Fitting in is a cultural expectation. From birth, we are told that this is the way you get along with others. It starts with your parents telling you how to behave, and, if you let it, it continues throughout your life. We are told you must wear a mask and hide who you really are so that you fit in. I have been doing a lot of reading about the Autism Spectrum the last few months, and I have heard way too often that people with ASD are tired of having to wear a mask to hide who they really are. I have come to the conclusion that that is true for almost all of us, not just those who claim the Autism label.
I think “Fitting In” envelopes more that wearing an identity mask. Fitting in means that you conform to a prescribed process throughout your life. When you are young, you are told that you must obey your parents because they are much smarter than you. As you get older you are told that to fit in you have to do sports. You get the idea… If we let it “Fitting In” becomes a lifetime thing.
As adults, most of us do what we are conditioned to do; fit in. But, then we look at those who seem to be really happy and they just don’t seem to follow that prescribed path. They are mavericks, outsiders, or just plain weird.
For some reason, I just never felt that overwhelming need to fit in. Yeah, I too often took the easy path instead of the one I was really drawn to. I regret that, but I don’t lament it. As a kid, I was never interested in sports as I was told I needed to do. I did try it a couple of times, but that was only for a day or two. That disinterest has followed me throughout my life. As an adult, I was pretty much a loner, socially speaking. I now know that is likely because of my Aspie traits.
The one lesson I wished I had learned earlier in my life was to frequently try to do something that I felt uncomfortable doing. I couldn’t convince myself that if it didn’t work out, so be it. People who try so hard to fit in often end up frustrated and angry. They don’t know who they could have really become because they have spent their whole life trying to fit in. Thankfully, I learned, even if it was later in life than I wanted it to be, to not really care about what others think. Just do the right thing, and follow your heart.