Do you feel like you don’t fit in? To make matters worse, you did have a place you called home, but now you sense the hollow ache of being an outsider.
To help me, I joined a group of other first-time moms. We shared a lot in common, so I thought. After all, we each had an infant born within months of each other. Yet, I found it hard to feel connected.
As we sat on the floor with our children crawling around us, I tried to be part of the conversation about the American school system, setting up a college fund, the risk of ticks in the back yard, and the excitement of choosing baby’s first Halloween outfit, but these aspects of life were unfamiliar to me.
I felt awkward and vulnerable not being like everyone else. You don’t fit in, I told myself.
Amidst the feeding, bouncing and soothing of our babies, I was aware of not being myself. On top of that, I wanted to put a “u” in the middle of mom, and be identified as the mum I hoped to be.
What I didn’t realize then, but I do now, is there is a difference between fitting in and belonging.
Fitting in means I have to be like you to be accepted.
I’m not saying my new friends shunned me for not being like them. They were welcoming and friendly. Instead, I pushed myself to be like them so I could feel comfortable. However, trying to be an American mom meant abandoning the real me.
I needed to understand I could be myself, and belong.
Belonging means you can be yourself and still be accepted.
I could be confident being me in this new situation. I had been self-assured in London, and in my element. Now, I was required to be at ease in unfamiliar surroundings, where being myself made me conspicuous.
We find it easier to accept who we are when we are like everyone else. When we are out of the ordinary, and our differences stand out, then we have to make an effort to say, I belong here even though I don’t fit in.
Brene Brown says people who have a strong sense of belonging believe they are worthy of belonging. The one thing, she says, that keeps us from connection is feeling we’re not worthy of connection. Brown goes on to say, people with a sense of worthiness are willing to let go of who they should be in order to be who they are.
How to live
Realizing you do not have to fit in but you can belong, having self-worth and being content with who you are, are all part of living in your performance zone.
- Living in your performance zone is deciding you don’t have to be like everyone else. You don’t need to fit in.
Your comfort zone is the place where you blend in. Outside your comfort zone you are out of place. However, trying to follow the crowd is not living in your performance zone. It is the uncomfortable zone.
- Living in your performance zone is your decision to believe you are worthy of belonging.
In your comfort zone, you don’t really have to think about your value. Outside your comfort zone, you need a sense of worth. This does not come from fitting in. Worth comes from appreciating your differences. Worthiness comes from within—self-esteem, and from without—knowing you are precious to God.
- Living in your performance zone is not letting others decide whether you belong.
It is not waiting for people to accept your differences and let you be yourself. Belonging and living in your performance zone is your decision.
On one hand, I needed to decide I was worthy of belonging in this group of women. On the other hand, I needed to let the other moms be different from me, too. I couldn’t wish they were a group of British moms. In any case, who knows for sure if I would fit in with them?
- Living in your performance zone is accepting other people for their differences, and allowing them to step into their performance zones.
Accepting one another is a part of living in God’s performance zone. God accepts us, and in return, we should accept other people.