Why fit in, when we are made to stand out? 

Life is strange. It feels like, at times, we spend so long trying to fit in with people. Fit into friendship groups, work groups, associations, business associations…… etc etc. Yet, for some of us, we just don’t fit in. I’m that person. I just don’t fit in – no matter how much and how hard I try, I always feel like I am on the outer. 

This has been highlighted for me heavily over the last week and a bit. 

Last night, when I listened to a podcast episode from James Wedmore, he was talking about this in relationship to social media and business as well. I strongly think that things are shown to you at the right time, to help nudging you forward in your life, and this, was the right time.

Since I was little, I tried to fit in. I tried to find friends. I was that girl who always would try and introduce herself to the new kid in class, hoping that this person would be her new friend. I was always on the outer. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe I was not socially adapt? Maybe it was my personality? But, no matter, how hard I truly tried, I would never really have ONE friend. Yet, it was something that I craved beyond everything else- fitting in and finding a true friend. I had a friendship group, yet, I would be in and then I would be kicked out and it was this vicious never ending circle.

I would literally go home and bawl my eyes out. And my parents just didn’t know why or what was wrong. 

I am naturally extremely emotional as a person, I take every single thing said to heart and that makes it difficult for me a lot of the time, however, I only wanted to belong.

With social media and the total power it has over our lives, I still found that I was trying to “fit in” with the content that was being posted…… rather than post authentic content that was specific to me —- my purpose and my mission. James was talking a lot in his episode about this desire to fit in …. And it made me realise that I am TOTALLY holding myself back —- because I am always trying to toe the line and get people to like me.

And this is with everything —- it is with not sticking by my policies that I have had in place from the very beginning, it is with not raising concerns with employees as they arrive…. It is the not wanting to create waves and sweeping under the carpet —- meanwhile feeling ridiculous stuck and ANGRY that I am not being my true self.

Throughout my time teaching….. I figured out that I didn’t exactly fit in. I saw teachers who were just there for the money or frustratingly even those that said it was for the holidays (I mean seriously?!). I saw teachers just regurgitate the same programs and same teaching materials time and time again, even when they weren’t effective or helpful. I saw teachers being put into jobs and positions that they perhaps shouldn’t have been … simply because they wrote their resumes’ well and did a good interview —- however, that is where the passion stopped.

I, on the other hand, am a hugely passionate individual about education. I took the time to get to know my students and then created lessons and materials specific to their needs. It meant however, that I didn’t fit in with the staff room circles either — those clicky groups you see in the playground? Well, they are operating in the staff room as well …. And politics …. And everything else that sometimes makes life as a teacher, uncomfortable. ANYWAY, well people wanted me to do things “this way”, I was always looking at how to do it from another angle as well. 

It’s with this passion that I opened Breakaway Education. I didn’t fit …. So I created my own. Interestingly, in my first year of teaching a colleague and I (who were both in our first year) were discussing how if we opened a tutoring centre (or bought one), at least then, we could teach and not have to worry about the other things that bogged us down. Funnily enough…. That’s what I did (I have available jobs if the colleague mentioned see’s this and wants to join my venture!). 

I always say that I never intended to hire other people in my tutoring business….. I always say that I never intended for it to grow —- however, when I look back —- that was my exact intention, from the word go! I was no longer trying to fit in with people….. and I wasn’t exactly trying to stand out …. I was just trying to help educationally in the best way I knew how to. 

Looking back, that intention was always there. From the minute I registered “Breakaway Education” …. I named it Breakaway ….. because I was “Breaking away” from one environment and because I wanted students to “Breakaway from everything that holds them back”. And THIS has ALWAYS been my one aim and goal. I wanted students to feel like they could do anything they put their minds to, I wanted them to feel like they had people on their side to help them in anyway that we could and make them feel like they understood what they were struggling with. Why? Because I was that person. 

Funny how when you are in the day to day grind, you forget the whole purpose of your business —- including your business name. 

I intentionally grew the business because before I even had my first client, I invested (very cheaply in retrospect) in developing my tutoring ideas. I completed a course on “tutoring”, I did extensive amounts of research of ways to teach Primary Students (because my expertise was Secondary Students), I did my policies and I wrote my business plans —— intentional. 

