Fitting In or Belonging

The Difference

Dec 21, 2022

3 min


Human connection is an important part of our lives. It is as important to us as water, oxygen, and food. We end up spending hours on food delivery apps just to decide what to order, but fail to do so while looking for the human connection we long for.

As a 12 year old kid who was reserved, shy, and timid with poor social skills, I happened to change schools. This meant leaving my comfort zone and starting all over again. I ended up in a school which was poles apart from what I was used to.

Every person I met on the first day was extremely extroverted with amazing communication skills. This not only made me doubt my last 5 years of education but also made me feel insecure.

I somehow managed to make friends but with limited processing power at that age, I did not realize when and how I had transformed into a completely different person in a brief span of time. My dislikes became my likes (and vice versa) and I never really had any issue with it.

Only when life threw a few lemons at me, I was able to process this change. It was me trying to Fit In and all it left me with was shallow friendships, a need for being accepted, and way too many funny and embarrassing stories to talk about (I am glad something good came out of it)

However, at that point of time, I couldn’t even figure out what makes me happy and what doesn’t.

Fitting In or Belonging?

We all want to fit in and we all want to belong. But how are these two different from each other?

It’s like wearing Jordans: you should not fit into your Jordans, but, your Jordans should fit you. Now, think of these Jordans as your external environment.

(See what I did there?)

Fitting In means blending. It is safe, comfortable, and normal. When we try to fit in, we try to blend ourselves into our environment.

Humans can become very crafty and shapeshift themselves to match their surroundings, turning on their inner chameleon. But because of this, we often end up changing ourselves. Now, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that as change is the only constant. However, this change comes with a loss of our own identity. We start seeking temporary peace and happiness instead of embracing the inevitable ups and downs of life.

Whereas, belonging is the exact opposite. Belonging is trusting that our environment will naturally fit us.

What exactly sets the two apart?

It is courage.

Courage to stand out in a sea of people. Courage to not care about what others think. Courage to be your true self.

Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.” - Brené Brown

Why Talk About It Now?

I believe that many people go through this phase during their teenage years which somewhat shapes their personality for most of their lives. The difference between the two is often misunderstood and when I moved to the states, I realized the importance of this more than ever.

The land of dreams, where people can be anyone they want, they often end up becoming shadows of each other. The same forced thought passing on from one mind to the other and the lack of originality simply upsets me.

Are we doing something because we want to do it or are we doing it because people around us are doing it? Does it truly bring joy to us?

I want you to think about one activity, habit, music genre, or a slang you picked up recently and I want you to think about what made you do it in the first place.

In my case, it is using the phrase fit check. The first time I heard someone use this, I was confused and had no idea what it meant.

Lately, I have been so far away from these trends that even if a person makes a typo error, I confuse it with some slang and end up checking urban dictionary.

Now, do I want to add this to my vocabulary?

Not really.

But, will I use this?

Probably, to fit in…


If an observation from your surrounding causes a real shift in perception, opinion or preference and truly brings you joy, then why not?

Thank you for reading. Until next time. :)


I was inspired to jot down my thoughts after reading Ysa K’s take on this. There are certain things I have used from the article to further substantiate my thoughts. I recommend giving it a read.

© 2023 Mehul Gupta.