As a little girl, I struggled to fit in with the world around me. I was a homeschooled, loner bookworm. I never fit in with my metal mouth, roller bangs, and frizzy hair. My clothes never felt at home on my body. I was constantly watching everyone around me while staying quiet, lest afraid of doing something wrong. I was an awkward kid who loved black and white films, read comic books, and dreamed of knights who someday would rescue me.
I entered my college years with the same insecurities that plagued me as a teen. I walked the campus halls in khaki skirts, frizzy hair flowing free, and a loud roller backpack containing my endless supply of textbooks. I didn’t fit in with all the pretty, skinny, non-socially awkward girls around me. But I did find comfort in hanging out with the other cast-offs. The “freaks and geeks” welcomed me with open arms, even though I didn’t have a grasp on who I was.
I always had big dreams that strayed far from my conservative upbringing. I learned to hide who I was while dreaming of some distant day I could reveal myself with confidence. I hoped with all my heart that if I was just myself, then maybe, just maybe, I could fit in.
It’s amazing how the need to fit in is deeply embedded in our psyche, but doesn’t it really come down to the truth that all we want is to belong? We want our troop of besties to brunch with us like in Sex In The City. We do endless searches on YouTube and Pinterest so we can contour like the Kardashians, decorate like Joanna Gaines, and plan parties that would leave David Tutera in awe. We post pictures with endless hashtags to garner as many likes as possible, and we feel secure in our Facebook community of “friends” who provide a steady stream of “thumbs up” support.
Oh, how we ache for our hearts to be seen. We ache to belong. But in the hunt for true belonging we so quickly sacrifice our authentic selves for the second rate feeling of fitting in. After all, isn’t something better than nothing? Aren’t those heart emojis more satisfying than the shame and sadness of standing in a crowded room alone and unseen?
Wouldn’t it be risky to set aside our fears and brave the unknown of true belonging?
Wouldn’t it be beautiful?
I have learned to accept my weirdness for beauty and be comfortable with my quirks. I am sassy, tattooed, geeky, playful, and I swear too much. I wear clothes that make my body feel at home, and my hair is usually straight and manageable. I have learned to embrace who I am, refusing to change to please others around me. I am a lover of Jesus and a feminist. I strive to be myself. But honestly, every day is a fight to remind myself that I have worth and value to those around me.
Regardless of the color of my skin, my fluctuating weight, my changing hair, or my tattoos, I belong right where I am.
I will always be proud that I’ve chosen to march to the beat of my own drum, though it isn’t easy to always do that! I still have insecurities. Simple things like walking into my barre classes take a certain amount of intentionality. I have to take a deep breath, remembering that I belong there even though I am the only non-white, tattooed woman in the room. I constantly have to remind myself that our shared love of barre is what connects us for those 55 minutes.
And where else do I belong? With my tribe of people who are funny, kind, sarcastic, loving individuals. Some follow the straight and narrow, while others veer off the road a bit. Some are cast offs, but all together they are the people who see me and accept me. They are the people who share meals and celebrate at my dining room table while playing games. They are the ones who eat my chocolate chip cookies like they are auditioning to become the Cookie Monster. They brandish wands during our Harry Potter D&D sessions. They laugh with me over margaritas at Chili’s or have heart to heart conversations with me while lying in my bed.
When I am with them my soul sighs with relief. Here with these people, just as I am, I belong.
Mal Arnold is a passionate Latina wife and mother who is a chaser of dreams and believes in living life with abandon. She writes to pour some of herself out for any who care to experience her heart, but is also an avid reader, lover of old movies and going on journeys with family as well. She has seen heartache and trauma in her past and is learning to let her Maker heal her broken places.