The other day, I went to six different furniture stores in three hours: I was looking for a TV stand that would fit in a specific niche and can fit a specific size television set. I found out that most TV stands come in standard sizes: generally 50” or 60”. I needed something in between. One salesperson suggested that I can use a sofa table, but that would be taller that needed, plus it would expose the unruly mess of all the cables. I basically did not have many options. I was tired, disappointed and frustrated.
The need to fit in
This experience got me thinking about how many times in life, we measure ourselves to fit in a certain mold, space or idea developed by someone else. It could be a personal situation like with our partner, or a social one like a party or a community event. We spend time in finding out the expectations, the “norms” and then tailor ourselves to fit in. Sometimes ending up being a bonsai of ourselves. So what can we do? Is it OK to trim your feathers in order to belong or should you spread them and take a flight? The answer is not that easy. Humans are inherently social animals. We need our community and the sense of belonging. We thrive on appreciation and support of others. We always want to affiliate with some group and feel good about ourselves. The downside is that we also take criticism to the heart and start doubting ourselves. Sometimes we assign value to ourselves based on opinions of others. So fitting in seems like a safe bet.
Know your strengths
The key consideration is what is the cost of fitting in? Is it possible to put everyone in a box? If in the efforts of ‘fitting in’ you are feeling exhausted, frustrated and not true to yourself then reconsider the need. In the ongoing great social experiment called “social media” the need to fit in has increased tenfold. It may come in the form of partaking in challenges such as planking, ice bucket or the Facebook ‘10 year’ challenge. We might need to check our self-esteem to see that it is not dependent on the likes and shares we get for our post, but rather it is intact because we know our own value. In the real world, it is not possible that everyone will like us or get along with us and vice versa. And that’s OK because we all have unique qualities, variety of opinions and worldviews. As long as we respect each other for who we are, we will be alright!
We would not have had great artists like Picasso, scientists like Galileo or innovators like Steve Jobs if they were worried about fitting in. Be true to yourself first and then find the community that fits you.