Fit in or F Off

Do you find yourself making the effort to 'fit in'- to your workplace, your university or your school? Perhaps even at home or socially. Do these environments require you to think, act, behave, dress, or do things in a particular way and to be a particular sort of person? Does this constant effort to 'fit in' drain you? When you make this effort to 'fit in', you are being someone you are not; you are masking something about yourself and letting others shape how you should be.

Wouldn't it be great if you could just be yourself? Wouldn't it be great if you enjoyed a culture where people are encouraged to be themselves and they are valued for who they are? No need to mask differences - of personality, mental or physical health, gender, race, religion, sexuality, patterns of thinking, ways of doing things, choices of personal style and presentation and so on. In this culture, which I call a culture of evenhood, you can be yourself, you feel comfortable, resilient and happy. You can perform and be effective by doing the things that you are good at, in the way that you know best and by displaying your true and whole self.

Let me tell you why this isn't an idealistic nirvana, but an easily achievable and realistic aim. Come on a brief thought-experiment with me.

Start by imagining the most resilient creature you can. Create a picture in your mind's eye of that resilient, contended creature that is able to fulfil its purpose and desires; without stress, obstacle or unnecessary challenge. If I were asked this question I'd choose a chunky-looking, silver-backed gorilla, who I'll call Resilient Trevor.

​The next step in this thought experiment is to zoom out a little bit. Look at your creature in its natural environment. I'd think of Resilient Trevor as living in a lush jungle - a comfortable, warm place, surrounded by fruit, fresh running water and the company of other gorillas. Here, Trevor can be himself, fulfil his purpose and feel contented.

Now for the really interesting part. What I'd like you to do next is move your resilient creature to a totally different environment. I'm going to put Resilient Trevor in the Antarctic.

Remember - this experiment is all about the most resilient creature you could imagine; but what's happened to its resilience now? I think Trevor would find it extremely challenging in this cold, hostile environment, with only fish for food and the company of penguins. If he continued to just be himself, he wouldn't last long.

What options are there to improve Trevor's resilience and wellbeing.

One option would be for Trevor to adapt and 'fit in'. Trevor would need to work hard at evolving himself into something more closely resembling a Polar Bear - with extra layers of fat, thicker fur, the ability to catch fish and feeling comfortable with the company of penguins.

This adaptation, or evolution, is properly hard stuff - exhausting, challenging and unlikely to result in a good outcome. Given that we're using our imagination in this thought experiment, we could work hard to manage the situation - to improve Trevor in our mind's eye to help him evolve and 'fit in' to this hostile environment.

There's a second option though, that's far easier for Trevor. This alternative solution is for Trevor to return to an environment that he feels comfortable in. His natural environment. The lush jungle.