Standing Out While Fitting In

That’s the goal. But here’s the thing: “I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am ”  (Thomas Cooley, Chief Justice of Michigan Supreme Court, 1800s) Sartre called it “the look of the other,” which you can read all […]

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That’s the goal. But here’s the thing:

“I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am ”  (Thomas Cooley, Chief Justice of Michigan Supreme Court, 1800s)

Sartre called it “the look of the other,” which you can read all about in my new release Getting to G.R.E.A.T.  For now, just know that we humans are not the only ones who care more than we may care to admit—about fitting in.

Why Conformity?

Just as soldiers march in uniforms, with foot stomping uniformity, to ready and strengthen themselves for whatever the challenge may be, bees conform to a waggle dance together—giving them a strength in numbers, information sharing advantage in finding resources for their survival.

There is something about dressing like others, thinking like others, moving like others…that makes us feel we are part of something bigger enough to stand with us and for us when the going gets rough.

In fact, there are predictions that conformity attitudes will rise post pandemic, based on prior research that collectivist attitudes rise in societies with higher prevalence of disease.

What About Me?

I’m noticing myself that I’ve been asking fashion questions more than usual lately. Initially, I thought it was a reentry feature; like omg I have to go out now, what to wear, what to wear, when I hardly ever gave that a thought before. Especially since all I wear is black, it was always easy, entirely the point.

But now, I’m asking questions, and hearing that my skinny jeans are out, have to get white sneaks, hair parted in the middle not the side…and all of a sudden, I’m thinking maybe it’s not just reentry, as if I’d been in a time warp. Maybe it is that surge in post pandemic conformity, the research suggests.

Why Not Conformity?

Careful here. A favorite book of mine is Paradoxes of Group Life, in which the authors talk about how we are wired to both want to fit in and stand out. After all, as it is said, if two people are exactly alike, one of them is unnecessary.

And, none of us want to be unnecessary. Hence the need to stand out. True, we may feel more included when we think, look, and act like others (e.g., political party affiliation).

But when we lose ourselves completely to it, we run the risk of completely losing who we are. And you will know this is happening by how crummy it feels.

So, we want and can have the best of both worlds. Here is how:

3 Tips for Standing Out While Fitting In

  • Disregard when people say you shouldn’t care what other people think. They are misinformed. Fitting in and belonging is hardwired into us all because it kept us from being out there vulnerably all alone and, in so doing, was instrumental in our species survival. Normal and not going away anytime soon.
  • Goldilocks Principle. Standing out while fitting in rests on our ability to notice when we have swung too far in one direction or another. Not too much, not too little, but just right, in one direction or another, So for me, I got the sneaks. I’ll get the high rise bootcut jeans. The hair is what it is, makes its own part. Done, until I get a complaint, which I might take into consideration, or not.
  • Power Breathe. There I go again. Always that. Yes…because you want the higher brain, not the lower reactive brain, in charge of decisions about when and how to be, do, think, feel…

For any who do not already have this Power Breathe, 30 Second Mindset Reset, you can grab one for yourself on the “Complimentary…” pulldown at

Warm wishes,


Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

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