“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” – C. S. Lewis
At times, you just know that this is where you belong, with your own close knit circle of like-minded friends.
However, have you ever found yourself in a group of friends wondering you don’t really belong in here? It might have felt like you have to try so hard to fit in with them.
Such a wish to be part of a group often becomes stronger in adolescence. For teenagers especially, it is quite natural to want to belong with a ‘cool gang’ of friends who fulfil this desire completely.
Feeling Left Out?
Along with the desire for fitting in, comes the fear of being left out of the group. This fear shows itself in different ways:
Fear of being different: We dread being too different from people in the group, and being disliked by them. This brings along other fears of being alone, of being ridiculed, and so on. It can make you feel pressured to try very hard to be included in the group.
Trying hard to be like others: In your attempts of fitting in, you may try to be just like others in the group. For instance, you may end up dressing like them, speaking in the same manner, and acting like them in many ways.
Anxiety about others’ approval: Subsequently, you may feel preoccupied with your friends’ tastes and preferences. You may keep thinking about whether your decisions will be approved by the group or will they abandon you for making your choices.
Feeling Trapped In A Cycle Of Anxiety
Trying too hard to be like others, can take away from the uniqueness. We may gradually become less aware of our own likes, needs, and preferences.
This in turn makes us look like “wanna-be’s”. In your desperation of fitting in the group, you may feel compelled to try so hard to be like them that ultimately they dislike you for this.
The fear of being judged and rejected by your friends often outweighs the wish to be with them. You may feel intimidated by them, instead of having fun with them. This fear of being disowned by them then increases, and you may end up trying more desperately to fit in with them.
This cycle then keeps going on, as you waver between desperation and fear. So, instead of desperately doing those things that keep this fear alive, you could perhaps try and find other ways to fulfil your wish of being in a treasured friend circle.
A Healthier Way To Feeling Belonged
Embrace Individual Differences:
Usually, it is hard to align with a group entirely. This is because a group is made of diverse individuals. Each one brings in some element of his/her unique identity to the group, which makes the interactions more dynamic. Any group of friends has individuals playing a different role in the group. Following are some of the roles typically found in many friends groups:
- the quick-wit who always has something funny to say;
- the prankster who sets you up in a practical joke;
- the one who is the centre of all such jokes;
- the quiet one who speaks only when needed
- the sociable one who knows almost everyone in the college
- a very dynamic group may also have the sentimental person, the calm person, the nerd, the geek, and so on
Appreciate your own Uniqueness:
In the popular sitcom FRIENDS, the group is so diverse that each person is different, special and funny. All of them contribute to the group in their own unique ways. Their dynamics is what makes it fun to watch the show!
It is thus very important to identify your own role in the group. It may help to think along these lines:
- What is your role in the group?
- What unique idea are you bringing into the group?
- What makes you part of the group, and yet a very unique individual?
- What makes you feel connected with members in group?
- What is different about you – qualities that you have particular?
Even though we may bond on our similarities, what keeps us going is the uniqueness that each one brings into our circle. When different individuals come together, their unique perspectives make the group a dynamic entity. This enhances the bonds between individuals in it.
It is thus very essential to be aware of your own needs, your unique tastes, inclinations, and so on. Being your unique self makes space for fitting in with a group in a healthy way.
It is hard to carve out a niche for yourself in the group, unless you know in what ways you are ready to be a part of it, what roles you would prefer playing, in the group.
Struggling To Fit In Among Others?
Counseling can be a great tool for you to discover your unique identity and move through social relationships with ease.
We are here for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Managing a fear of rejection can be tough. However, to work through these difficult feelings, you must learn to accept them and understand them. If you have certain negative thoughts around this fear, try and work towards challenging these thoughts to develop more realistic and compassionate thoughts. Try and develop your own interests beyond what your friends like doing together. And finally, and most importantly, be kind and compassionate towards yourself.
It is quite normal to want to fit in to your friend group. But, if you feel like your fear of rejection from your friends is impacting your life negatively and is impairing your ability to function daily, it is always a good idea to consult a counselor or therapist to manage these feelings.
About the Author
This article was written by Namrata Suresh. This post was consulted & approved by professional therapists practicing online therapy and counseling.