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Fitting In vs. Belonging

We interviewed David Mead on The Today's Mama Podcast. We talked about finding your "Why", how to help your kids do the same, and the power of human connection. LISTEN HERE!

Fitting vs Belonging

Fitting In vs. Belonging

- David Mead

I recently overheard a conversation between two mothers I know very well. One of them was talking about what her 10-year-old daughter is experiencing at school—how she’s beginning to make friends and learning to form the important social bonds she’ll need as a teenager and beyond.

Something the mother said caught my attention. She was desperate for her daughter to “fit in” at school. This got me thinking about an important distinction: the difference between fitting in and belonging.

Belonging means being yourself

Human beings are social. We survive and thrive when we come together. We naturally seek belonging. We want to be part of something that represents what we value. Whether it be the neighborhood in which we choose to live, the friends with whom we associate, or the social environments in which we choose to spend our time, we are drawn to the places and to the people that allow us to feel the greatest sense of belonging. When we feel like we don’t belong, it prevents us from being our natural best. We either withdraw into solitude or depression or we struggle to find the connection we crave.

Fitting in feels fake

Fitting in is very different. Fitting in means changing parts of who we are so that we are perceived as acceptable, lovable, or popular within a group or tribe. As you can imagine, this is easy to detect in a school setting. In my experience, it was high school. We had very distinct groups of kids, as most schools do. The jocks, the stoners, the rich kids, the tree-huggers … the list goes on.

I clearly remember trying to fit in to that last one. I bought all the stuff. I had the Birkenstocks with wool socks, the tie dye shirt with the elephant on it, I listened to the right music, burned incense in my room, even though no one was watching, and borrowed my mom’s full size Land Cruiser (even though what I really needed was the FJ Cruiser). From the outside looking in, I looked the part and I fit in with the crowd, but when I was honest with myself, I was a total phony. I knew it, as much as I tried to convince myself otherwise, and even though I fit the part, I didn't truly feel like I belonged. It just wasn’t me.

Instead of expending energy to fit into the group, it’s better to expend energy to find the group in which we fit.

If you’re like me, it’s probably been a few years since high school. However, fitting in versus belonging is just as relevant (if not more) at work. How often do we pretend we are smarter or more experienced than we really are? How many times do we avoid asking for help because we don’t want people to know that we really don’t know what to do? How often do we say the right things when the boss is around just to make sure we’re on their good side so we’ll get that promotion? How much energy do we spend trying to fit in at our companies or on our teams so that people will respect our opinion or listen to our ideas?

Fitting in lacks authenticity. Belonging oozes authenticity. Fitting in feels fake. Belonging feels natural. Fitting in takes so much energy. Belonging gives us energy. Fitting in creates fickle relationships. Belonging breeds trust and love.

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How do you create an environment at home or foster a company culture in which people feel like they belong?

About David Mead

I'm an introvert, an observer, a thinker and a feeler. I love sharing simple ideas that propel people forward. I'm a lucky husband and dad of 2. I love geeky technology stuff and I spend way too much at lulu lemon.

David is committed to a world in which the vast majority of people wake up inspired to go to work, feel safe while they're there and go home at the end of the day fulfilled by the work they do.

Today, he's here to share a few simple ideas that are helping to make that world a reality. In 2004, he started a career in corporate training. A few years later, while earning an MBA with a focus in Organizational Development, he realized something. What he, and so many other people, were being taught in business school was contributing to the poor leadership he had been enduring for much of his career.

In 2009, shortly after beginning his MBA studies, he met, and was inspired by Simon Sinek and his concept of the Golden Circle and was invited to join Simon's team. He started by developing content to help Simon share his powerful ideas and in 2012 he began speaking and facilitating workshops to help shift people's perceptions about leadership and culture.

David has now taken his years of practice and co-authored with Simon, Find Your Why, a step-by-step, practical guide on how to discover the Why for any individual, team or organization.

David is globally recognized as the “How” guy to Simon’s “Why.” David has presented these simple, inspiring ideas on 5 continents to over 200 organizations in a wide range of industries such as athletics, technology, retail, healthcare, finance, government and hospitality.

Regardless of the organization's size, industry or country, David finds that these ideas resonate with those who want to find meaning in what they do and are committed to creating a culture where people come before profit.

Follow David


Twitter: @igniterdm


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