Understanding the difference between fitting in and belonging
Episode 16 – Sam, Age 13: Joining a new group of friends
Think About It Questions
- What are some ways that friendship groups can be more complicated than individual friendships?
- Have you ever tried to change friendship groups? Why did you want to make the change? How did it go?
- Why does Dr. Friendtastic recommend belonging to more than one friendship group?
- Why do you think kids sometimes try to hide or change something about themselves to fit in? How is that different from belonging?
Hi, there! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.
Let’s listen to today’s question:
Hi, Dr. Fantastic. I'm Sam, and I'm 13 years old I've been hanging around a new group of people, and I was just wondering how I know if I became their friend?
Hi, Sam! Thanks for sending in your question! First I want to say, good for you for being brave enough to reach out to a new group of people! That’s an important way to build friendships.
Being part of a friend group can multiply our fun! But groups can be more complicated than individual friendships. You’re probably not going to feel equally close to every single person in a group. And that’s okay! You can have fun with people even if they’re not close friends. Groups can also change as people move in or out for various reasons. A group might also divide or combine with other groups.
Sometimes kids belong to more than one group. In fact, I recommend that! You can think of different groups as reflecting different aspects of who you are. Maybe you have a lunch table group, and a swim team group, and a family friends group… Being part of different groups also gives you more social options.
So, back to your question, how do you know if you’re friends with a new group? Well, one important clue is how they act toward you. Do they seem happy to see you? Do they often include you when they make plans?
Remember it takes time and effort to build friendships. So especially if you’re joining a group that already existed, be patient. You probably won’t be instantly in the thick of the group. But deepening your friendships, showing people you like them, and getting to know more people in the group by doing fun things with them could help you become closer to the group.
There’s another important issue with friendship groups that I want you to think about: Brene Brown points out the difference between “fitting in” and “belonging.” When we’re focused on fitting in, we feel like we have to change ourselves in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, is about feeling known and valued for who we really are. Understanding this difference between fitting in and belonging can help you make wise choices about who you spend your time with.
Here are some questions that can help you figure out whether a group is a good fit for you:
- How do you feel when you’re with them?
- If you were upset about something, how would they react?
- Can you relax around them, or do you feel like you have to be careful of what you say or do?
- Do you like who you are when you’re with them?
Finding a good friendship group takes time, effort, and courage, but gaining a sense of genuine belonging is worth it.
This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.