“People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out.” ~Warren Bennis
Most of my life I have been obsessed with fitting in, and when that didn’t work I dedicated myself to standing out. The problem is that by standing out I was fitting in more than I ever realized. Because it seems like everyone in my generation and the ones that are coming up after is obsessed with standing out, with being different. Different is the new cool, and therefore also the anti-thesis of cool. Huh?
Seriously, though, if the new normal is difference, then being different is no longer rebellious or original. So I fit in more now than I ever did before, by not fitting in.
What is fitting in anyway? Is it being just like everyone else, just a little less so that I don’t challenge the established leaders? Is it dulling my sharp edges so I can slide into a particular group like a puzzle piece? Or is it simply not doing things to stand out, and therefore fading into the woodwork so the group doesn’t even know you’re there?
In the vast array of jobs I’ve held at one time or another if there’s one thing I noticed about my co-workers is that a lot of them adjusted to the group dynamic by becoming, for lack of a better term, vanilla. That means being bland, not standing out at all, basically ditching personality for the sake of having “work friends.” And the people who went that route routinely did have a lot of what I call “superficial friends,” or even simply “friendly associates.” But those are the people you talk about the weather with, not the ones who you share real thoughts and concerns with.
On the other side of the coin, I haven’t ever had a lot of work friends. It’s not that I’m the unfriendly sort. In fact, I have a quite gregarious personality. For the most part I think people like being around me, but because I’m not “vanilla” it’s not quite a good fit with their cookie cutter molds. Occasionally I’ll find someone who is the same way, who slots into the same sense of humor as I do, someone who I can look at and they’ll get why I’m looking at them. And it’s not that those people aren’t out there, but I think instead they’re too busy most of the time trying to fit in that they don’t show their true colors.
There are three people I know who are always themselves, who honestly don’t care what other people think of them, and who have a limited group of friends, but friends who understand them inside and out. These people are my heroes, honestly, because with all the people posing as original and creative, and with all the fake sentiments floating around on the air, they’re the ones who I look to for some levity, for some gravity, and for some release.
Because they fit into my idea of how humanity as a whole should be. There would be so much less bullshit and so much more real interaction in a world full of those types of people. And no one would care about fitting in because everyone would be celebrated for true difference. Maybe.