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[Show Up To Grow] Day 10: Cheers to Not Fitting In

by Mel Blackwood @troubleon8wheels

Belonging is something I've always craved.

Maybe I feel like the 'outsider' because I am mixed heritage and at my very all-white primary school, I was the only person whose mum spoke English with a Chinese accent.

It meant I became hyper aware of the little looks and sniggers when she got her words mixed up. My mum actually speaks at least four languages and a couple of Chinese dialects. I have no idea which language her brain thinks in.


It made me want to fit in.

I made sure I spoke English 'properly'.

I made sure I fit in with friends at school, wore the same clothes, shoes, liked the same music, and didn't take time to get to know myself.

I became embarrassed to have friends over in case my mum tried to cook a dish that was non-English. Chinese mothers show love with food, so you can imagine how challenging that was to navigate.

Instead of being proud of who I am, I tried to blend in.

In my early 30s I learned this: Fitting in is not the same as belonging.

  • Fitting in requires you to modify who you are to be part of something. Like a square peg in a round hole.

  • Fitting in doesn't feel quite right.

  • Fitting in feels like you're hiding part of your true self.

  • Belonging feels like being comfortable in a space without needing to make small talk.

  • Belonging feels psychologically safe.

  • Belonging celebrates the uniqueness of each person, while holding onto shared values.

Belonging requires you to know who you are and puts you in charge of choosing your gang.

I felt a moment of belonging when I started roller skating. Bodies of all shapes, sizes and colours were celebrated. We had a shared love of wheels plus, you could wear what you want (without checking with someone else first - imagine that my teenage self!).

Now, I'm proud to NOT fit in. I'm in a minority.

A minority of mums who roller skate.

A minority of people who take their self-care seriously.

A minority of people who wear whatever they want when they go out out, without checking with their mates first.

I'm proud to have created a space where people feel they belong. From walking into our shop and sharing their life story - it happens quite a bit! - to returning week after week to skate with us. Only this morning at our Roll Forward Project in Bradford, we had one of our ladies say, "I think I've found the place that I belong." Ahhhhhhh my heart! It makes me so happy that we have been able to provide a space for her to discover the power of roller skating.

Do you feel like you are trying to fit in, or do you belong?

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