“You have to fit in, or else you will have no friends, no life, and no future. You will end up forgotten and alone.”—Carl.
Exaggerated? Perhaps. Still, some people would do anything to avoid the outcome described by Carl. Would you? This article will help you find a better approach.
Why do people try to fit in?
Because they don’t want to be excluded. “On social media I saw photos of a group that had gone out and done things without me. It made me wonder what was wrong with me, and I drove myself crazy with thoughts that I wasn’t good enough for them.”—Natalie.
TO THINK ABOUT: Have you ever felt excluded from a group? What, if anything, did you do to try to be part of that group?
Because they don’t want to be different. “My parents won’t let me have a cell phone. When kids ask for my number and I tell them I don’t have a phone, they say: ‘What? How old are you?’ When I tell them I’m 13, they look at me with pity.”—Mary.
TO THINK ABOUT: What parental restriction might make you feel different from others? How do you deal with that restriction?
Because they don’t want to be bullied. “Kids at school don’t like those who act differently, talk differently, or even worship differently. If you don’t fit in, you’re walking around with a target on your back.”—Olivia.
TO THINK ABOUT: Have you ever been mistreated because you didn’t fit in? How did you deal with the situation?
Because they don’t want to lose their friends. “I tried to adapt to whatever group I was in. I’d talk in a way that wasn’t me. I’d laugh when something wasn’t funny. I’d even join in when kids poked fun at someone, knowing full well that it was hurtful.”—Rachel.
TO THINK ABOUT: How important is it to you to be liked by your peers? Have you ever changed your personality to fit in with them?
What you should know
Copying others just to fit in can backfire. Why? Because people can often see through the disguise. “I fit in less with my classmates when I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t,” recalls 20-year-old Brian. “I learned that it’s best just to be yourself, because people can tell when you’re faking.”
BETTER APPROACH: Rethink your priorities. The Bible says: “Make sure of the more important things.” (Philippians 1:10) So ask yourself, ‘What’s more important—to fit in with people whose values are different from mine, or to stay true to who I am?’
“Trying to be like others is pointless. It won’t make people like you more, and it won’t make you a better person.”—James.
Trying to fit in can stifle your personality. It could make you a “people-pleaser” who conforms to what others want you to be. “I used to do whatever I had to do just to fit in with a particular group, at the expense of my reputation,” recalls a young man named Jeremy. “That put me at the mercy of others. I became their puppet.”
BETTER APPROACH: Know your values and live by them, instead of being like a chameleon that changes colors according to its environment. It is for good reason that the Bible says: “Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it.”—Exodus 23:2, Holy Bible—Easy-to-Read Version.
“I tried to like everything they liked—music, games, clothing, shows, types of makeup . . . I tried to be them. I think they saw through my act. I think everyone did, including me. I ended up feeling empty and lonely, and I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I was left with no personality. I learned that not everyone you meet will fit in with you or even like you. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on making friends; just give yourself room and time to grow.”—Melinda.
Trying to fit in can affect your conduct. A young man named Chris found that this was true of his cousin. “He started doing things that he wouldn’t normally do—like taking drugs—just to fit in,” Chris says. “He became completely addicted, and it nearly ruined his life.”
BETTER APPROACH: Steer clear of people whose speech and conduct reflect poor values. The Bible says: “The one walking with the wise will become wise, but the one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly.”—Proverbs 13:20.
“Sometimes it’s good to reach out and make an effort to fit in. But you should never do it at the expense of going against what you know is right. The right people will accept you for who you really are.”—Melanie.
Tip: When trying to meet new people and make friends, don’t consider just those whose interests match yours. Look for people who share your values—your spiritual, moral, and ethical convictions.