five thoughts about fitting in


I’m a sucker for a good vision.  Appeal to my big picture, futuristic mindset with an exciting vision with global reach and engage my heart with values that are important to me and I’m yours – heart, mind and energy.  Until reality kicks in, I become disillusioned, worn out and leave.

I am beginning to suspect that I am a serial fitter inner

I have just left another organisation and in the last 3 or so weeks I have been reflecting on my relationship with organisations. For me there is something particularly attractive and exciting in fitting in with something bigger than myself, with working towards a shared vision. However I invest a little too much of my energy and self into the vision and values of the organisation, and eventually I end up disillusioned, worn out, and struggling to find confidence in what I have to give and share.   My efforts (or need) to fit in sit uneasily beside by critical-reflective, creative and disruptive tendencies.


Becoming self-employed means that I can reflect on what happens to me in organisations.  Here are five things I have learned this month:

1 Fitting in enables community.

There is a certain amount of fitting in that helps us get along with each other. Being with others can be delightful, encouraging and positive.  As Christians we are created and called to live interdependently with others.  There is a certain amount of fitting in with social conventions and the ways that things are done that ease our interactions and help societies, communities and organisations run efficiently. However our personality and preferences influence what this needs to look like to be healthy for each of us.

2 Organisations create conformity.

Just by being big and having shared vision and values they create a certain amount of pressure towards conformity. While often not to the extreme discovered by Janis who termed it groupthink, because cohesiveness is good uniformity can be unconsciously promoted and maintained.  This creates a need for conformity that people like me who always want to challenge the default find restrictive.  The need to fit in with organisational goals (perhaps unarticulated) procedures and thinking, limits the opportunity to play with the ideas whose time has not yet come.  Often organisations (especially if they are struggling) can be scared of risk which leads to a limiting of experimentation.   Experimentation and thought play are what I find most nourishing.

3 Organisations reward and encourage people who uphold the status quo.

On the whole it is people who fit in the most who get promoted and encouraged within organisations.  Most organisations don’t quite know how to support and encourage the challengers in their ranks, often people who challenge and question are labelled as overly negative.  Unfortunately I seem to have leadership abilities which when recognised by the organisations I work for leads to even more pressure to fit in.  Part of the responsibilities of a leader is to socialise others into the organisational thought patterns and ways of doing things.  Often as a leader it is even harder to question and challenge well.

4 Finding a tribe is still important.

I am realising that what I need most is not to fit in with a large organisation with a big vision, but rather to find my tribe. A lovely collection of others who also question, experiment, challenge, and play with ideas.  Others who struggle to fit in with the mainstream and who can support and encourage each other to find the nourishment we need. I have struggled to find good mentors as I suspect that people a bit older than me on the whole find me too intelligent and too disruptive.  What I have really wanted is someone who can show me how to do disruptive well; I hope that as I continue to explore this more I can help others who also struggle with this.

5 I can embrace not fitting in.

Finally I have come to the realisation that I don’t need to fit in as much as I think I do.  I am on a journey to embrace who I am and am beginning to hold on to the fact that being able to question, challenge and experiment are good things.  I am learning to live in my calling to stand on the edges, where I can float free from the need to fit in.  A place where I can be critically-reflective, to challenge the default and where I can truly nourish my creativity and support others who also find themselves called to the edges.



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