[F]itting in is one of the greatest barriers to belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.
— Brené Brown in Daring Greatly
Are you trying to fit in anywhere? Have you noticed yourself shifting or adjusting, thinking, If I just do this, I’ll fit right in. I do it all the time. It seems to be my go-to thought process in any new situation. It’s like survival instinct, learned in junior high: Assess the situation and see what needs to happen to fit in.
In our world of always connecting and social media, it’s easy to want to fit in. I mean, it’s all right there in hard, cold numbers: Followers, Likes, Comments. It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex, using those numbers to feel accepted and valued. But if we drive ourselves for likes, comments, followers… are we trying to fit in or are we finding we belong? My thinking: Anytime we do something with the intent to get someone else’s approval, we are trying to fit in. When we do something for our own reasons, and then get some positive feedback and approval, we belong.
With joining Instagram I’ve gone through this full cycle all over again. A new platform, starting from zero. Hey, I’m a numbers girl. They attract me, and it’s easy to watch the numbers. The follower count. The number of likes. It’s easy to start to assess what gets the most likes and what doesn’t. To let that sway my creation.
But when I take a step back and ask: Do I create for others or do I create for me? The answer is always, unequivocally, for me. And when I do create for myself, and when I connect with people who like my work, it’s with a sense of belonging and not fitting in. Because I’ve put my real self out there, when I do find connection and acceptance, it’s much more meaningful. No more trying to fit in. Junior high is long over.
This lesson has come back to me so many times in the online world… From Facebook friends, to blog comments and hits, to followers on Twitter and Instagram. None of them matter. My worth is not wrapped up in a number. I have learned, over and over, that I would rather have 2 engaged and real connections than 20,000 likes. Maybe it’s not the smartest business or marketing thing to do, but it’s the only way I know to live with myself. It’s the only sustainable choice for me. And, at times, it’s scary as hell.
Brené Brown states it so very perfectly, this difference between fitting in and belonging. It makes me take a hard look and ask myself, “What am I trying to do?”
My answer is to sit up straighter, take a deep breath, and commit to being myself. Thanks for being here with me as I continually search and find the center of who I am through my creativity. I hope you feel that you belong here too.