Have you ever considered how often you do things just to fit in, to go along with friends or family, even though you feel it’s something you’d rather not do?
Many of us have, at one time or another, done exactly that – often in teenage years we succumb to peer pressure to fit in with whatever is the trend of the moment, be it drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, taking drugs, being sexually active, wearing a certain style or fashion, using certain words or language, truancy, following a band, singer or celebrity, and a host of other behaviours that might be considered cool, happening, and needed to be done if we want to stay and fit in to the group, circle or gang we are part of. Some will even involve more extreme behaviours including criminal activity, particularly amongst young boys, like joy riding cars, stealing or being part of an underground organisation of criminal activity.
The pressure to conform is huge and those who do not are often teased, bullied, harassed and called names. It takes a strong teenager to say no to alcohol when all their friends are drinking; to say no to sex when the expected norm is to say yes and the sooner the better; it takes a strong teenager to listen to the voice of their own conscience and say no when all around them are saying yes.
As we grow and mature we like to think we become our own person and live life according to how we want to live it, that we make our own choices and no longer need to conform to the expectations and demands of society, family or friends. But I wonder, if on closer examination this is actually true?
Christmas has just passed and I wonder how many people ‘do Christmas’ because that is what is expected, what they have been brought up with, and therefore something they just go along with, to fit in and be part of society, even if they don’t personally feel inclined to go along with it themselves? Is it that we find it easier to just go along with what is expected, rather than stand our ground and do what feels true for us?
There is an unspoken law that says one must not be alone at Christmas time and anyone who is must be a sad, lonely, friendless person who is to be pitied and taken care of, brought in from the cold and forced to spend time with others – even if those others are virtual and not physically present. This year there was a #joinin campaign on Twitter where those who were alone by choice or circumstance could converse with other aloners (I just made that word up) and so not be alone.
Why is there this insistence on not being alone on Christmas day?
Why do so many people conform to go and spend time with families they often spend the rest of the year avoiding just because it’s what is expected, and is part of fitting in with family expectations and the demands of society?
And what about the other 364 days of the year – why is it not a problem to be alone on those days?
Why are there no #joinin campaigns for people who are alone on other days of the year?
And what is so terrible about being alone?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people connecting, relating and being sociable and helping those who feel lonely….as loneliness is a killer in more ways than one, but there is a huge difference between being alone and lonely and all too often people and society project on to those who are alone and assume they must be lonely, when that is not necessarily the case. But what I’m questioning here is the hypocrisy that says it’s ok to be alone 364 days of the year but not this one ‘special’ day as well as busting the myth that makes out being alone = loneliness and is a state to be pitied or avoided at all costs.
Given every day is just a cycle repeating itself as the earth spins on its axis, there are no special days, other than the specialness we give to them. And so, if every day is special because we are alive, on earth, able to enjoy the vistas of nature, the flow of our own breath, the joy of our own movements, the warmth and love in our hearts, then we can enjoy every day and no one day is any more special than any others. We can be alone and know we are never alone in this one interconnected world of energy. But heaven forbid that someone should actually enjoy their own company (alone) on Christmas day… or any day for that matter! For sure, that’s a way to not fit in, to stand out from the crowd…
So do we choose to fit in, in order to not stand out from the crowd and if so what is it that we fear by standing out from the crowd?
And what is the cost of choosing to fit in and is it really worth it?
I realise I regularly make some choices to ‘fit in’, be sociable, to comply with the expectations of others, and to not upset the proverbial apple cart. At the time, it seems easier to go along with it, rather than stand out and be seen as different; yet every time I know by how I feel the next day that I have significantly compromised my body, my wellbeing, my clarity and how I feel about myself. It’s like another slice is carved away from my self-respect, in the knowing that I have not been true to myself, that I have made fitting in and complying more important than my health, my wellbeing, my regard and respect for myself. It’s an insidious poison that erodes from the inside, devouring layers of self-respect and self-worth in the knowing that yet again, I have succumbed to do that which I know is no longer true for me. And why? Why do I still choose to conform, to fit in, even when it is harming me? To gain some succour from the connections perhaps…. but how true is the connection if I’m not being true to me? Are those moments of connection worth it, if I am compromising myself in some way, such that the next day I feel out of sorts in more ways than one?
