Pursue What Matters
Episode 206: Are You Trying to Fit In?
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
One of the markers of a meaningful life is a sense of belonging. But too many of us settle for the poor poor substitute of fitting in. Join me to learn more.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:12
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. Do you have a sense of belonging in your relationships? Or do you spend your time and energy just trying to fit in, we are experiencing a loneliness crisis in our society, and it carries big costs. Loneliness is a natural outgrowth of not feeling a sense of belonging, you might feel totally alone, even when you are surrounded by people you know and care about. So today, we’ll explore fitting in as a false substitute for belonging. And then join me next week as we talk about the real deal, belonging. So every week with a podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead, I try to do that in one of three areas leading with clarity, curiosity, and leading and building a community. And so today, primarily, we’re really focusing on two areas. First of all, curiosity building awareness about are you just trying to fit in, but also leading and building a community, because when we strive for fitting in it, it makes our relationships more difficult, it makes it harder for us to make meaningful connections. And so let’s go ahead and, you know, jump right in with our first point. And that is that fitting in is a poor substitute for belonging. So from Dr. Brene Brown, fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are, it requires us to be who we are. And so you know, when we think about fitting in, our basic physiological and safety needs are not being met. We don’t know we’re safe, secure, or taking care of, we’re coming from a place of deficiency, in a very real way, a scarcity mindset. So what happens we become social chameleons, we hustle to fit in, we say things we don’t believe we do things that we don’t value. And then of course, we feel worse about it. So we might be accepted in these circles. But if we are just hustling to fit in, instead of really being genuine and true to our values, we’re going to feel worse about it. And we’ll end up feeling lonelier, instead of more connected.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:00
So one of the things that can often happen with fitting in is we fall into the traps of pleasing, performing or perfecting, so we try to people please, what do I need to say to fit in? What do I need to do to make you happy, we might end up performing. So what do I need to do to make you like me? How do I need to show up, this is really where we see the social chameleon in action, and then perfecting, we try to be perfect. If I’m perfect, you’ll like me, if I’m perfect, you won’t reject me, this is fear based, we’re looking over our shoulder with the fear that people are going to have some dirt on us. And that keeps us from being natural that keeps us from being genuine. And we you know, we end up performing rather than connecting. So in these moments, when we get caught in the traps of pleasing, performing or perfecting your needs, your individual personal needs, preferences, and values go straight out the window, because you can’t you can’t do both. You can’t pay attention to your needs, and also perform in order to meet the needs of others. It’s a big job. So the second point is that fitting in is killing us. And I mean not literally. So loneliness is a big public health crisis that we’re experiencing. It is a very serious threat to our public health. And you know, since the pandemic, we have at an all time highs for loneliness and loneliness is not benign, in fact, the furthest thing from it. So social isolation impairs immune functioning. Social isolation increases inflammation, which can set off a whole host of inflammatory illnesses. There is a 29% higher risk of coronary heart disease. With loneliness, there’s a 32% higher risk for stroke than those with a strong social network. And so when I say that low that trying to fit in and getting caught in loneliness is killing us, I mean, it is literally killing us, it increases our risk of death by 26 to 30 32%. That is a huge number. Just think if we could reduce our risk of, of death by 30%. Why don’t we go after that. And, you know, the work is really good and fulfilling work, right? It’s connection, it’s love, it’s meaningful relationships. Loneliness has a mortality rates similar to smoking. So if you were to pack or where you were to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, we’re looking at the same mortality risk of loneliness, the mortality rate of loneliness is double that of obesity. So these are big numbers. And we know that elderly without strong social interactions are twice as likely to die prematurely. So we’ve got to take this seriously.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:02
And so when we try to fit in, we’re setting ourselves up for loneliness. At the very least, we’re setting ourselves up for a lack of belonging, and loneliness, because we don’t get our needs met, we are accepted for who people think we are, rather than who we really are. And we don’t get genuine, genuine love and connection. And so now let’s talk about the third point, which are the ways that we try to fit in so what does this look like in our daily lives? So first of all, it can look like seeking money. So despite things getting better economically, there is a pervasive sense of anxiety, loneliness, and social isolation. And this really pervades most people, even with financial security. So that comes to us from Kauffman. So we pursue the things that we think will make us happy, we pursue the things that people in our society value, which is money. And so we we seek after money. And then, you know, we’re surprised at the end of