Why I'll Never Stop Wanting to Fit in on Social Media, No Matter How Old I Get

Sunday night, sitting at Noodles with my daughter as we wait for our food, she and I hop on our phones. It’s a typical scene, we’ve got a little time to kill, we’ve got nothing to do but wait, so why not check out our social media feeds to see what’s happening with the small world we’re plugged in to. We’re laughing, pointing out funny memes to one another, talking about Ariana Grande’s post, me of course talking about The 1975 (because I’m still not over it). Just hanging out excitedly awaiting our food and our next stop, the movie Love, Simon. I’m loving this time with her, I’m all in. And then, one swipe up with a finger pops a picture of an event that many, many of the women I know were at over the weekend.

Leaned over my shoulder, my daughter turns her head from my screen and looks at my face. “Mom, were you there?” No, I wasn’t. It’s not that I missed the photo op, it’s that I wasn’t there at all. “I’m sorry. Are you mad?”

My daughter’s 12 years old. She’s in middle school, the land of the uninvited and wanting to belong. I had no idea that at almost 40, she and I would be occupying the same headspace. How is that even possible? I have a much wiser brain now than when I was 12. And, I’ve done a shit ton of emotional work. What the real f here? Have I not grown as much as I thought? Why am I finding myself affected by this?

I’ve had this conversation hundreds of times. From clients to friends, to family members, the topic rings true across ages. Feeling left out, hurt, unwanted, like you don’t belong and had hoped that by this time you’d be over it or finally have found your people. And the thing is, while the conversation isn’t the same between the 12 and 40 year olds, the emotions are. The truth is, everyone wants to fit in and it sucks when you don’t.

What I’ve come to realize is that it isn’t that you’ll never want to not fit in, so don’t wish for this. A sense of belonging is what connects us to the people we love, to the world. It’s freeing and vulnerable and where the magic happens. Where the magic freaking happens! Belonging is one of the emotions we long for for our entirety. But the ways in which we belong, the ways in which we want to belong and what it takes to get us there as we grow older, change.

As I sat with my daughter and thought about the answer to her question of whether I was mad, I smiled to myself a little bit and thought about gratitude, always my go-to. In that moment, I was so grateful to know that I am capable of feeling deeper than anger. At one point in my life, I did not know that. At one point in my life, anger was my go-to.

I was also grateful that I knew my shame demons were close-by and I could spot them. I haven’t always known this either. In fact, not that long ago I would’ve crumbled over this, my self-story reading things I wouldn’t dare say aloud, being unforgiving to myself and then taking it out on the people I love. I’m grateful that knowing this has saved my ass from a shame storm countless times and has kept me from unnecessary suffering.

Finally, I am grateful, so grateful that I was sitting and having this conversation with my daughter who’s love I can feel every single day and who’s eyes and heart were looking to me to provide her with the sense that all was well, that I was okay and so was she. Being in front of her, processing an emotion at the same time I was feeling it, well, I was actually grateful for that too.

Our food came, and while I had momentarily lost my appetite, the smell of the food and the warmth of conversation with family checked me back into the present quickly realizing I’m way more than just okay. I’m grateful.

“Who you are to the world is pretty terrifying because what if the world doesn’t like you?”
- Simon Spier, Love, Simon
(thought by everyone, ever)