The Problem With Trying To Fit In
As children, one of the first social lessons we learn is to fit in. Our parents, teachers, and peers tap into our innate social longing to be “part of the group” and subconsciously we learn to conform. We are taught only to speak when we are spoken to. We learn not to dress or look differently, or risk being picked on. We learn not to answer a question unless we are sure we are right. Anyone who stands out risks being ostracized.
Many of us learn these lessons far too well. In fact, before most of us are 10 years old, we have adopted a social survival strategy of fitting in, playing it safe, playing it small, or otherwise conforming.
The problem with such deeply conditioned conformity is that it robs us of one of the greatest joys in life, being fully expressed as the unique individuals we all are. There is more and more research indicating that our happiness is linked to our ability to be fully engaged and more fully expressed in activities that are meaningful to us. This is hard to do when we are conditioned to be invisible.
The further challenge is simply gaining this insight does not allow us to change behavior. Our “thinking” (neocortical) brain does not command the deep behavioral habits of our “feeling” (limbic) brain. We may want to do something but find ourselves held back by a feeling of fear.
If you find yourself with “stand-out-a-phobia” don’t try to think yourself past it. Get some help.
Three approaches to change this behavior are:
- Develop and embody an inspiring vision for your future state that is emotionally compelling and keep that vision alive. It seems you can choose the “channel” you tune your mind into. The default channel (habit, fear, old limitations) may result in a default behavior that no longer serves you. If you routinely “tune in” to an inspiring, compelling vision you access more courage to change.
- Establish a close, ongoing relationship with someone who exhibits the behaviors you want to adopt. It is through the resonance of our emotional minds that we revise what we perceive to be true about ourselves and the world around us. As we begin to feel more is possible for us, we are more likely to risk new behavior.
- Learn how to detect and disempower the negative feelings that keep you in your current comfort zone, either through process coaching or other noticing techniques where you will learn to be present, feel into the center of the physical manifestation of your fear, and let it pass.
It is interesting to note that we humans grow and evolve best when we are in active relationships with others.