What I want my kids to know about fitting in

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There’s something in our basic human nature that makes us want to belong — it makes us feel that we need to fit in with our surroundings. But me? My whole life, I never have really understood what fitting in feels like.  

Give me a questionnaire, and I probably won’t know how to define myself. When asked about my career, I settle for “writer” because it’s easier to explain. But it’s leaving out so much. I am a writer, yes. But I am a blogger, an author, a parenting expert. I am a TV host, public speaker, digital marketer, and spokesperson. Some even call me an influencer. I wear many hats on any given day that cannot be so easily summed up.

And what about my racial background? Am I white? Hispanic? All of the above? My family does not have Spanish last names but we’re still Latinos. Even my accent is undefined because I was born in the U.S. but then moved to Chile, where my perfect English set me apart in school. Then I moved back to Miami and married a Peruvian American. So my Spanish is not 100% Chilean and my English is not 100% American. Despite what everybody assumes, I’m not Catholic, but Jewish. I’m too white and too blonde for some, but then again I have too much of an accent to not be asked, “Where are you from?”

Then there’s the issue of my hair. My blonde curls always stood out next to the glossy, straight strands of my classmates. For years I straightened my hair to fit into the mold of a traditional TV host, until my own daughter thought curls weren’t beautiful because I always got rid of them for special occasions. 

It used to bother me that I didn’t look like anybody else. That I didn’t speak or think like others. That my name was different. That I defied classifications.

Not anymore. Instead I choose to see that not fitting in has given me the advantage of being able to navigate different worlds. My bilingual brain might have occasional hiccups but it allows me to build bridges across cultures. 

But being a mom to two kids, this poses an additional challenge. My kids want to fit in, like most teens do. I actually suspect that’s one of the reasons why they prefer to speak English rather than Spanish whenever they can. However, I am trying to teach them it’s more important to carve your own path and to create your own box (if you need one) when others have a hard time classifying you.

Defying expectations and avoiding classifications might be tough, but it gives you a wonderful sense of freedom. Hopefully at some point my kids will focus less on pleasing others and what others would prefer them to be. They need to find a way to feel proud of themselves regardless of how others see them. No matter what the world tells them, they are free to be themselves even if they break the molds and stereotypes. Actually, I hope they will find the strength to push boundaries and expectations. They can create their own box, their own classifications, their own happiness. They should define themselves and how they want to live their lives. 

It's human nature to crave a sense of belonging, but fitting in is overrated. You should feel proud of yourself regardless of how others see or classify you. Yes, fitting in is overrated. It’s taken me too many years to realize this so I don’t expect it to happen overnight for them. Their advantage over me? I didn’t have somebody to hold my hand throughout the process. Yet I will be here supporting them every step of the way, because they helped me find where I do fit in: with them. As a mom. Finally a classification I have no issues with. 

Your true sense of belonging is found with those you love, and who love you just the way you are — and no box can define that.

It's human nature to crave a sense of belonging, but fitting in is overrated. You should feel proud of yourself regardless of how others see or classify you. 

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