Standing out versus fitting in

Posted on September 21, 2017 by Dani Leever

Since I started high school, I’d always felt like I didn’t fit in. I seemed to have interests that not everyone liked, such as playing guitar, Tumblr, Mario Kart and weird indie movies. I also had a really different family background to the people around me, which made me feel kinda isolated.

Throughout the first four years of school, I really tried to change myself to fit in. I forced myself to like talking about things that in reality really bored me. I also learned quickly that bitching about the girls in my year was a bonding exercise, so I even went along with that behaviour too. I started sitting with a group of girls at lunch who I thought were pretty mean to each other and never wanted to talk about the things I wanted to. I felt pretty invisible and lost.

I was always scared of standing out because I was scared people would judge me, laugh at me or pick on me for being different. In reality, I just wanted to dye my hair blue, spend all lunch time listening to podcasts and not have to change myself to make it through school days.

One day, a girl called Melanie started at my school. She had thick-rimmed glasses, loved all the same movies as me, and played guitar too. She loved telling jokes, being weird, talking about her oddball interests and never cared what anyone thought of her. I was totally mind blown. I didn’t even know just ‘being yourself’ was an option!

Melanie and I instantly became best friends. It turned out, we had a LOT in common, it was almost spooky. Even though she had all the same interests of me, my favourite thing about her was how she just marched to the beat of her own drum.

She was totally and unashamedly herself – a trait that I really admired, and it really changed the way I lived my life. I started becoming far more comfortable to be myself at school.

It meant that Melanie and I stood out for being different – something that I was initially terrified of. But, after I grew up and started seeing other people being totally true to themselves, I realised that I was actually admiring their guts and courage instead of judging them negatively.

Sometimes we convince ourselves that people are judging us or thinking horrible things about us – but truth is, when we see someone who’s really happy and being themselves, people think that’s really cool. Besides, people often have more things going on in their life to worry about.

Still to this day I admire Melanie and the lessons she taught me about not being afraid to stand out. I live by those lessons every day, and let me tell you, I’m never looking back!

Dani Leever is a Team Coordinator at PROJECT ROCKIT, training and supporting our team of young presenters to create positive, lasting change at school, online and beyond.