So You’re Having Trouble Fitting In
Posted by August 8, 2017on
There’s nothing easy about being the odd one out. What’s the best way to fit in at school and still be true to who you are and what you believe?
Have you ever read Lord of the Flies?
It’s a novel about a bunch of preteen boys who crash on a deserted island and their attempts to survive until rescue arrives.
Things don’t go well.
To be more exact, things go from bad to worse in record speed. Most of them revert to savagery, a few of them go crazy, and the book ends with the entire island in flames.
Actually, the whole thing reminds me a lot of middle school, now that I think about it. Maybe a little bit of high school too, if we’re being honest. The book has the popular kids who just naturally seem to attract followers, as well as the dorky kids who just naturally seem to get picked on and laughed at. It’s got cliques and loners and struggles over who’s coolest and who knows best, all rounded out by a constant and overwhelming sense of peer pressure:
Don’t be the odd one out.
Don’t be weird.
Don’t be the one not doing what your friends are doing.
I understand the feeling. Believe me, I get it. I lived with that feeling for years during middle school and high school. I was the nerdy kid with good grades and a weird religion who tried really, really hard to figure out a way to be all those things and still fit in with my classmates.
It never worked.
Let me tell you why I’m glad about that.
First, though, let me tell you the secret to fitting in, because I did figure that one out:
It means giving something up.
That’s the secret. If you’re not fitting in, it means you’re standing out—so all you have to do is let go of the thing that’s making you stand out. Your beliefs. Your “weird religion.”
The problem is, you have to decide if that thing is worth giving up. Because here’s another secret:
“Fitting in” is just another way to say “being average.” Being like everyone else. You can have that if you want—but is that really what you want?
I had to make that choice too. Growing up in the Church, my “weird religion” made me different, made me stand out, made it impossible to fit in with people who I desperately wanted to like and accept me. My beliefs were different, my values were different—the way I tried to live my life was different. Fitting in would mean dropping all that. I had to decide which was more important to me. You do too.
Holding onto treasure
Here’s why I’m glad I never found a way to fit in:
Standing out is worth it.
Yeah, some days it’s hard. When you try to live up to God’s morals and values, some people are going to roll their eyes at you and make fun of you. Some days you’re going to feel like you’re marooned on the island from Lord of the Flies, surrounded by savage madness.
When the Bible talks about God’s Word, it calls it “silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6). The knowledge you have, the calling you’ve been given—it’s a treasure. Most people don’t have it or understand it. But you know what they will understand?
They’ll understand that you’re different. They’ll see you living up to a higher moral code, they’ll see you refusing to compromise on the things that matter to you—and even if they can’t understand why it matters to you, they’ll see how it sets you apart from the world you live in.
And, yeah, some people will sneer and laugh. But some people won’t. Some people are going to respect you for the person you’re striving to be. Some people are going to see how different you are and wish they had your sense of purpose and direction.
Choosing your identity
I had plenty of Lord of the Flies days during my time in school, and you will too—but it gets better. It really does. The more I came to terms with standing out and the less I tried to find ways to blend in, the more comfortable I got in my own skin. Over the years, I made friends who knew and respected me for who I was. Those friendships never would have been possible if I’d been hiding behind a disguise, trying to be who they thought I should be.
I’ll tell you one more secret:
Eventually, school ends. You’ve already seen it happen—elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school. None of it lasts forever. One day, you’re going to walk out those doors for the last time, and all those people will be distant memories. Remember that next time you’re feeling the pressure to compromise on who you are and what you believe in.
In the end, this is about identity. You can be just like everyone else—or you can live a life filled with purpose and meaning that extends out into eternity.
It’s up to you, but I don’t think there’s any real contest.
For further reading, check out “What’s the Real Source of Contentment?”