Belonging versus Fitting In by Zoë Coyle
Being a parent is a humbling experience. I often find my children ask questions of me that require me to actively refine my thinking and occasionally rush back through time to my own child self and unleash some re-parenting.
Recently it was over the difference between fitting in and belonging. I wish I’d known the difference when I was battling my way through school, miserable and lonely.
This is what I told my daughter: Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.
She cocked an intelligent brow and added: I also think belonging is being where you want to be and people want you there. And fitting in is being somewhere you want to be but the people don’t care one way of the other.
My child and I mused on this and I counselled her to choose courage over comfort, as to not conform, to not assimilate, to believe in your own worthiness, this takes great bravery - but in time she will be rewarded by finding her tribe. To be courageous she will need to be vulnerable, because she can’t have the former without the latter. I encouraged her to not armour up, to stay supple and present, that it’s impossible to feel wonder or joy when we obsess with protecting ourselves.
My girl said ‘Ok’ and walked off marching to the glorious beat of her own drum. And I was left to shake my head compassionately at the 11-year-old Zoe who changed her clothes, smothered her opinions and compromised her values in a futile and exhausting attempt to connect. And I realised that at Pilot Light, Polly McGee and I have built a company where people learn, or are reminded, how to belong. To themselves, their families, their buddies and their work communities.