“Great job Hassler!”
My high school track coach shouted as I crossed the finish line after running the 400 meter in a decent time. I was beaming at Coach’s affirmation of a job well done. Only after my races would I have to be reunited with both my teammates and my insecurities.
All of my fellow Track runners seemed tall, athletic, can talk about sports for days, loud, and rowdy. I was shorter, could run somewhat fast, more into broadway than sports, shy, and had a gentle demeanor to the point that my pubescent and testosterone filled teammates seemed to not know exactly how to interact with me. No matter how hard I tried, I never felt part of the team. This turned into a thread that ran through my teenage and young adult life – the longing to ‘belong’ instead of peering in from the outside.
All of us struggle at some point in our lives with feeling like we don’t fit in. For some, we can recall a specific group or gathering in which we felt like an outsider: Sports teams, church small groups, Women’s/Men’s retreats, or even being around our own friend group can leave us feeling as if we are missing a piece that everyone else seems to have. There are some of us, however, that have felt the pang of not fitting in for most of our lives.
Be it different personalities, body types, interests, we can believe the lie that different is less than, different is bad.
Here are ways to cope when you feel like you just don’t fit in.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.Psalm 139:13-16
The reality is that God took great care in creating every detail of who you are internally and externally. When you hear the voice that echoes, “You don’t belong here. Look at them. They are what you are supposed to be. You’ll never fit in with them”.
Listen instead for the voice of the Holy Spirit, “You are mine. You are my child. Wherever I am, you belong there. I am with you always” 1 Peter 2:9, 1 John 3:1, Matthew 28:20.
For those of us in Christ, we are never on the outside looking in. We are in. Citizens of heaven. Children of God.
Knowing this helps us to not feel like we are on shaky, insecure ground when we don’t fit in.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
When you are realizing that you feel like you don’t fit in with “the guys” or a certain group you are part of, who are you naturally thinking about? More often than not, yourself! You are comparing yourself to them. Instead of focusing on why you feel different or what’s making you think you don’t measure up, focus rather on them if you can.
Consider them. What are these people’s interests, goals, and needs? Is their goal to gain a sense of community/camaraderie from everyone else? Are they wanting to have fun? Your goal and interest (and need) might be to have a sense of belonging, which is a very good goal! But what would it look like to trust God with that desire and instead consider the interests of the group more significant to your own? You see, when we take the focus off of ourselves, it allows us to consider others and in doing so, freeing us of our insecurity of not fitting in.
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.1 Timothy 6:6-8
One of my good friends, Ali is the most content person I know. On the outside, you would think he is always “one of the guys”. Ali is jacked, runs often, pursuing a Masters degree at USC, and training to join the Navy Seals. A true man’s man in every sense of the term. What some people might not know about him is that he also likes to play the guitar, read, talk about coffee, loves music, can be shy, and knows almost nothing about things pertaining to sports.
In fact, there are times when hanging out with our friends, they will be bonding over last night’s basketball game, who made what plays, and who didn’t play as well as they should have. Ali and I will give each other a smile. While I might feel insecure about such situations, Ali does not care at all. When asked, he would say he knows what he likes to do and is content in doing those things. He does not need the validation of others to feel a part of the group. Simply being with them and seeing them happy is enough for him to feel content.
We can learn something from this. The truth is, you will find yourself in situations where you don’t fit in. That is okay. God has gifted you with a unique personality and temperament that no one else has. Your taste (or lack thereof) in music, art, athletics, cars, building things, etc… never speaks to the quality of who you are. In fact, it speaks to God’s wiring of you. There will be people in your life that will appreciate that, and if you can’t see anyone like that right now, get around some people who view friendship as being deeper than simply sharing a common interest. Recognize your own value, try to focus on loving those around you by putting their goals and interests above your own, and then choose to be content with who you are.
Christian is a Residence Director at a Christian University in Southern California. He enjoys Camping, Hiking, National Parks. Fitness. Strategy Board Games. Reading (All kinds).