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  • Susie Csorsz Brown

Belonging versus Fitting in

As Foreign Service families, we move often. We relocate to new cities, have to reestablish our circle of friends and comfort zones. Expat families do the same. Hard enough as an adult, right? Now, how about the same for your kids? Some kids weather being the new kid better than others. Some really struggle. I mean, let’s be honest: the same is true for adults, too, right? In fact, sometimes what we do is be less true to our authentic self because we feel that might not be as acceptable as it would be to be more like everyone else. This is the difference between belonging and fitting in, and this is a struggle for every person, yes immediately after moving and being the new kid, and also throughout our lives.

Group huddle

Belonging versus fitting in (out of the mouths of teenagers):

I can be myself when I have a tie to common humanity.

When we aren’t true to our authentic self, we feel even more at odds, even if it means we ‘fit in’.

“Belonging” is being somewhere you want to be and they want you. “Fitting in” is being somewhere and they don’t care one way or another.

“Belonging” is being accepted for being you; “fitting in” is being accepted for being like everyone else.

If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.

Remind yourself, remind your kids: being you is what we love most. Being accepted for being you feels like a warm embrace. Especially for teenagers, when fitting in is such a vital piece of their social development, a little reminder that being true to one’s self is even more important.

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