Why is there a part of us that consistently wants to fit in?
Doesn’t it drive you crazy, even just a little bit?
Do you find yourself mentally justifying why it’s ok to stand out in one area because you fit in in another?
At every turn in our lives, we have to cautiously fit in.
“Don’t wear that outfit, you will look like a slut.”
“Don’t wear your hair like that, you don’t want to draw too much attention.”
“Don’t wear anything too low cut or too short. Your reputation will suffer.”
There are so many rules that we as women have had to learn in our lifetime.
Rules to keep us safe from the eyes, hands, and thoughts of men.
Rules to keep us safe from the catty, hateful, jealous judgments and actions of women.
At no time are those rules more prevalent than in our careers.
“Fitting In” Started in Grade School
We learned at a young age when we could stand out and when we had to conform in order to protect our own self-esteem.
On a field or in a classroom were the places we could safely stand out.
You could get an A on a test all day and no one cared, you were expected to do that.
However, if you stood out from the norm with your looks, your accessories, or your lunch, you were a target.
You got picked on or picked over.
So when we entered the corporate world and wanted to play by the rules, these were the ones we knew so these are the ones we applied.
And damn if they didn’t work for us.
Even today, we dress appropriately, buy the hot (but appropriate) new accessory, and eat at all the “in” places.
We follow those rules to keep ourselves safe from the judgment of others.
This safety affords us the opportunity to stand out in other areas.
In the corporate world, the boardroom is our new classroom.
We can get A’s all day in there, 100% stand out at every turn, and everyone expects it.
But what happens when this part of your world gets challenged?
What happens when suddenly the way you are standing out gets challenged and no longer is it safe to stand out on a project, in a meeting, or on a call?
When Even the Safe Places Force You to Fit In
One day, someone with authority gives you “some advice to help you succeed.” That person tells you that your gifts, the ones that allow you to shine in the boardroom, those gifts aren’t really gifts.
And in one conversation, all of the ways you worked to appropriately fit in and safely stand out now seem to not work at all.
You’re standing out in the wrong way . . .
You’re not fitting in . . .
You’re no longer safe.
You have a problem.
A problem that you will spend months, maybe even years trying to solve.
Because the rules we created for ourselves in grade school, the rules that protected our self-esteem, those rules tell us we must fit in when we feel most at risk.
Do you really want to sacrifice your gifts to “fit in?”