You Don't Fit In ... So Stop Trying To
Updated: Nov 11, 2019
I think I have a "Dad bod".
Recently I came across this phrase, one that describes a certain type of male body shape. As one might expect, there's not a clear definition of what a Dad bod consists of. Well regarded publications like the Washington Post have weighed in with fancy charts, which happen to suggest that my 6'1", 175 lb body does not meet the criteria. On the other hand, the inimitable Urban Dictionary claims that "Having a "dad bod" is a nice balance between working out and keeping a beer gut". I'm going with the latter, and also with my gut - literally, figuratively, and physically.
So yeah, I definitely have a Dad bod.
For most of my adult life I've felt ashamed of the shape of my body. No matter how active I was, how much I worked out, I never could achieve the "standard" for what I was conditioned to believe is the attractive masculine physique. Though it didn't upset me to know I'd never be on Baywatch, I did constantly feel like I didn't measure up.
Though I'm tall and slender-to-average, and don't lack for a bit of muscle, I've always had a soft belly and love handles. Being on the "skins" team in pickup basketball always made me cringe. Going to the beach, where women would be able to see me shirtless? Ugh. I've hated that part of me for a long, long time. It has often been in the back of my head, subtly tugging at me, even in moments when I have been doing some brave and wonderful things.
So you might be wondering, where am I going with this post, here on my coaching website, of all places? I'm going all the way up to the societal b.s. norms that I felt like I had to fit into, that's where.
You might not identify with body issues - although I know I'm not alone with that one by a long shot. Maybe you've been passed over for promotions that your peers keep getting. Perhaps you'd rather take the bus than pull up to your friends' lovely houses in that beater of a car you're still driving. Or are you that person who holds back from signing up for that singing/dancing/crossfit/knitting group because you're worried that people will think you can't, or shouldn't, sing/dance/lift/be a guy in a knitting group?
(Those aren't the same groups, by the way. Although that would be kind of an amazing activity, wouldn't it?)
Regardless of what your issue is, I bet you have one. I bet there is a place in your life where you feel like you either don't fit in, so you shut something down, or you feel like you need to fit in, so you bend yourself into funny shapes that don't feel good. Take a minute and think about it ... what is it? Got at least one? Great, let's move on to what to do about it.
A few years ago I bought a copy of Brené Brown's incredibly helpful book The Gifts of Imperfection. As an acknowledged perfectionist who has long sought to meet societal standards - perfectly - I was so relieved to read what she wrote, in particular her research on fitting in:
"One of the biggest surprises in this research was learning that fitting in and belonging are not the same thing, and, in fact, fitting in gets in the way of belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn't require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are."
She's so brilliant and concise. Fitting in, something we get plenty of messages about doing throughout our lives, means that changing who we are?? Ick. I'd sure as hell rather find the places where I already belong.
I first came to this book a few years after the lowest point of my life, when my marriage had ended, and along with it a key piece of my identity was lost. The first time I read it, I gained a lot out of understanding from it. But I can't say that I implemented much of it. I still felt like I wasn't worthy enough ... because I was still focused on how I didn't fit in with what I thought I should be for others.
I picked the book up again this past April and tore through it over a weekend. Though I hadn't actively referenced it in years, I was so excited to realize that I had found ways to adopt the type of mindset Dr. Brown describes. I had done lots of personal development work in the intervening years and somehow, some way I had ended up feeling worthy of being myself.
Today I focus more on who and how I can be in the world and far, far less on how to fit in with the world around me. It's so much easier!! Now that I am focusing on who I can be when I'm at my best, my main problem is that I have so many exciting dreams that I'm chasing that I keep running out of time. (Good problem.)
Fitting in with what society says is "the right way" to do things is a bad plan. It twists us and bends us into shapes that are stressful and exhausting. And worse, it prevents us from following the dreams that we really want to pursue ... if only.
Are you finding yourself regularly thinking something like...
* I can't try out for that theater group - it's too frivolous and I have so many responsibilities!
* My boss will never listen to the idea I have to take over and rock our social media strategy - I don't have enough experience with that, even though I love doing it. I'll just keep my head down.
* There's no way I could actually make a living making pottery, even though I love it so much.
* My wife will never entertain the idea of blowing out the back wall of the house to put in that amazing family room that I've always wanted.
You don't have to stay stuck in fitting in to what you think other people want. You could be the person who makes your passions come alive. In fact, you're the only person who can do that. But it's not easy.
So here's the "other shoe". I'm absolutely writing this post on my coaching website because I want to help you. I have seen the power of getting dedicated support during major changes. Without that support, I wouldn't have gotten to a place where I wake up every day to move my dreams along a bit more, rather than slogging through another day of doing what I "should" to fit in. I want that for you, too.
I coach people because I believe that we can all pursue our desires and get to our dreams.
I coach because I care about people living good lives that elevate everyone around them.
I coach because you need someone to keep you steady and hold you accountable to being who you want to be, especially in the times when you waver as you go through big changes.
Are you ready to be fully you, whatever that looks like? Trust me - it's the best place ever! Even if it comes with a Dad bod...
I would love to show you how a coach can help you get there. Contact me for a free consultation. All you have to lose is an hour of your time. And what could you gain???
Your dreams seem like a good place to start.
To see if I'm the right coach for you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me via this website.