All just to fit in, to not stand out… and of course, what is lurking underneath all of that is the fear that if we stand out too much, we will not be liked, we will be attacked in some way, we will attract derision and ridicule, we will no longer be relatable and ultimately we will be left on our own two feet, separate from society and truly alone and isolated. Yes, there we have it – is it that underneath all the other reasons, we fear being isolated and alone if we do not ‘fit in’ and conform?
And there is a reality to that, recognisable in the path of some who have stood out from the crowd; history shows that humanity is not kind to those who live a different way, who don’t fit in or conform to societal expectations, who challenge the current paradigm of how to live life…but who were true to themselves and the truth they knew and felt in their own hearts.
Deep down we all know this to be true – stand out, put your head above the parapet and there’s a good chance it will get cut off, metaphorically if not literally these days! Usually led today by some hungry and unscrupulous aspects of the media who will twist, manipulate, distort and lie in order to sell a good story with no regard for the true facts or truth. Whilst we may not all be called to be on the world stage for such media attacks to occur, whether it’s on the world stage or amongst our own friends and family there is no difference. The latter is just a microcosm of the macrocosm that is the world stage. We are all on the world stage in one way or another whether we like it or not. And so the pressure to conform, to fit in, to not stand out is very real …but it is also killing us, for we are living a lie and we know it.
We all know that the current world mayhem, chaos, corruption, disorder, and man’s inhumanity to man is not how it should be. We all know the tension we feel in our own lives, the anxiety, stress and general dis-ease and discontent is not how we are designed to be. We all know there is more to life than we are currently living – even if we don’t yet admit it to ourselves or others. Any why? Because we are all energetic beings in communication with the cosmos, we are all Sons of God, with an essence of pure love that only wants to love, love and love some more and anything that is not of that love is foreign to it… but are we prepared to do what is needed, to act according to the truth in our own hearts, to live from that love rather than our comfort driven needs and desires?
Being true to oneself begins with oneself, developing a quality of relationship with ourselves and our bodies so that we know who we are and that we are worth looking after to the max, where we are no longer willing to sell out, to compromise ourselves in order to fit in, to conform, to not stand out – and that too starts with the choices we make when with friends, family and work colleagues. Yes, the apple cart may get turned over, some might even get squashed and discarded, as we find out who truly accepts us as we are and who we truly are, and who only accepts us as long we conform to their expectations of us.
But what is preferable – to continue living a lie, where relationships and connections are based on false perceptions and beliefs about who we are, or a life where they are based on the truth of who we are and where we are true to ourselves, no longer eroded from the inside by conforming and fitting in to ways we know are not true for us?
Is fitting in really worth living a lie for?
Is fitting in really worth the inner-erosion it inevitably causes?
Is fitting in worth compromising our own health and wellbeing for?
And even though I can answer no to those questions, I also know that the pattern of fitting in is so engrained, so pervasive, that I will not shift it overnight, but that it will be a gradual process of catching it, letting it go and no doubt making a few mistakes along the way, where my fitting in will yet again lead to a rather loud message from my body that I have once again, chosen a lie over truth.
Even if this resulted in us being alone (although it need not do so), we are in truth never alone, but forever interconnected with the whole of life eternally so. The love we are cannot be extinguished by anyone or anything – it can only be covered by our choices to keep it hidden and in doing so we perpetuate the ill ways of life we know are not true.
The only way we can change the world, is to change ourselves, to live and be the love that we are in all that we do, and reflect that way of living to all, near and far; for all that we do, say and think ripples into the cosmos… and can be a chaotic, torrent of all that is not love or an all-encompassing, all enfolding, wave of divine love that washes over all of humanity.
So we have a choice: to continue fitting in, compromising, making choices we know are not true for us – living a lie in other words and suffering the consequences of the same, where our choices perpetuate the disharmony not just in our own lives but in the world at large – or we can begin to make choices that are true for us, that reflect the truth of who we truly are, that come from the love we are and which are healthy and harmonious not just for us but for the whole – as a universal being and vessel of divine love.
Feel free to share your observations and experiences of fitting in…..and whether it was worth it….