By Joy Ballard
Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in? The fear of not fitting in isn’t only for high school girls. But we can find freedom in Christ when we struggle with this fear.
The Struggle to Fit In
Have you ever purchased something out of the “need” to be like someone else? I have, only to find that thing unused in the back of a closet years later. Of course I didn’t think I was copying someone. I called it inspiration, or a great deal, or the solution for which I had been searching..
The desire to fit in is a feeling that never leaves us, regardless of our age. Although we would like to believe that we left that battle back in high school, we encounter it every day. With it, we have the choice to move closer or further away from who we really are.
Perhaps it isn’t the latest hair style trend or expensive shoe brand that plagues us anymore, but something more complicated. Maybe your family of origin is the polar opposite from the family into which you married, so you always feel like an outsider. Maybe you moved to a new area or community and can’t seem to break into long-established cliques.
Without a doubt, most of us have experienced it as we scroll through social media. This often provides us unhelpful windows into other people’s lives, causing us to feel like we don’t fit in.
The Difference Between Fitting In and Belonging
Fitting in is an endless struggle, because there will always be something we don’t have or can’t achieve. However, it is important to make a distinction between a desire to fit in and the human need to belong.
To fit in, all one has to do is look and act like everyone else. It requires that we change something about us to become something different. To belong is to be known and accepted as we are.
Growing up in a multi-cultural family gave me the great advantage of being bilingual and feeling at home in two different countries. Yet at the same time, I never completely belong in either country. There are parts about me that neither culture will ever totally understand.
When my husband and I married, we lived in his hometown where everything was new to me: town, family, job, church, not to mention being new to marriage! If I let myself, I could find reminders every day of how I didn’t fit in.
While those experiences were challenging, they taught me to differentiate between fitting in and belonging. Fitting in draws me away from who I am created to be. Belonging draws me deeper into who I am meant to be.
Leaning Into God’s Acceptance
Marriage was a wonderful teacher for me at that time. My husband chose me and loves me as I am. He helped me better understand what belonging feels like and was a refuge when the world around me told me I didn’t fit in.
This is exactly what God does for us. As we become closer to Jesus, our sense of belonging deepens. the things that used to tempt us to change who we are become less important.
That word, change, should be the red flag that signals us to pay attention.
Change can be awesome. I am one of the few people I know who loves change. Changing things up is refreshing to me. But it is important to know what is influencing our change.
Three Types of Change
God-inspired change happens when we have spent time with the Lord. There we may learn that something needs to change in us. This is the best type of change–allowing our Creator to cultivate something new in our lives.
People-inspired change is a little tricky. God created us to live in relationship with each other and many times will use someone in our life to inspire a necessary change. But we still need to run that through the filter of what God is showing us personally.
When a change is merely based on the fact we like what someone else has, does or is better than our own reality, then that is not a change worth making. But if it aligns with our values and the life direction God is taking us in, then perhaps it is a necessary change.
Self-inspired change is debatably neutral. Whether changing out some old art in our house, getting a new haircut, trying a new family routine, or even switching jobs, these types of change can be beneficial and simply an expression of the creativity God gave us….unless they are people-inspired changes in an unhealthy way.
Letting Go of Fitting In
Fitting in is an exhausting game to play.
Instead, knowing who we are and how we are created gives us a unique confidence that allows us to live out our purpose freely and without distractions. Finding our sense of belonging in Jesus means that we trust how he made us and what he is doing in our lives.
So, yes, let’s leave our desire to fit in back in high school. Instead, let’s find our belonging in trusting that we are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14 ESV) From that place of belonging, we can more clearly see whether a change is necessary in our lives.
Wife Step: What change have you been pondering? Who or what is inspiring that change? Is it bringing you closer to who God made you to be or closer to what someone else is like? Pray that God will help you discern the truth.
Joy was born and raised in Mexico, but fell in love with a Minnesota guy. More than a decade, many geographical locations, and four kids later, they are currently settled in the city of Minneapolis, MN. Together they love helping couples discover the incredible adventure marriage was intended to be. They have led many marriage small groups, ministries and retreats, but their favorite way to connect with other couples is by simply sharing life together. Although homeschooling, parenting and helping run their vacation rental take up most of her days, Joy is always finding ways to sneak in time for writing, reading, design and coffee with friends. You can find her posting on Instagram @joy.ballard or @theriverlodgemn. Photo credit: Woodford Sisters Photography
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