A childhood friend recently posted a photo on Facebook of our “girl squad” from middle school. As I looked at the expression on my face, it was clear how unsure I felt at the time. I had a visceral memory of how uncomfortable it was to trying to join this group of girls who already had already known each other for years. Trying to decide if I should just stand there, hoping to be noticed and invited in. Or should I risk jumping right into the conversation. SO AWKWARD! More than anything, I wanted to fit in.
I have know idea why, but as a child, I believed that the ache to fit in was something that people naturally grew out of—that it was part of the “awkward” stage. Not so.
A grown-up example of trying to fit in, is joining a book club even though you don’t really like to read. You just want to hang out with the group. Maybe you also fear that if you don’t join you will be out of the loop and will therefore miss out on other social opportunities (FOMO).
Trying to fit in doesn’t make you a shallow person. It is a necessary stage to go through while making new connections. However, many people get stuck at this surface level of friendship. Despite their longing for connection, they don’t know how to go deeper.
If this is how you feel, you’re not alone.
You would be surprised by how many people feel lonely, even those who seem to have a wide social circle.
To have that deeper sense of connection, you have let your true self be seen and known as you really are. It is scary to be vulnerable in this way, just like it was scary trying to join the group in the first place.
My advice is to embrace your inner dork. Everyone feels awkward in the early stages of friendship. Be brave and try to schedule a “friend date,” to get to know someone better.
As your friendships grow, remember that your closest friendships should share one commonality: they make you a better person because of your connections with them. These relationships allow you to thrive because of their mutual love, support, honesty, and advice. The people in your inner circle should lift you up and inspire you to step into the best version of yourself.