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What if You Just Don't Fit In?

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Female high school student in class
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Question: What if You Just Don't Fit In?
Can you ever just accept that you'll never fit in? I've been trying and trying, but...maybe I just don't fit in. I always thought that if I spoke up around friends, that they would accept me, but it doesn't seem to work. I'm thinking of giving up on trying to fit in. What do I do?
Answer: The trouble with school (besides all the homework, of course) is that you can't choose the people you get to see every day. If you're unlucky enough to be stuck with classmates who don't really "get" you, you've just got to try to make the best of it.

But that doesn't mean you need to "fit in," or at least in the way that people think. If you try to transform yourself into a clone of everyone else, it won't help you make friends. It'll just make you feel like a fake.

You also shouldn't shut down and refuse to be friends with everyone who isn't like you. If you do that, you'll just make yourself miserable (and miss some great opportunities for friendship).

Instead, you've got to work on being comfortable and confident with who you are while ignoring all the haters. Keep on speaking up, asking questions and getting to know people better. If you send out positive energy, then people will generally send some back to you. A couple of them will continue being jerks, and you're allowed to forget about them. (You don't need to be "accepted" by everyone at your school to have a great social life.)

If you feel like you're doing all that but still not getting anywhere, then don't give up. Just expand your circle. Get a part-time job at a cool-looking place, join an after-school art class or youth group - do whatever it takes to find a couple of like-minded people you connect with. Even if you don't find anyone right away, you'll still be getting some more social experiences under your belt, and that's always a good thing.

And remember that you won't be stuck at school forever. When you finally go to college or get a full-time job, you'll have new opportunities to build social circles - and it gets easier every time.

A fun book called Uncool, by Erin Elisabeth Conley, has some tips for folks like you who want to stay positive at school while being true to your personality:
  • Be kind to your fellow misfits.
  • Throw caution to the wind. Take chances with fashion, hobbies, hopes and dreams.
  • Don't be afraid to look weird.
  • Let your inner geek speak - whether it's through music, art, science, origami, circus school or whatever.
  • Have patience with people who are different from you. (You know, the ones who are so "normal" they're practically clones.)
  • Don't change just because someone else thinks you should.
  • Know that even though you may misfit, there's always someplace you are welcome in the world.
(For more tips like these, check out the book.)

xo,
Holly

Note: this was a real question left by a real person in the Teen Advice Forum! (It's been edited for the purposes of this article.) If you want to give her your own advice, leave it here. Or if you want to ask the forum your own question, come visit the forum.
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