When You Feel Like You Don't Fully Fit Into Any Social Group
Sometimes people will feel like one of the issues preventing them from finding some friends is that they don't fully fit into any one social group. Instead they fall into an in-between zone where they're not that great of a match for anyone, and they slip through the cracks. Some examples of this type of thinking are:
- "I like sports and going out, but I'm hardly a complete jock, bro, frat boy type. I've never gotten along with people like that. On the other hand, I like role-playing video games and fantasy novels, but I can't relate at all to the hardcore crowd that's super into that stuff."
- "I feel like I'm too awkward and non-mainstream to hang out with the regular kids, but I'm too socially adjusted and normal for the true misfit kids.
- "I'm pretty into music and concerts, but not enough for those total hipsters who play in their own bands and spend every weekend hunting for obscure vinyl records. And I'm a bit of a left-leaning, artsy person, but I've hung around true granola crunching hippies, and I don't have anything in common with them."
When people have this problem they may have a sense that they don't have enough interest in the things that are the 'cornerstone' of fitting into a particular social group. Like someone may like sports just fine, but not to the degree necessary to fit into a guy's guy crowd, the kind where everyone is constantly dissecting last night's game or wanting to go golfing. Or they may care about political issues, but their lives don't revolve around it, and so they're not at home hanging around activist types. People can feel like they're being punished for being well rounded and not totally throwing themselves into any one pursuit.
Here are my thoughts on dealing with this relatively common issue:
Keep looking for a group that's a good fit for you
Below I'll cover some ways the "I don't quite fit in anywhere" thinking may be more in your head than a practical problem. However, when people feel this way it could very well be true, especially if they haven't had a chance to really see what other groups are out there. They may have looked around their high school or a few floors of their college dorm and justifiably concluded none of the social circles they checked out are a great match for them. In that case they shouldn't get discouraged, and keep looking for a group that's a fit.
Someone may be a perfect match for a group that wouldn't naturally come to mind. For example, in high school they may not have fit into any of your stock groups like the jocks or the gamers. However, after graduating they pursued a career as a chef, and soon discovered they get along effortlessly with other people in the culinary field. A more hobby-related example may be someone who would be a great match for people who are into endurance sports. However, they don't know that yet, and won't until they sign up for a charity triathlon just to keep a friend company and then find they love it.
Friendship is often about more than just having the same hobbies or values as someone
Yeah, on the whole similar people are more likely to become friends with each other. However, people who are fairly different 'on paper' often develop close relationships because they get along and there's mutual respect between them. They have enough to talk about and do with each other that the fact that their major hobbies don't line up isn't an issue.
I also think sometimes people who have the 'I don't fit in anywhere' mentality worry too much about what interests a group seems to have. They'll meet some new people and be too quick to think, "Well they all seem really into taking about political issues. I only know about stuff a bit , I'll never fit in with them. There's no point in trying." They don't realize that if they got to know some of the people better their not being hugely into certain issues would hardly be a deal breaker.
Tons of people don't fully fit in with their group
Plenty of people are all-rounders. If you look at any bunch of friends a lot of the members won't be a 100% stereotypical example of someone who would be in that group. However, that social circle may fit them better than any other. Or they may be members of several groups. Or like I was saying above, they may be there because they get along with its members for other reasons.
At a glance the all-rounders in a group may look like full on members. Like a guy who's only kind of into sports, and who has plenty of other interests, may dress the same as his more jockish buddies. Another thing is that most people aren't always into every activity their group is taking part in, but they'll go along anyway because they like their friends' company, and they realize they can't agree on everything. For example, a group of buddies may go clubbing. Four of the people may be really into it, and two others could take it or leave it, but decided to join in.
Possibly do things to try to fit into a particular group more fully
This suggestion won't be for everyone, though the option is always there. I don't think it's something someone can really force themselves to do. Rather, a person may go this route if they've been leaning towards doing it anyway. One solution is to actively work to take on the traits and interests that allow you to fit into a group more easily. For example, someone who's only a bit interested in physical outdoorsy activities may get into these hobbies much more seriously, so they can hang out with the crowd that goes on long mountain bike rides every weekend.
Don't exaggerate the prominence of groups and cliques in your mind
Social groups definitely exist. However this kind of thinking, about how you don't fully fit into any group, can place a bit too much importance on the idea that people fit into neat little clans, and their social lives revolve around what clique they're a member of. It can all reflect a high school movie mentality where everyone is a jock or a stoner or some other archetype. Sometimes, even despite ourselves, we can get too sucked into this portrayal of how the social world works. Even writing about this stuff can reinforce that idea, which is why I put this point in the article.
Real life is much more nuanced. Most of us can't easily be categorized. Lots of people go through life barely ever thinking about what group they're a part of. They just know they have a bunch of friends, and are drawn to particular traits in other people. By going, "Oh, they're gamers, they're hippies, they're hipsters" you may be putting artificial barriers onto your ability to just interact with people and get to know them as individuals.
Someone may not want to admit to themselves a certain group is actually a fit for them
The following three points are about ways of thinking that may lead someone to believe they don't fit into a group that they possibly could be a part of. If a person has enough of these attitudes towards assorted groups in their mind, it may add up to them feeling they can't find a home anywhere.
This first point can be relevant if someone sees themselves as not fitting into a group they see as undesirable to be a part of. Like they may have baggage around the idea of their being someone who's into supposedly lame hobbies like collectable card games. Or they may not want to think of themselves as a person who best slots into the 'weird' group at school. To protect their ego they may tell themselves they don't really mesh with those crowds. If they accepted themselves and didn't resist it, they may find they'd be totally happy in their company.
Someone may not want to see themselves as fitting into certain groups because they have fears or misconceptions about them
Other groups, while not exactly undesirable to be a member of, may still have negative stereotypes associated with them. For example, guy's guys/jocks/frat boys may be seen as douchey and mean-spirited. Someone could hang around people from that group and feel like he doesn't fit in, when what's really going on is he has some unresolved feelings, and he's worried that if he ends up hanging out with them he may get picked on, or become a bit of a jerk himself.
A person may feel they can't fit into a group because they've put it on a pedestal
Someone may idealize or glorify a certain group and believe "I could never fit in with them. They're so much more interesting and talented than me." If they gave themselves more credit they might be able to get along with everyone just fine.
Maybe work on your social skills as a whole
Like I said earlier, there are many things that can make a person worth being friends with aside from them having some interests in common with you. One possibility is that if a person's social skills and ability to connect with people are weak overall, they may have the experience of not fitting in anywhere. It's not that no group is the right match for them, they just need to practice more basic skills like making conversation, feeling more comfortable around others, being able to open up to people, and whatnot. Their social inexperience, and the resulting inability to create rewarding interactions, is where the issue of feeling disconnected from everyone really lies.
A feeling of not fitting in may be related to falsely feeling you're better than people
Some people who don't have a ton of fulfilling relationships come to believe the reason they're isolated is that they're above everyone else as a self-esteem protecting defense mechanism. These feelings can come up when they can't seem to fit in with anyone they meet. For every social group they have an explanation for how they don't fit in because they're too good for them. Like they may believe they don't mesh with mainstream groups because they're not boring, mindless conformists. But they don't click with alternative people either, because they're not odd and anti-social. They don't get along with hipsters because they're not pretentious, etc, etc, etc. Since their problem is deeper, they can come up with a reason to write off any group.