We all want to fit in. We all want to belong. But the irony is that the
greatest barrier to belonging is the need to fit in. Let that just sink in for
a moment!

What’s the difference you may ask? Fitting in is when we adapt to the world around us. It presents a certain (temporary) comfort but no genuine identity. But belonging is standing in your authenticity to be a part of something greater.

Fitting in has to do with everyone else. But belonging has everything to do with you. You will flourish when you are YOU!

Show notes

  • The greatest barrier to belonging is fitting in.
  • We try so hard to fit in that we don’t understand what it means to truly belong.
  • I’ve tried my whole life to fit in at school or work, with family and friends.
  • Belonging is an innate human desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves.
  • We try to acquire this belonging by seeking approval.
  • Fitting in is a hollow substitute for true belonging.
  • Whether we are extroverted or introverted, we all yearn to belong and actively seek to fulfil this desire.
  • True belonging takes hold when you reach a state of pure self-acceptance.
  • Unpacking the concept of being comfortable on your own skin and non-judgemental observation.
  • Redefining your entry criteria to fitting in and being accepted.
  • Adult learning model – unconsciously incompetent to unconsciously competent.
  • Understanding your triggers through observation to begin the journey of self-acceptance.
  • You will flourish when you are YOU!

Related articles

If you enjoyed this podcast, you will enjoy The Resilience Coach, Imposter to Influencer and Defying All Odds.

Download this podcast

Right click on the link here and click ‘save as’ to download this episode to your computer.