The point that I am trying to make is that even through my constant desire to fit in …. I intentionally stood out (and named everything apptly to stand out as well). 

And in steps the next thing….. I have searched and searched throughout my business journey on ways to “fit in”. To find a coach or a group or a mastermind to “fit in too”, while still not feeling that I fit in. That I was accepted for who I was, and that I was really making a difference. And let me tell you …. I have tried A LOT in the 6 years of business. I have intentionally invested in outside coaching and groups and assistance because I was finding this journey both lonely, and also at the same time, knowing that I needed other people on my side and to learn off as well.

And with that, I attribute a lot of my stay power and success, because I have always been learning.

I am STILL however, always trying to fit in (unfortunately). Last week in particular in a local page someone posted about Dyslexia. The people suggested are really fantastic (I know them personally and refer to them when we are unable to assist students- and will always do so as well), however, one of the local psychologists also said to only see a specific type of tutor. This individual is fantastic at the job they do as well ….. and again, I have directly referred to them when I think it is another avenue to go down. But, something happened to me… where I felt “I didn’t fit in” because I do not fit that specific tutor title. I actually joined the specific association a number of years ago, and never got around to filling out the paper work….. and so I immediately joined again thinking that I MUST need to be this tutor then, in order to gain credibility. Right?! Wrong! But I did spend 2 hours filling out the whole application, and sending hard earned dollars across, with ALL of my credentials and experienced attached…. In the hope that I would “join the club”. It didn’t occur to me until the last few days that I do not need to apply to an organisation to be credible. (I am also a member of the Australian Tutoring Association for this reason – among other reasons). 

It made me realise that I am always searching for the external validation. I say to my husband often that it feels like people don’t realise the work that I do and the time that I invest into these thing – external validation. I join groups and pay for a whole bunch of memberships — for external validation…. And I feel like I am not doing things the right way when I am not receiving these types of validation.

The truth is this. I do not need to be a specific type tutor in order to work with students who have learning difficulties. The majority of our students here, have learning difficulties and myself and my fabulous team of tutors support each of them as much as we can. Just because we are not getting referrals from other associations and ticking off boxes that someone else has said is important – it doesn’t mean that a) we don’t know what we are doing b) that others with the attached label are better at things than we are….. in fact it doesn’t really mean anything other than the Individual in question jumped through someone else’s hoops. 

The other thing it reminded me of is that you also need to look closely at the associations that people recommend, and why they recommend it (ie. Where do they get their funding from?). This organisation has fantastic resources which we use ALL of the time…… they are not for profit, however, if you look at information from learning difficulties you will see that they are funded by other associations with a “big” name. This is the same for many, many things and of course the things that have the most money —- and shout they are the best (ie. have the bigger budget, more money, more people on their team to design advertising campaigns etc) well …… they can also shout down other programs the quickest as well.

Personally, I do professional development sessions for my tutors on a range of different programs and methods of teaching — because there is not one student that enters our doors who benefits from the exact same teaching method as the last. This is the beauty of what I have created. 

I am well aware of every program available — I have extensively researched and paid money to look into the programs available. AND, I take parts of each —- but never the whole program.

Am I perfect? Well, is anyone? The thing with education is that you need to continually be learning and growing yourself, alongside your students — and this is exactly what I do as a tutor, teacher and business owner.

The thing is….. as a parent, you need to see the difference for your child yourself. And if you have turned over a whole raft of things and still not found “the thing” then maybe you need to look at another approach. AND THAT is the core of what I want to create with Breakaway Education. 

If you are still reading this, well, the whole point of this blog post is this. 

I have spent my whole life trying to fit in. My whole life. From the beginning of primary school, throughout high school, university, my career as a teacher and now on the outside in my own business. It has taken me nearly 34 years to figure out that perhaps —- I shouldn’t be trying to fit in….. and should just do my thing. Follow my passion and provide and create content that follows my passion. 

AND THAT is what I want you as a reader to be thinking about as well. It doesn’t matter what associations you join, how you run things, what you try to mould yourself to be ….. it is not a bad thing if you don’t “fit in”.

So stand out. You definitely do not need to continually jump through a million hoops that everyone else puts in your way to feel validated.

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