After Georgina’s recent post on here “it’s nice to be nice” I felt super inspired to write about something I have personally struggled with until quite recently, the importance of fitting in. Heads up, this probably won’t be as intellectually written but I hope it is just as raw and thought provoking. So, here goes.
I feel like the subject of ‘fitting in’ is merely brushed over and actually never really talked about, when I genuinely believe that it can be so detrimental to a person’s life, their view of themselves and their self-esteem.
I’m going to start with my experience of secondary school. I truly envy those that can look back on their school days as the best in their lives because for me they were quite the opposite, for a few reasons admittedly, but the main one being my sacrifice of being myself in order to fit in.
I’m still unsure if it was just me, but throughout school I always felt this over powering feeling that it was so crucial to fit in, so much so that I let it consume me and dictate pretty much every decision of mine. I was a massive people-pleaser back then and I went through my years at school trying desperately hard to secure my place in the ‘popular group’ (you all know what group I’m talking about, every year has one) which I guess I did eventually, but it wasn’t easy and definitely took its toll.
Looking back, it is so clear to me that I was never similar to the majority of the girls I associated myself with, but while I was there living it, I’m sure I’m not the only one who just wanted an easy ride through school and for some reason popularity seemed, to me, to be the simplest answer.
The way I describe my experience of school to people who ask now is that it was simply an act, I was acting a part. I can’t put into words how emotionally draining and confusing it is to not allow yourself to be you. It got to the point where I didn’t even know my own opinions on things, whether that be the latest drama or politics, I just went with what everyone else was saying because that felt so much easier than speaking up and potentially being different.
I ended up just closing myself off from everything, just pretty much sitting in silence and letting my last few years of school just go by. Until I didn’t. I don’t know what made me snap out of it, but something did, and I realised what I had been doing, all the time I had wasted trying to be like other people, and it wasn’t a nice feeling at all. I literally woke up one morning mid-year-thirteen and vowed to myself that as soon as I left the school grounds after my last A-Level exam I was leaving everything that came with it behind. It was a simple but not easy decision to make, it’s quite daunting knowing you’re about to leave a load of people behind but I definitely needed to do it.
Two years on and I have the most amazing friends from college and work. Friends that actually love me for me and don’t need me to be the same as them. It’s the most freeing feeling, letting yourself be you.
I left so many people behind when I left school, but I knew that I would never be alone, and that’s down to my family, who (quick shout out) are the best people in my life. The most important. The only people that knew who I was even when I didn’t know it myself and I couldn’t have done it without them. For someone who was so dependent on other people, my family made it so easy for me to walk away from every negative thing/person in my life and I will forever be grateful. I owe Sarah for this too, we found each other when we were both vulnerable, for different reasons, but we both got each other through a lot, and I don’t know where I’d be without her.
The point of me sharing all of that, was so that when I say the following it makes sense.
‘Fitting in’ is not worth your happiness. Ever.
I wasted a good six years of my life so concerned about what other people thought of me, so consumed in the importance of being popular and fitting in, that I lost myself. I left year thirteen not having a clue who I really was or what I wanted out of life, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
If I could go back, or tell anyone that might be struggling with fitting in at school, as cliché as it sounds I’d just say be you. If sitting alone on a bench in the school field reading a book makes you happy, do it. If you want to join EVERY sports club offered even though it might take up your lunch hour with friends, do it.
Don’t let anyone else influence your decisions. It’s not worth it. I promise you, as soon as you leave school no one cares who went to that house party in year 9 (the one it felt like everyone was invited to except you), no one cares who had the most boyfriends or who was in the ‘popular group’. It’s honestly funny to me now, and to see people still consumed with it all is crazy to me.
To sum it up, you will find people who will love you for you, and all the flaws that come with it, that is the most natural friendship/love and it’s the only kind I want to feel.