 Lisa Linfield: 00:21 The greatest barrier to belonging is fitting in. Let’s just sit with that awhile. The greatest barrier to feeling like you truly belong is trying to fit in. I can’t begin to tell you how much this has been preying on my mind this week. It’s a quote from Brené Brown, and is one of the key concepts in her book Braving the Wilderness, “And for the first time I understood that I’d spent so long trying to fit in; at work, at school, and as an adult. And what I should have been doing was seeking to belong. Belonging is when we stand for our authentic self. Fitting in is when we acclimate to the world around us.”Lisa Linfield: 00:21 The greatest barrier to belonging is fitting in. Let’s just sit with that awhile. The greatest barrier to feeling like you truly belong is trying to fit in. I can’t begin to tell you how much this has been preying on my mind this week. It’s a quote from Brené Brown, and is one of the key concepts in her book Braving the Wilderness, “And for the first time I understood that I’d spent so long trying to fit in; at work, at school, and as an adult. And what I should have been doing was seeking to belong. Belonging is when we stand for our authentic self. Fitting in is when we acclimate to the world around us.”Lisa Linfield: 01:17 And I loved this further quote from her: “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us, because this yearning is so primal we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval; which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”Lisa Linfield: 01:58 The first thing that strikes me about Brené Brown’s quote is wanting to belong is an innate human desire. It exists in all of us, no matter how introverted or extroverted, how relational or non-relational we are. We all want to belong.Lisa Linfield: 02:19 The second thing I love is that she recognizes that we try actively to have it. That for me is the real issue. That trying is called fitting in, and in that what we are actually doing is seeking approval. It’s the approval for the version of ourselves we have created, not the version of ourselves that we truly are.Lisa Linfield: 02:45 Lastly in that quote, she gives us the answer from her research, tons and tons, over 400,000 data points of research, that true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. That’s the real crux. Being willing to present our imperfections, when all we want so badly is to be perfect. It’s what we’ve been told so often, “Be the good little girl. Wash your face, brush your hair, people are coming.” Always show other how perfect you are. I guess how perfect we all are, and our family, and our school. Be very perfectly brushed haired, washed faced, when you’re at school.Lisa Linfield: 03:32 Now that’s exacerbated by Instagram. Which says that you always show people only the most perfect version of the life you lead. I just wish sometimes that I could throw away 44 years of the world telling me, “Perfect, perfect, perfect.” Why? Because like you, what I most want is to belong. I am so sick of trying to fit in. As Brené says, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance. That’s where the challenge is. I want a deep sense of belonging. Not just a glimpse of it every now and then. A deep body-feeling sense of belonging. Always.Lisa Linfield: 04:22 The challenge is, the first place I’ve got to belong to, is belonging in my own skin. To accept that who I am is exactly how I was meant to be, and that’s okay. My eldest daughter [Jase 00:04:36] and I were talking about girls at school who were comfortable in their own skins. They were two in particular that she picked out. So I asked her, “How do you know that they are comfortable in their own skins?”Lisa Linfield: 04:53 She was quiet awhile, and she thought, “I don’t know. You just know.”Lisa Linfield: 04:59 So then I asked her, “If you just know if someone else is comfortable in their own skin, do you think they just know if you are comfortable in your skin?”Lisa Linfield: 05:12 “I guess so,” she answered.Lisa Linfield: 05:15 And that’s the challenge. We are so busy trying to fit in, yet as sentient beings we perceive and feel when someone is not truly comfortable in their own skins. Last month I hosted a supper club at my house. There are usually 12 of us, and I’ve been part of that supper club for 14 years. So you’d think that by now, I felt I belonged. There were only a few of us and we got onto chatting about this concept of feeling like you belong. I shared with them that for so many years, right in the beginning, I didn’t feel like I belonged. But that it had nothing to do with them. It was all on me. You see, my supper club are some of the most beautiful women God put on this Earth. I remember my very first one, three of them had just been featured in magazines. I remember leaning into my friend who introduced me, and I said to her, “Goodness, the only magazine I’m ever going to be in is Forbes or Finance Week, and that’s not going to be for my beauty.”Lisa Linfield: 06:21 Not only were they beautiful, but to me it felt like they all led perfect lives. Successful, talented, beautiful, perfect lives. You see, I didn’t feel like I belonged because for me, the entry criteria to belonging in this world is beauty and perfection. My whole life I felt that I had fitted in more with ugly ducklings than the beautiful swans. That’s the challenge with belonging, is that it starts with self-acceptance. I couldn’t accept that I would ever belong to a group of such beautiful women. At the dinner one of them then asked me if I felt like I belonged now, fourteen years later. I said I did, but that’s more because I’m losing my sense that the entry criteria to belonging in the world was that we had to be beautiful, perfect humans.Lisa Linfield: 07:15 Going back to my daughter, it amazed me that my friends told me that they thought I seemed happier and more at ease now than I ever had. Isn’t that such an irony? That we try so hard to fit in, to show the perfect mask outwards, yet people around us sense deep in their souls whether we’re being our authentic self or not. So we may as well work out how to be us, how to accept who we are, because they can see whether we accept it or not. “How do