Fitting in vs. being included: Understanding the not-so-subtle differences

Fitting in vs. being included: Understanding the not-so-subtle differences

Business, Human Resources

Author: David King, learning  and development activist

In social dynamics, the concepts of “fitting in” and “being included” are often used interchangeably, however they represent distinct approaches to social integration and acceptance. Understanding the subtle differences between the two is crucial in fostering an inclusive and harmonious environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Below, we explore the nuances between fitting in and being included, and highlight the significance of cultivating an inclusive culture in various settings.

Fitting in: Conformity and assimilation

Fitting in refers to the act of conforming to the norms, values, and behaviours of a particular group or community. It involves altering one’s behaviour, appearance, or beliefs to match those of the majority, often to gain acceptance or avoid exclusion. People who focus on fitting in may suppress their true selves and prioritise conformity over individuality. While fitting in might lead to a superficial sense of belonging, it can also result in individuals feeling disconnected from their authentic selves.

In summary:

  • Fitting in means conforming to group norms
  • It can lead to suppressing one’s true identity to gain acceptance
  • People may prioritise conformity over individuality

Being included: Embracing diversity and respect

On the other hand, being included embodies a more embracing and accepting approach to social integration. In an inclusive environment, diversity is celebrated, and individuals are respected for their unique qualities, perspectives and backgrounds. Rather than conforming to pre-defined norms, being included fosters a sense of belonging based on shared values of respect, empathy and appreciation of differences. Inclusion enables individuals to feel valued for who they truly are, without fear of judgment or rejection. In a nutshell, it:

  • Celebrates diversity and uniqueness
  • Promotes a sense of belonging based on shared values of respect and empathy
  • Allows individuals to feel valued for their authentic selves

The impact of fitting in and being included

While fitting in may provide temporary relief from social pressures, it can have long-term negative consequences. Individuals who prioritise fitting in may struggle with low self-esteem, identity issues, and difficulty in forming genuine connections. On the other hand, being included fosters a positive and supportive environment that encourages personal growth, creativity and collaboration. In inclusive settings, individuals are more likely to feel empowered to contribute their ideas and perspectives, leading to improved team dynamics and overall productivity.

  • Fitting in can lead to negative consequences such as low self-esteem
  • Being included promotes personal growth and collaboration
  • Inclusive environments encourage individuals to contribute their unique perspectives

Cultivating inclusivity

Creating an inclusive environment requires intentional efforts and commitment from individuals and organisations alike. Some practical strategies to foster inclusivity include:

  • Active listening: Engage in active listening to understand and appreciate the perspectives of others fully
  • Embrace diversity: Recognise and celebrate the diversity of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences within the community or organisation
  • Promote empathy: Cultivate empathy to build meaningful connections and demonstrate genuine care for others’ well-being
  • Challenge biases: Encourage open discussions about biases and stereotypes to create a space for personal growth and learning
  • Encourage authenticity: Create an atmosphere where individuals feel comfortable being their true selves without fear of judgment or rejection

So, let’s pull it all together with the following quotes:

“Fitting in is about becoming a chameleon to match your surroundings, while being included is about celebrating the kaleidoscope of colours that each individual brings to the canvas of life.” – Unknown

“When we focus on fitting in, we lose the chance to stand out. But when we embrace inclusion, we gain the opportunity to shine as our authentic selves.” – D. Davis

Where to find out more…

David King Corp

Email: [email protected]

Cell: +27833936105