This post was inspired by Simply Bee You.
I thought I’d write about how much I struggled fitting in during my teenage years and how society has a tendency to pressure us into conforming. In school, almost everyone I knew had cliques while I stayed as the outsider. Since I wanted to fit in (like every other regular teenager) I tried time and time again to change myself so I could ‘blend in’ and be accepted by my friends. As I got older, I realized that you should be yourself rather than be what people expect you to be.
Growing up, I never truly felt like I belonged anywhere. This might be because of my background as a Third Culture Kid, which meant that I’ve changed schools and lived in different places. Due to this experience, my outlook on life and my experience were always different to everyone else’s.
And because I was half British and half Chinese, it made it harder to feel like I belonged to a community. I never felt fully British nor Chinese, which inevitably placed me in a liminal zone between these cultures. I saw that wherever people are in the world, they would always stick together based on where they come from and their culture. So, they would always stay together whenever they are in a foreign country because they share a common bond. But for me, I often felt ‘left out’ because I never understood that bond or because when I lived in Asia there was always a language barrier in the way.
When I changed schools, I constantly felt like I needed to adapt, change, evolve so I could be like other people. The real question was, who was I myself? As teens we all wanted to be one of the cool kids, who did cool things and made the other kids jealous. We all wanted to ‘fit in’ and feel like we belong. So we put ourselves out there and did what the cool kids did. I, on the other hand, was not the popular kid in school, because I was different.
Senior year was the tipping point for me and I probably felt the worst in terms of being excluded by other people. Everyone says that senior year is always the best, because you’ll make tons of memories with your friends during your last year of high school. But it just wasn’t for me. And I’ve been there: not getting the invite to a party, or a trip, or being that person who walks behind everyone else when they’re talking or sitting alone at the lunch table. I felt like I was standing outside a glass box watching everyone else have a blast, and I wasn’t able to join them. It did suck for a while, but I got used to it and finally got to leave that place. It’s funny how you see those same people who still have those high school reunions.
Although it does get lonely at times, there are several advantages to being the outsider. You see the world from a different perspective, making you smarter and naturally more curious. You become the observer, and you learn a lot from being on the margins of society. You get to experience the world in a different way, analyse cultural differences and see what makes people tick. This is a huge advantage in terms of emotional intelligence and you’ll gain a greater sense of cultural awareness.
After I realized this, I said to myself, I’m gonna live my life by my standards and not let it affect me when I do feel left out. The reason why it doesn’t bother me anymore if people exclude me or if they don’t invite me to something is because I came to terms with understanding that it’s more important to be who you are rather than being ‘accepted’. I lead my life how I like it, and at the end of the day it’s okay. I have enough friends now to say that I don’t feel the need to ‘fit in’. I’ve realized that life is not about pleasing others. Life is about being your true yourself and staying true to what you believe in.
If you’re reading this, don’t feel like you need to fit in. Don’t feel like you should do what the other cool kids are doing. Instead of being part of a crowd or follow the herd, go your own way. Build you own path. Be a game changer.
‘To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The world is always trying to make you into something else. But how do you stand out from the crowd? How can you truly be yourself?
I’ve realized the importance in being yourself, in finding where your authentic self comes from, because it’s what makes us unique. Why should we be like other people? We’re not clones. And it’s okay not to have tons of friends, or be popular because at the end of the day, what other people think shouldn’t really bother us. Instead, we should be focused on our goals and on what makes us happy.
I can now say that after all that experience I’ve found a true sense of belonging and it’s with the people I love. Now, I don’t feel the need to belong to a specific culture or community, because you don’t need to find a sense of belonging in a particular place. For me, I find my connection with my loving friends and family, who are always there for me no matter what.
Where do you belong?