond.com, where I tell my stories with the hope of uncovering places of connection in our humanity. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.