Do you fit in, or do you belong?
It’s a really important question, one that was part of a recent and eye-opening discussion I’ve had with colleagues and peers. It seems at some point in all our careers, we tried to fit-in. AND IT WORKED FOR NONE OF US.
Wisdom is often (frustratingly) found in the rear-view mirror of life. And what we all learned (in time) was this: only belonging supported our well-being and career success.
There are reasons for this. Fitting in means you’re trying to pretzel yourself to match a particular group, culture or way of being/working. It immediately means there are things you feel compelled to change, or hide, about yourself in order to be accepted.
It confirms you think your natural “you-ness” isn’t enough to automatically be worthy of inclusion. Worst of all, it’s based on assumptions of what you think is valued by others, but are too afraid to explore until you’ve gained their acceptance.
“Fitting in” requires you to reject aspects of yourself, before anyone else does. So, if you’ve already decided you’re not “enough”, what does that mean for your psychological welfare? Your career success?
It’s a slippery slope, because if “fitting in” gains you admittance to feeling included in a group, the “you” that’s been accepted isn’t the real you, is it? Now what? Keep up the façade?
That’s exhausting, and a recipe for burnout. This phenomenon has a name, imposter syndrome – and there is now scientific evidence that links imposter syndrome to high risk for burnout.
And “fitting in” doesn’t work. The best parts of you, your uniqueness, your ideas, your ways of problem solving, of communicating (expressing empathy and humour) are collateral damage – the very things that allow you to forge a sense of connection with others. AND, others can tell when you are being inauthentic, which impacts the success of these key interpersonal relationships.
This makes you feel even less secure, and trying even harder to “fit in”, being even less authentic… it’s a swirling mess of stress, pressure and frustration that keeps you from connection and being successful. And it’s completely unnecessary.
“Fitting in” doesn’t give you what you’re “paying” for. It’s a bad investment.
I’m not saying there isn’t a period of “getting to know” each other when you’re in a new group of people, especially at work. But what this calls on isn’t twisting yourself to fit in with them, ITS BEING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF AND FINDING THE COMMON GROUND YOU ALL SHARE.
You don’t have to fit in. You already belong.
Fitting in isn’t the path to belonging. Authenticity is.
Being authentic means you take your rightful place in any room, with any group. You don’t have to be confident, or perfect, or watch for signals of acceptance. All you have to do is decide if this is a healthy place for you.
You deserve to work in an environment that accepts you and appreciates you for who you are, not some façade of who you think you should be to make others comfortable. If that’s not happening right now, let’s talk about how you can create a work life you love.
Because there is no doubt in my mind that you belong.
Through our sessions and assigned coaching practices, I saw my confidence and ability grow ...
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I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.