by Dr. Bill Austin
Sometimes we feel like we don't fit in at a party, gathering, or with a particular group of people. We may believe that we do not fit the stereotype we have of people in our profession. We see other people who seem to belong. They get together during the week and do activities together. They never invite us.
Evidently, we are excluded because we do not fit in.
Because true belonging only happens
when we present our authentic,
imperfect selves to the world,
our sense of belonging can never be
greater than our level of self-acceptance.
- Brene Brown
What do we do in order to fit in? We may try to 'sell' ourselves, or impress others, by talking about our accomplishments, our successes, or our gifts. We've all seen other people try to impress us by boasting about their money, their expensive trips, and their lavish life style, and felt it fall short. When we try to impress others in order to fit in, we feel bad about ourselves.
When we try to fit in, we are trying to shape ourselves into the person we think other people will accept and include. By trying to shape ourselves into the person we think will fit in, we are discrediting our gifts and our unique personality. The truth is, we are not presenting our true self. If we are accepted, it is not about who we really are. People are only accepting an image of what we are presenting.
There was a study book we used in a growth group entitled Who Do I Have To Be for You to Love Me? The writer talked about what it costs us to fit in. Many people lose their identity and freedom in exchange for 'being loved.'
Brene Brown, a researcher and author, writes that most people believe that fitting in and belonging are the same thing. They are not. In fact, Brene writes that trying to fit in can be one of the biggest barriers to belonging. Fitting in does not work because we are not accepting ourselves. Even if others do accept us, it won't help us accept ourselves.
So what is the difference between fitting in and belonging? Popeye may have had the right idea about belonging when he said, 'I am what I am.'
Belonging has to do with self-acceptance. 'Your level of belonging can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you're enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect,' Brene writes. She goes on further to say, 'Belonging is about freedom - freedom from having to change in order to be accepted, and being valued and respected for being who you are.'
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700