Wanting to fit in makes you human; as much as people preach that we should embrace our uniqueness, it’s hard when we live in environments that tend to exclude you for being unique.
High school is one of those environments. You are surrounded by cliques that form because of the rampant desire to fit in. To join a group you must have something that relates you to those people – age, values or character.
The reality though is that high school is superficial; you don’t make friends there because they fit your values. To survive, you make friends to avoid feeling alone because we all know not fitting in will get you excluded really quick. High school is all about hierarchy – based on what you appear as to your friends. Are you from a rich family? Are you smart? Are you funny? Do you dress well?
Peer pressure and self-esteem is the biggest struggle in high school. One is often tormented by doubts: do my friends like me? If they don’t, what’s wrong with me? It’s a vicious circle of self-doubt because at that age we don’t really have the tools to deal with our own internal struggles, and outside validation is a comfort we seek to satisfy those struggles. We hope to get that validation through popularity – popularity based on friendships. These friendships we create to feel liked and accepted, because to be accepted would mean we fit in.
I had a good and bad high school experience, because as a people pleaser I gravitated towards people who would use that to their benefit. I also sought attention in spaces I had no right to be because my friends encouraged me to; we were all young though and no one is to blame for my own actions no matter the influence. But high school was good practise for real life; we may knock people down for trying to fit in but it’s actually easier to navigate the real world when we fit in with the people we encounter along our way.
That may sound cowardly but through growing up I have realised I have bigger battles to fight and some struggles are just not worth it. You can create your own tribe of people and spaces where your uniqueness will be celebrated. Spaces where you can fully be yourself; outside of that no one actually cares – they have their own unique battles to fight.
So, if you are currently in high school I think the takeaway should be to just enjoy your time there as much as you can. Enjoy the friendships because some will not last – not because of anything; just because of growth and change. If fitting in means compromising yourself too much though, distance yourself. Your older self will thank you for this character-building bravery too.
Tell us: What kind of thing did you/ do you do to fit in at school?
If you enjoyed this, you may like learning about friendships in university, here.