Something that’s become a theme lately in my practice is people having issues with fitting in.  It’s a common enough thing, we’ve all been through it in childhood, specifically in the teen years, and it echoes throughout our adult lives off and on.  But the interesting thing recently is people misunderstanding why they don’t fit in or what needs to happen to fix this.

First, let’s look at the components:  we’re talking about adults here, not children so I’m studiously avoiding the hell that is high school.  There are plenty of ways in which this is symbolized and celebrated…Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete SeriesVeronica Mars: The Complete Series (Seasons 1-3)…so no need to rehash here.  Also we’re talking about communities we choose to associate with: family of origin, family through marriage, friends, peers, associates, neighbors, co-workers or group members.  Unlike in high school, these groups aren’t forced upon us.  We don’t have to associate with our family of origin, it’s a choice.  We don’t have to schmooze with the neighbors (well most of the time) it’s a choice.

So looking at it from this perspective, fitting in is a negotiation of equals and a social interaction with group dynamics.  However, people get stuck in the mindset of their teen years. It’s as if these groups we are choosing to associate with are cliques that are telling us we’re wrong and need to change.  Or that something is off or missing within us and this is the way the universe is telling us we need to change or grow up.  Really?  Was that even the truth in high school?  It rarely is as an adult.  Most often the “I don’t fit in” problem is caused because the social group the client is in isn’t right for them, isn’t working for them, isn’t a good fit, as it were.  The message is more often than not, “time to find new people to be with.”  It’s time for boundary setting, clear communication, sometimes confrontation, being absolutely honest to yourself, if no one else, and acting accordingly. magic about fitting in is that, when you stop trying, when you start being who you actually are, you don’t have to.  The people who don’t fit with you walk away and people who do step up.  Yes, elves should want to work in Santa’s workshop (when they aren’t slaying orcs) and make toys and sing jolly songs, but if what they truly want, who they really are is a dentist, well then go be a dentist.  Who knows what adventures you might get into?  You might actually discover the island of misfit toys and help make the world a better place for everyone.