As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that I don’t fit in. I first noticed it in my workplace but more broadly, it’s society as a whole. This isn’t me looking for sympathy. I don’t want to fit in. If I was offered a “fix me pill”, I wouldn’t take it.
I’m in my forties and by that age, if you’re not living a certain lifestyle then you’re not normal. You’re certainly not expected to be living by yourself. There’s pressure in society to conform and it’s worse for women. You should be married with children once you reach a certain age. For the majority, I’m sure it’s what they want but there must be some that do it because of societal pressure. No one wants to be the odd one out.
The way I see it, having children when we were hunter-gathers (or farmers for that matter) would have been a lot less stressful than it is today. To the point where being pregnant probably wasn’t that interesting. A far cry from today, where it has become all-consuming and life-changing for everyone concerned.
Being single and childless in an office full of nuclear families isn’t the only reason I don’t feel normal. It’s so much more in society. I don’t get superficial social media and why swathes of the population dedicate so much time to it. I don’t get why grown adults are excited about birthdays. I don’t get why the most talked about Netflix show is so popular. I don’t get how fake everyone has become. And, I don’t get why more people don’t question the meaningless nature of their job.
“Don’t worry about fitting in — it’s completely over-rated”Nicola Walker
The tendency of groups to conform is called social influence and can be summarised as “the ways in which individuals change their behaviour to meet the demands of a social environment”.
There are many examples of social influence: wearing strange-looking clothes and getting ridiculous haircuts (because it’s fashionable), laughing at jokes (that aren’t funny) because the group laughs, becoming a vegetarian, vegan or carnivore, and of course, politics.
It’s useful to know how powerful groups are at influencing our thoughts. With this information, we can ask ourselves: what would I want if I was surrounded by different people? And the answer is probably something completely different. Needless to say, this highlights how our decision making can be flawed and the importance of being around the right people.
Finding a tribe
Although I don’t fit in, that doesn’t mean I’m averse to being around people. Far from it. I’m an introvert (or maybe an ambivert) and appreciate real connections. But living in London (like most big cities) can be unsociable and unconducive to building relationships. I agree with how the author Sebastian Junger describes things in Tribe:
Our society is alienating, technical, cold, and mystifying. Our fundamental desire, as human beings, is to be close to others, and our society does not allow for that.Sebastian Junger
Junger describes society as “cold” which is often my experience. People do seem to change though (myself included) from being unsociable and miserable to sociable and happy when going on holiday. Better weather, being away from work, and the new environment must help. Whatever it is, I can vouch for feeling more human when travelling. Speaking to strangers in bars, restaurants and on public transport feels normal. Something only “weirdos” do in London.
I encounter more likeable people when travelling, whether that’s speaking with an expat that’s opened a bar or a digital nomad that’s “working from home” in a surf camp. I come across people that question the world’s superficiality. People that have chosen experiences over things. People that are more like me.
Who wants to be normal?
There’s a negative association with not fitting in. If someone tells you “you’re not normal” then it sounds like an insult. But the definition of normal according to the Oxford English Dictionary is: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
Who wants their life to conform to a standard? Being normal is surely more of an insult. Embrace not fitting in, is what I say. Accept that living like the majority isn’t for you but this does mean leaving the herd (which can be hard to do).
2 thoughts on “Not fitting in”
An interesting read, thanks for sharing.
I think I only really got the feeling of not fitting in when I was at school, which was perhaps due to me being awkward as a teenager and being good at both sports and classes so didn’t fit in the jock or the swot camps.
Things vastly improved when I went to uni and I found my first tribe. In my 30s, although it was tiresome listening to people casually mentioning my biology clock and maybe because I knew what I wanted (or didn’t want), I never felt that I didn’t fit in. Even among all the women the same age as me in the office who seemed to be sprouting offspring like they were on heat. They couldn’t understand why I was in a long term relationship but wasn’t thinking about starting a family.
I just see that I am different and I’m ok with that.
Everyone in the tribes I am a part of is different in their own way. Shared experiences are often enough to connect us – that some obsess with social media and Love Island (not me) and others interested in investing, playing video games and not owning an iphone (me) didn’t matter.
I’m in my early 50s now, currently single, child free, happy in my own skin. I’m happy within my tribes, but always open to connecting with new tribes, which I have done over the last couple of years.
PS – The Myers Briggs test has me down as an ambivert too.
Hey Weenie, thanks for sharing your experiences.
I didn’t know about “ambiverts” until reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet which is an excellent read BTW.
all the best,