Mountain of the Misfits: The Adventure of Not Fitting In

“We’re a couple of misfits
We’re a couple of misfits
What’s the matter with misfits
That’s where we fit in!
We may be different from the rest
Who decides the test
Of what is really best?
We’re a couple of misfits
We’re a couple of misfits
What’s the matter with misfits
That’s where we fit in!”

-“We’re a Couple of Misfits”, Burl Ives (from The Island of Misfit Toys)

[Note: When I talk about fitting in vs. belonging, I’m often going off Brene Browns work. To paraphrase in my own words, fitting in is needing to change who you are, or making yourself a certain way, to fit into a group. Belonging is being accepted for exactly who you are, free to be your true, authentic self. Often when working with younger clients, I see the need to fit in as something negative. As an adult who can choose to only surround myself by people who accept me for who I am, I wonder if fitting in has value…for example, we choose different groups to hang out with based on interest, hobbies, etc. If we’re a bowler hanging out with a bunch of skiers, I may belong but not fit in.]

For most people, the affirmation “I am enough” is empowering.

The opposite is true for me. I have always been…

Nice, enough.
Pretty, enough.
Athletic, enough.
Smart, enough.

Enough to get by.

Nice and pretty enough to make it through the high school cliques and college clubs. Nice, pretty, smart, and athletic enough not get bullied and move around different groups, without fitting in to any. Depending how much energy I had, I could hide behind athletic gear or school books to stay out of the way or present to the world a facade of looking like I fit in.

I never did.

That’s not to say I never belonged. I have a group of 5 friends from high school (some from elementary school) that I still see at least once a year. While they may still good-naturedly make fun of me and my lack of millennial technological abilities, they have always fully appreciated me for my oddities.

In my late 20s, I joined an intimate group…a cohort of graduate students training to be wilderness therapists. As we were becoming helpers an healers, our program required each of us to go deep inside of ourselves and share our vulnerabilities in the heart of Mother Nature, the one place I have always felt I belonged. My cohort was patient with me. It took me nearly 2 years and weeks of backcountry travel (hiking, climbing, paddling), but eventually I felt like I was part of the group, part of the Whole.

In my 30s, I realized some people appreciated me fore my eccentricities, I think because it allowed them to be more themself too, and it helped me embrace them.

Still, I felt trapped between two worlds…or perhaps, a world I never belonged to.

“If you feel like you don’t fit into the world you inherited it is because you were born to help create a new one.” – Ross Caligiuri

*To be clear, I will admit that part of my current personal work is looking at how I create more distance by the story I tell myself of how or why I don’t fit in and realizing that the distance is a protection/defense mechanism.

The other weekend, I texted a friend: “I’ve told myself I belong 50+ times this weekend so far. Eventually it has to work, right?” (It wan’t even 8am Saturday morning).

He reaffirmed that I was not the ugly duckling, that I did belong, but I misread the rest and somehow came up with the message I needed to hear: You’re right, you don’t fit in.

And that felt good. Right. Comforting.

I don’t fit in, so there is no point into putting my energy into trying.

I don’t have a community like a friend said he finds in the ultra-running world. If I do have a community, its simply of all the other misfits.

Thinking about it more, I don’t know if there’s any other group I would want to fit in with. Fitting in with the misfits. The others who are just themselves.

We might be widespread. Or you might be reading my words. (I’m guessing most people have felt like a misfit at least a few times in their life). Know that I am grateful for you. You help me feel less alone.

In the meantime, I’ve got a wonderful small group of friends and family who love and accept me for exactly who I am. I have a friend who gets my empathic and spiritual side who I can explore big questions with. A friend who has had the patience to learn and understand how my mind works so I don’t have to apologize or explain myself when I’m off on another tangent.* A friend who is gay and non-binary who probably know what I feels like to be an outsider more than I ever will, and has shown me some of the most beautiful, free love I’ve known in this life. A twin sister who is way cooler than I am, but has and always will make sure I don’t feel too left out. Plus a dog who is just an extension of myself (well, maybe she’s my alter ego), who’s shown me unconditional love from day one.

*How many tangents have you counted in this post so far?!

I’m hopeful I’ll get there one day too. A place of more than enough. Or perhaps simply enough for me. Acceptance. Self-love.

On a deep level, when I can access and step into my Higher Self, I know I’m exactly where I am supposed to be and who I am supposed to be. While I may be “me”, the notion that I am separate is a falsity, and one that I’ve seen cause dis-ease in a lot of people, maybe the world. Stepping back into connection with Nature has been the easy part for me. I’ve never felt anything accepted in Her arms and don’t take it personally when I get rained on. Stepping back into connection with myself is an active journey, but I’m on my way. As long as I’m not comparing myself to others (comparison: a fear that tells me “I’m not good enough”) I genuinely like myself…most of the time. Re-connecting with others has been harder, I think because of that fear. Realizing that other humans are an extension of the Whole, the Whole that I am also an extension of, offers me and them a little more grace and compassion.

…And here is the introvert part of me that hates small talk and prefers to ponder and dwell in big ideas. 😉

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” 
― Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

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