you do that, Mama?” Jase asked.Lisa Linfield: 07:53 The first step of self-acceptance is non-judgmental observation. I’m a journeyer myself, so I can’t say that I’ve nailed this. But what I have learned, is that it’s a journey that starts with watching yourself from above as you interact with others. You see, the adult learning model states that we start as unconsciously incompetent. Let’s take that apart. What it means is that we don’t know, unconscious, that we actually have this gap, incompetent. So being unconsciously incompetent, is that we don’t know that we have a self-esteem gap.Lisa Linfield: 08:37 Then what happens is the next step is to become consciously incompetent. That means that for the first time we’ve become aware that we have this gap. That’s the conscious part of it. That could be, maybe it’s this podcast; in respect to either your money, or you as a person, or something about you. It’s made you aware of a gap. That makes you conscious of the fact that you haven’t mastered this particular little piece of the journey.Lisa Linfield: 09:09 So the first step is just to watch yourself. When do you feel uncomfortable? And why? How did you respond? Was there an actual feeling inside your body? I know that when I’m uncomfortable I get a sense in my body. It sits in my chest and a little bit in my tummy. What happens is that I talk too much, and in particular I overshare. I guess I think that I can short-circuit the getting to know you process if I tell you all about myself. “If you just knew me,” I tell myself, “Then you’d like me. I might not be the prettiest, but if you just knew who I was, then maybe you’d like me.”Lisa Linfield: 09:57 The reality is, I’m not responding in my authentic self. I’m responding to try and fit in, trying to tell you stories about me that I think will make you like me. As opposed to just being me. I personally find the journaling works best for me. So what I’ll often do is that either at a natural pause, or a loo break, I’ll send myself a two or three word prompt to remind me of that moment that I’d become conscious that I am not being my authentic self. Then later in the day, or in my morning journaling time, I’ll reflect on exactly what it was that triggered me.Lisa Linfield: 10:39 You can only begin fixing what you’re conscious of. You can’t start with the what. You have to start with the why. Why were you triggered in the first place? What about this other person, or the situation that you were in, made you behave that way? You need to keep asking why until you find the real answer. Not the good answer, the one you tell yourself, the real answer. The one that resonates deep within your soul. Until you get into what story it is that you’re believing right at that moment, you’ll never be able to rewrite it. My stories are usually: they’re prettier, they’re more successful, they’re nicer humans, they’re more popular. And that you may be ugly, but you’re a nice human and people will like nice people, so show them how you are. But you cannot judge yourself in this process. There is no great learning in the presence of judgment. You have to just observe. Like you’re watching a movie of yourself. The minute you start judging yourself, you’ll start defending yourself. Just watch. Just journal. Just breathe. When you find yourself judging, have the grace to giggle at yourself.Lisa Linfield: 12:10 The next step is that once you’re aware of the deep why of your triggers, then you can begin the journey of practicing. After you become consciously incompetent, the next step is to become consciously competent. That means that you practice being you. That as you feel that sensation in your body, or you recognize a trigger, for when you are acting to fit in, rather than respond to a situation that you then become in a position to consciously choose your action.Lisa Linfield: 12:44 For me in the beginning, it often means that I keep quiet rather than talking and oversharing. But that’s a first step only. I’m getting better at practicing being me, saying what I think the real me would say. Whilst the challenge of consciously incompetent is not judging and being kind on yourself, the real challenge of consciously competent is living with the awkwardness of the moment. Because you’ve been so practiced at fitting in, it feels natural, yet it’s not authentic. So practicing authentic feels unnatural. It’s like starting any new skill you need to learn or relearn. You have to follow the recipe first. I’m learning to row on a rowing machine. I have to keep saying to myself, “Abs, legs, arms. Keep your back straight. Sit on your bum burns. Abs, legs, arms.”Lisa Linfield: 13:44 Whilst I have rowed on a row many times in a gym, I’ve apparently always been doing it incorrectly. Now I’m working on learning to unlearn years of bad habits. It feels awkward, it feels stilted, and I have to be conscious about concentrating on it. But after awhile, it will become unconsciously competent. That means that you’re authentically you, without having to have any conscious effort. Me? I think I’m in the middle two steps. The better I get at observing myself, the more triggers I find, the more situations I think, “Is that really you?” So I start to try working on them. A few must be moving into the final stage, my supper club friends have noticed it. But mostly I’m in those middle two steps, becoming consciously competent from being, and consciously incompetent.Lisa Linfield: 14:44 I guess that’s been the greatest gift of my two years outside of corporate. I was an adept master of fitting into the corporate world. There the top status belonged to the achiever. I felt like I was in there. But these two years, the only person I’ve had to fit in with is me. So it’s a journey that I have been pushed into taking. I highly encourage you to start the process of observing. Do you feel you belong, deeply belong, at work, with your different social circles, in your extended family? Fit in, maybe. But do you belong? You will only ever deeply flourish and be deeply happy, when you are you. The amazing, talented human you were meant to be.Lisa Linfield: 15:36 Have a great week everyone, and enjoy the journey! I’m Lisa Linfield, and this is Working Women’s Wealth.