that, when it doesn’t lead to happiness. And so the equation here with money and financial security is pretty simple. And that is that money and financial security is important enough to establish the financial security, right? So can we meet ends meet, can we take care of our obligations, right? So it’s not about spending extravagantly having the second or the third home, or anything like that, but it’s this feeling of, you know, it’s, it’s having $15 and living on $14. Right. That’s, that’s a way to think about financial security. And once that financial security is met, finances don’t add additional benefits to our well being. And so we put a lot more stock into the role of money than it deserves. And it can really set us up for striving to fit in, and, and being very disappointed. Another way that we, that we strive to fit in is through seeking fame. Now that might sound kind of weird to write. It’s like not many of us are celebrities. But let’s think about the in fluence culture that we have think about social media and influencers. You know, these are ways that we can track likes and follows and all of those things, and I think it is really pervasive right now. And it’s one of those ways that folks can seek fame. So their desire for fame is often based on a dream of acceptance, that includes the belief of becoming that if because if you become famous, you will feel more loved, accepted and sought after by others. But that dream is an illusion. And fame remains deeply unsatisfying, right? We see this with celebrity suicides. But you can also look into the realm of the influencer world, right? So people think they’re going to be loved, but then they also like they have trolls and they have, you know, these horrible comments and all sorts of judgment happening. And so, you know, I’ve been listening to a podcast series about mom influencers, and it’s really it’s so fascinating. And one of the things that really stands out to me, is, you know, how, how that that influencer lifestyle became such a trap for so many of the individuals and of course, that’s not across the board, but they’re really compelling stories and so, recognizing that, that seeking fame, whatever that might look like, in your life in your circles can be such a dangerous trap.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:48
One of the other ways that we can try to fit in is by seeking power. So this is a deeply unsatisfying substitute for intimacy. So the most powerful people tend to be the loneliest and which I think is really interesting. And you can see that there’s lots of examples of that. But seeking power often guarantees that you’re going to be more alone. Whether that is because you’re in leadership positions where you have more power, or, or you’re, you’re just have more control over other people. So you need to be really careful about that. Another way that we try to fit in is through social media. So this is kind of like the one for Fang but a little bit different with thing we were talking about the influencer lifestyle, but what we see with social media is that excessive social media use is a big factor of increasing loneliness. So it’s kind of tricky, because there’s the the law of connection on social media. But here’s what we know really, clearly, is that social media is a very poor substitute for real connection. So we take being popular as a substitute for being loved. And so we can use social media in very superficial ways. And that’s where it really leads to more of that fitting in, and it becomes hollow and empty. So you know, you present as though versus genuine. So if you feel like you have to tell a story or be totally filtered, or photos photoshopped on social media, right, like it’s it that’s about fitting in, and it’s going to be hard to make genuine connections. So social media, it’s kind of tricky, because it simultaneously enlarges the possibility of forming loving relationships, right? Like, it makes it easier to create, to create your communities around special interests. But while also at the same time, it makes it easier to avoid forming meaningful ones. So right, so I’ll just go connect with my groups online, who think the way that I do who will agree with me, and I won’t go through the messy work of, you know, connecting with my loved ones, or, you know, helping, taking the time to understand a loved one’s perspective that I totally disagree with. And so social media can be tricky that way. And so you know, another way that that substitute comes up is that we seek after mass acceptance, instead of individual connection. And so if we’re not careful, social media will steer us away from wholeness, and belonging. And so those are some of the ways that we try to fit in. And so you know, today I just want your take home is, you know, I want you to be aware of these behaviors, do they show up for you, you can ask yourself, what is my intention here? What am I trying to do? Am I being genuine or trying to fit in. And then, of course, join me next time to Learn all about true belonging, I’m really excited. For this, this topic is such an important concept.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:07
So in the meantime, head on over to my website to check out the show notes, with all the great resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/206-fittingin. So there, you can check out the show notes, and link to any resources. And also I would love to connect with you on social media @dr.melissasmith I have content every day related to the podcast and I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. I’d also love it if you wouldn’t mind reviewing the podcast on Apple or Spotify. Let me know what you think. It helps people to find the podcast and I really do care what you think about it and I want to know what you want to hear about. So I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai