One day, on our recent working trip to Spain, we were sitting around after an intense day. Lowell and I had been teaching a small-assorted group on leadership for a week. The day was over. The week was over. Several of us were sitting outside the villa breathing in the evening air, soaking up the last of the day’s sunshine. Into a conversation about introverts and extroverts one woman spoke out, “I’m an introvert and I’ve never really felt like I fit.”
I sat up and listened more intently. Fitting in has been a perpetual struggle for me. I often feel like I don’t belong. I constantly contend with a sense of disconnect. Here was someone else confessing to that same feeling.
Another woman in the circle admitted, “It’s not just introverts. I’ve never felt like I fit in the Anglican Church or in the organization I work with.” We all sat there and let that settle over us. Another bravely entered the conversation, “I’ve never fit either. It’s my personality or something. I always feel like I don’t belong.” A lady on the edge of the circle, “I’ve never fit either. I thought it was because I’m still single.” Others admitted their own sense of what it was that kept them at odds from belonging.
I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing in that circle of seemingly well adjusted, thriving individuals. These were all exceptional people—strong individuals with a well-defined sense of purpose. They were people other people want to be like. They knew their strengths. They had tempered their drive with gentleness and wisdom. And yet nearly all of them admitted out of a place of deep vulnerability that they felt like they didn’t quite fit. All of them had experienced some shame at not quite belonging. They all wondered if there was something wrong with them that they couldn’t quite fit.
I finally joined the conversation. I felt tears and emotion constricting my voice. I confessed to the same feelings. I’ve always struggled to fit. Whatever fitting I’ve found I feel like I’ve faked. All this time I thought it was because my childhood was so convoluted, my narrative so strange. Being a Third Culture Adult has been the excuse I’ve given myself for my not finding connection or belonging with others. That’s the reason I don’t fit. At least that’s the story I’ve been telling myself for all these years.
What if all of us struggle with these same feelings? What if none of us feel like we fit? What if that’s the connecting point that allows us all to find community? We belong to each other because none of us really feel like we do belong. Perhaps it’s universal. Maybe it’s not just those of us who’ve grown up elsewhere.
Something changed in me that evening in Spain. I looked around that group of people and some lights came on. I felt some reassurance and some relief. For the first time in a long time I felt like perhaps I do fit—mind you, with a group that by their own admission don’t feel like they do!