The need to fit in

The need to fit in

Located deep in our brains, in the medial temporal lobes to be specific, are the areas known as the amygdala. This is the place where the most ancient part of our emotional DNA resides. This is where our survival instincts like sex, fear, and “fight or flight” dwell. And a critical part of that basic survival package is the need to fit in.

There are times in our lives when this need is so strong it can paralyze us and keep us from venturing out at all if it means we’ll stick out in any way, shape or form.

I remember Sundays (the first day) of camp. Kids would arrive throughout the afternoon and head quickly to the cabin so they could change their clothes into what everyone else was wearing that day. Within a couple of hours it looked like we’d handed out uniforms of some kind to all the campers.

UNIFORM: identical or consistent.

I’m sure there are school teachers who can easily recount a long list of instances were uniformity-the strong need to fit in-actually ruled the classroom.

It’s one thing to decry this tendency among adolescents but what happens when we see this need manifest itself so strongly in adults? So strongly in ourselves?

When I examine my adult behavior I know I’ve seen it. And I’ll bet you’ve seen it in your behavior too. We all make decisions; what we buy, how we think, what we wear, how we parent our kids, the career we choose, all based on the survival need to fit in and not stand out. How sad is that?

But we need to belong.

We need to be accepted. And even though we may say we want people to love us just as we are, we are willing to go to extreme measures to change, adapt, and adjust so that we’re no different at all. We rush head long to blend in with the crowd.

Of course this leads to you living someone else’s life. Or living a life driven by the need to meet the expectations of others. Either way, it’s a tragedy.

It’s not odd to reach mid-life and in a lightening bolt moment of clarity realize that you haven’t been “you” since you were 10 years old. You’ve spent a lifetime trying to fit into someone else’s box of what they think your life should be. And you’ve gone right along with it and blended in. And now the regret is almost overwhelming. Indeed, that little amygdala can drive us to do some pretty crazy things.

But here’s what you have to realize: We need you to be YOU. Right now, today. We don’t need someone else. We already have plenty of those. You have a unique perspective. You have unique skills and abilities; gifts that you can bring to your world like no one else can. And when you work so hard to cover up all that cool unique stuff, we miss out. And so do you.

Stop blending in. It’s time to be YOU. Whatever camouflage you’re wearing, take it off. Step up. Stand out. Be weird. Develop some rough edges.

We need you to be YOU because no one else can.


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