What To Do When You Don't Fit In

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 14 years then you’re probably familiar with the iconic teen flick (and one of my personal favs), “Mean Girls.” The film follows the story of Cady Heron, “a homeschooled jungle freak,” as she learns to navigate high school after living in another country for most of her life. She experiences many hurdles throughout her transition including eating lunch by herself in a bathroom stall, not understanding social norms and getting teased by her peers.

It’s hard being the “Cady.” How do I know this? Because I have been the “Cady” more times than I’d ever like to admit. And if I’m being truly transparent, I sometimes still find myself in that role as an adult.

You’ve heard of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), well I have FOBLO (Fear of Being Left Out). This fear is one that is deep-rooted from a lot past hurts that has shaped an unhealthy thought process for me when it comes to friendships.

I, like the iconic character Lindsay Lohan played in the movie, was homeschooled. I also grew up in a  small town and had a very sheltered upbringing. The combination of the two created a lot of obstacles for me when it came to friendships. Most of my friends during my childhood I either made at church or my dance class. I’ve always been very outgoing so making friends was never really an issue for me. The real issue always came down to the simple fact that I was different from the rest of my peers. When my friends would invite me to things like their birthday parties, I always stuck out like a sore thumb. All the other kids knew each other from school. I didn’t know who the popular boy was that all the girls were talking about nor did I understand the inside jokes they were laughing about. Instead, I answered questions like “Who are you?” “Why don’t you go to school with us?” “What is homeschooling?”… oh and of course my favorite, “How do you say your name again?”

A lot of times it felt like if I couldn’t prove I was good enough for my friend’s friends than I would lose them too.

One time when I was about 11 or 12 years old I remember going to my childhood best friend’s birthday sleepover. For privacy’s sake, let’s call the girl, Wendy. On the day of the party, all of Wendy’s friends, except for me, rode home with her on the school bus. My mom dropped me off later. I remember being so excited (and nervous) to get to know some new girls. Everything was going really good until that night when someone suggested we watch an R-rated movie. I wasn’t allowed to even watch PG-13 movies! Of course I didn’t say anything because I wanted to fit in. Then just as the movie started my mom called. She asked me what we were doing, and being the good girl I was, I told her the truth. I hoped that she wouldn’t know what movie it was after I told her the title or more importantly what it was rated, but she did.  And as expected my mother did not approve and ask me to put Wendy’s mom on the phone.

I was mortified.

A few minutes later Wendy’s mother came in the room and turned off the movie. "We need to turn this off,” she informed the girls. Explaining to my potential new friends that “Keela’s mother doesn’t want her to watch this.” I was humiliated. I choked back tears and I told the girls they could watch it and that I would just go in the other room. Wendy’s mom insisted that wouldn’t necessary and the girls begrudgingly said “it’s ok,” but the truth was written all over their faces.  

The next year I didn’t get invited to Wendy’s birthday party.

It’s been more than 15 years since that sleepover but I can still remember the intense and heartbreaking feeling that I didn’t belong.

Unfortunately, that would not be my last experience as the odd man out. I honestly can’t remember a time when I haven’t felt like I truly stick out like a sore thumb. I’ve been the homeschooled kid, the sheltered one, the naïve one, the weirdo, the girl who is just a little too extra… just to name a few.

My experiences of not fitting in have left a lot of emotional scars. Scars that sometimes make me question if people truly like me for me or worry if one day they'll realize that I don’t belong and drop me like others have in my past. However, despite the hurt I’ve experienced from being left out I have discovered the beauty in embracing who you are.

So to all my fellow outsiders out there, here are some things to remember when you feel like you just don’t fit in:

  • “No one is you and that’s your super power.” If we were all the same life would be so boring. Look at all of the people in history who have made a difference or became legendary icons. Do you think they always fit in? Absolutely not. Instead of being ashamed of who you are, embrace it. It may not be easy at times and you might even get made fun of for the things that make you uniquely you. However, I guarantee when you have confidence in the person you are, others will respect and even admire you for it.
  • Just because someone doesn’t understand you, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. I still experience this sometimes. Whether it’s your beliefs, the clothes you wear or the hobbies you enjoy, they’ll always be someone out there that doesn’t get you. And that’s ok. Not everyone has to understand or even like who you are. This is a concept I’m still learning in my late 20’s, but practice makes perfect. Learning to love who you are is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves.
  • Stop being paranoid. It’s hard to not let the effects of being left out and isolated morph your thought process. When walking into a new social situation you might worry that people are going reject you like others have. This mindset is only setting yourself up for failure. There will be people who love you just the way you are, but you’re going to have to risk rejection and let others get to know the real you in order to find that out.

I wish I could go back and tell that quirky and full-of-life little girl that wanted so badly to be accepted by that group of girls that you're ok just the way you are. They may not understand you. You may dress different, talk different, and believe different things than them, but you are more than enough just the way you are.

People will misunderstand you, sometimes even intentionally hurt you and ridicule you, but it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. You are enough, you are unique and you don’t deserve to let your fears keep you from showing the world the unique and wonderful things that only you possess. 

Join the conversation: Tell us about a time when you felt like you didn't fit in. How did it make you feel? What would you tell yourself now?