I’ve often asked myself. Why the heck do I try so hard to fit in? Why does it seem to matter to my friends? Why do Instagrammers show this beautifully curated life they’ve created but secretly worry about what others think of them? There must be a reason…
As is turns out, there is a very good reason - biology. Evolution made it so. If you could go back in time to visit our ancestor, homo sapiens, it would become obvious why we try so hard. We had to fit in then; our very survival depended on it. We did everything in our power to belong to our tribe so that we would live. To be cast out could only mean one thing, imminent death.
Tribe members knew where they fit in. Each individual had an important role to play from early childhood onwards. There was always a hierarchy and different responsibilities for everyone, making them all an essential member of the community. Staying together allowed them to survive against the cold nights and the predators. Together, they hunted, gathered food, made clothes and fought off threats. Being liked by other tribe members was crucial, if the person next to you liked you, they would have your back when things got tough.
In time, we invented the necessary tools to differentiate ourselves from other animals. It was revolutionary. Let’s just pick one thing, say fire. Being able to make fire changed everything. We could suddenly ward off animals easily, cook food, light up the night, and keep warm. Thanks to this new cozy lifestyle, our brain developed imagination and dreams. We started collaborating and conceptualizing things we never thought possible.
Our inventions allowed us to grow quickly - too quickly. Empires rose and money, agriculture, religion, politics, and war were created. We established laws and infrastructures to care of us. Ultimately, we discovered science. All these new found innovations allowed us to be even stronger and become the dominant animals we are today.
With world dominance came something Mother Nature did not prepare us for - independence. We now live in a world where we can order food from this virtual world and have it delivered to our door the very same day. The biological need to fit in is basically obsolete.
As modern human beings, this innate need is still very much present even though it’s no longer needed for survival in most countries. In fact, it has started working against us. Ironically, not fitting in today takes the lives of many, but for different reasons.
You may not feel needed or important in today’s world. There are too many of us. How do you fit in when 7.6 billion other individuals are also trying to find out where they belong? The truth is, we really aren’t important. We aren’t all vital to the survival of humans. We don’t all have a big important role to play and so we feel lost. But that’s the good news here. We are not essential to our species survival and that is freeing. You do not need to be liked by everyone you meet. You get to choose which tribe you belong to and if someone is mean to you, you can just walk away.