As a young boy, I spent many days trying desperately to fit in. When I look back on my days as a kid growing up, I can so vividly remember how isolated and alone I felt most of the time. I was never one of the popular kids in school. You know how things were back in the days of junior high and high school. There were essentially four identifiable social groups. There were of course the jocks. There were also the straight “A” high honor roll brainy kids. Then there were the preppy, party going student council type kids, and last but not least you had the delinquent, drug using, always in trouble kids. Of course as the saying goes, birds of a feather tend to flock together. As kids in school, we had a tendency to only interact with kids in our own social groups.
As for myself, like many others perhaps, I did not fit into any of the four social groups that were present during our days in school. I definitely was not a jock. I was never athletically inclined. I missed out on learning and being able to play sports for a good piece of my youth because from the time I was eight years old until I was thirteen, I wore a brace for the treatment of scoliosis. The brace I wore was called a Milwaukee brace. It was a horrible looking and terribly uncomfortable contraption that I had to wear 23 hours a day. I can tell you first hand, growing up wearing a brace like that has a way of sabotaging a kid’s self esteem and social development. I still remember the day I got that brace. I was a patient at Shriners Hospital, and it was my eighth birthday. It was not exactly what I had in mind for a birthday present. I ended up wearing that brace from the time I was in the fourth grade all the way through my eighth grade year. I wasn’t able to participate in physical education classes during those years because of the brace I wore. Looking back, I think those years played a part in turning me into the shy, insecure, kid that I used to be. I remember many of the stares and cruel snickers that I endured during those years. I have to admit, I must have looked like the Tin Man from the Wizard of OZ.
Below is a photo of a Milwaukee Brace that is very similar to the one I wore from November 1971 to the Fall of 1976.
So…obviously I wasn’t a jock. I was never really great academically, so I failed to fit in with the “brainy” kids. I was too shy and insecure to fit in with the preppy student council type crowd. Last but not least, having been raised by two very devout Christian parents, I was far from being the always in trouble drug using kid, so I didn’t fit in with that crowd either. I did however go through a very short spell during my freshman year that I experimented with marijuana. It was nothing more than a desperate attempt to try to fit in somewhere.
Those days seem like they were a lifetime ago. It is sometimes hard for me to comprehend that I have been out of high school for thirty-two years! Much has changed since those days. Back then I was insecure because I felt like I was always being stared at by kids wondering what the heck the collection of metal under my shirt was all about. Consequently, I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. I was always concerned with what other kids thought of me, and was convinced that they didn’t think much of me, because I didn’t even think much of myself. As I got older and journeyed through adulthood, I learned a great deal about myself, and at some point…. I’m not exactly sure just where…. I ceased to care what others thought of me. Back then I tried so hard to fit in to feel accepted. Thankfully as I matured I realized that one of the biggest mistakes we make in life is trying to be like everyone else. I remember a Dr. Seuss quote that said, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” I eventually learned that one of the best things you can do in life is learn to love yourself and not feel the need to pattern yourself to fit the mold of someone else’s expectations.
Today, I am still not sure at times where exactly I fit in, but I am not insecure and I have learned to love myself for who I am. Until people learn to love themselves, they are completely incapable of truly loving others. And isn’t loving each other and being appreciative of the unique gifts and qualities of others what life is all about? Sadly, people often choose to stay only within the comfortable confines of their own social circles, and never discover some of the terrific people that could become priceless friends. Never feel pressured to alter the person that you really are simply to feel accepted and to fit in. You were designed and made by God, and God doesn’t make junk. You have unique gifts and talents that can enrich the lives of others, and nobody can be you as effectively as you can! You have a treasure of awesomeness inside you that needs to be shared with the world. You just need to come to that realization on your own.
Remember the words of Dr. Seuss, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
Thanks for reading!
Until Next time,