I’ve never been someone who fit in very easily.
I’ve always pushed the limits, took risks, and gone after whatever I wanted.
We’re all born with this innate desire to be accepted. To fit in.
The trouble is… when you try too hard to fit in, you lose a part of yourself in the process.
And what the world needs most is for you to be YOU – bold, unapologetic, thoughtful, creative, take-the-world-by-storm you.
Standing out is lonely. It’s awkward. It’s scary.
But you have to be different to make a difference.
When I was in grade school, I worried about fitting in. But trying to be like everyone else made me unhappy. I wasn’t like everybody else. Instead of playing with dolls and having tea parties, I wanted to ride a unicycle and walk on stilts. Instead of playing sports, I wanted to ride horses. But horseback riding lessons were expensive, and my parents could only afford two lessons a month. Two lessons a month wasn’t going to be sufficient for the type of rider I wanted to become, so I made a deal with the barn manager to work for the extra lessons. Seven hours of cleaning stalls equaled one hour of lessons. It was hard work but I was more than happy to do it so I could be with horses and around other people that also loved them.
As it turned out, the things that held me back most from fitting in – my willingness to be different, like different things, to work hard and take risks, my relentless optimism, and my refusal to take no for an answer – some of those are the very qualities I attribute my success to.
Here are 5 reasons why fitting in is overrated:
1. Trying to fit in is not healthy for you
Trying to be someone you’re not can make you unhappy, add unnecessary stress to your life, and negatively affect your spiritual, mental and physical health. It’s exhausting trying to be someone you are not. I operate at 100% frequency (It’s high, I know) but when I try and dial this down to 93%, I feel off. I feel tired. Today, I make it a point to spend time with people that are attracted to my 100% authentic self.
2. Trying to fit in stifles creativity
Strict rules and norms aren’t great for creativity. Neither is judgment, embarrassment, or shame. Give yourself the space to create something new instead of trying to be what everyone expects you to be. You don’t need to be front and center to be valuable. For example, in a play, the person wouldn’t be on the stage without a scriptwriter, a director, stage manager, or costume designer. There are a lot of valuable parts to pulling a play off that are equally creative. The same is in sports and business. The best teams I have been a part of are the ones that have the most diversity.
3. Trying to fit in holds you back from reaching your maximum potential
Once you start living your life for yourself instead of for other people, amazing things happen. Invest your energy into becoming the best possible version of yourself instead of trying to gain everyone else’s approval. Your differences are your strengths and what makes you powerful.
4. Trying to fit in doesn’t get you what you really want
Is there a gap between what you actually want and what your parents, friends, co-workers, think you SHOULD want? What is YOUR inner voice saying? Once you stop trying so hard to fit in, you’ll be free to pursue the things that matter most to you (not to everyone else). After all, what success means to you is totally up to you.
5. Trying to fit in stops you from truly belonging
It’s a little counterintuitive, but once you stop trying so hard to fit in, you’ll be able to let your true self be known and have more meaningful relationships. When you allow yourself to be true to yourself, you attract people with similar interests and find new friends.
If you have always found it difficult to blend into the crowd, that’s a sign that you were never meant to. Have the courage to stand out, embrace YOUR talents and strengths, and shake things up – you and the rest of the world will be much better off for it.
Kim Perell is widely recognized entrepreneur, investor and national best selling author. A great believer in paying it forward, Kim loves to help aspiring entrepreneurs achieve success and is an early stage investor in over 80 start-ups, 16 of which have successfully been acquired by some of the largest Fortune 500 companies.
Originally published in Entrepreneur