August 29

Not Fitting In

August 29, 2014

Personal Growth

Judith is a brilliant woman. She has a Ph.D. in art history from Columbia University. She speaks six languages. Her English vocabulary can be quite intimidating. She’s had a variety of jobs, the latest being a professor at a well-regarded and expensive liberal arts college.

She called me to say that she was having what seemed to be insurmountable problems dealing with the politics of college life. She was expected to agree with everything the dean said. Some of her students were children of generous alumni donors, and she was actually told to be more lenient in her treatment of those students, as well as in her grading of them.

Her job was becoming such a complicated mess that she could not handle it without giving up some of her values, along with her integrity. She didn’t know if she could survive in that atmosphere any longer. She asked me what I thought.

“The world is changing, my dear,” I said. “People are becoming increasingly entitled, controlling, and victimy. You’ve learned a much more responsible and happier way to live, so you really don’t fit in. In fact, you’re an inconvenience—even an embarrassment—to those teachers and administrators who have caved in to the demands of spoiled kids and parents who believe power will make them happy.”

“I don’t like not fitting in.”

“Who does? We’d all like to be welcomed by everyone else with open arms. But that can’t happen unless we do everything they want—unless we become WHO they want. You willing to do that?”

“No.”

“I thought not. If you are true to yourself, there will always be places—probably most places—you won’t FIT IN. But that doesn’t mean you’re not FIT—a word we don’t use much anymore, but which means to be suitable or sound or whole. You don’t fit in, but you’re still fit.”

Fitting in is so seductive. We want to be accepted, but the price for that condition often is to give up who we are to become whatever pleases others. It’s not worth it. The only approach that does work is to become as loving and responsible—as fit—as possible. In the process, we will become happy personally, and we’ll have rich relationships with people who do accept us.

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