It’s difficult for me to imagine now, but at one time, I had an unreasonable aversion to reading anything written by author Brene Brown.
I don’t know how it began. Actually, I do.
A friend suggested I read a book written by Ms. Brown. I thought said friend was subtly suggesting I needed to work on being brave enough to be vulnerable (the topic of the book).
My feathers were ruffled and I was therefore determined not to enjoy reading anything written by the author.
Until I read one of her books.
Now, I’m a fan.
One of the subjects Brown explores in her book Braving the Wilderness is the difference between fitting in and belonging.
I thought I would discuss three of those differences. I got the topic idea from reading Brene Brown’s wonderful book but these thoughts are my own.
These differences hold true whether you are discussing fitting in vs. belonging to a group or to a relationship with only one other person.
- When you fit in, you must alter your beliefs, actions, and words to mirror others in the group; when you belong, you are accepted for your true self.
Uniformity is the hallmark of fitting in. It is often caused by insecurity. When carried to the extreme, group members might even look and dress alike.
When you are part of a group where you must fit in, espousing beliefs different from others in the group is frowned upon.
This is why you see minimal variation in responses from the members of a political party on various issues such as health care, reopening the economy after the pandemic, and interpretation of the Second Amendment. Everyone is trying to fit in.
When you belong, differences of opinion and questions are welcomed. They do not threaten the cohesion of a group or relationship.
- When fitting in, there are different levels of emotional investment between group members.
When you try to fit in, you really want to belong to the group but others in the group are less interested in whether you are “in” than you are.
Think: trying to be a member of the “cool kids” clique in middle school or a romantic relationship where you did all the tap-dancing for approval.
When you belong, everyone is equally devoted.
- When attempting to fit in, others have emotional power over you.
You give others the ability to determine your fate. You are dependent. You have placed your well-being in someone else’s hands when you give them the ability to decide whether you fit in or not.
When you belong, you get to stand up and be who you really are. There is no power unbalance in the group or relationship. Everyone gets to speak from their heart. Everyone is accepted.
You will know when you belong. It just feels right. It feels like you are the best version of yourself. And you don’t need to change anything. Just be the amazing, brave, unique, charming, flawed, honest, awesome person you already are.
You be you!