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Fitting In Versus Belonging

I skated down the ice in my favourite raspberry-coloured costume, doing crossovers as I reached the end of the rink, then circling back, dreaming of the day I’d bring a gold figure skating medal to Canada.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t happen.

The circumstances that brought me to Centennial Park Skating Club, however, became the arena in which I learned the difference between fitting in and belonging.

I started skating when I was 8.

My mom signed me up because she remembered coming to Canada as an immigrant and going skating as a gym activity at school but not knowing how to do it. She felt embarrassed and never wanted me to feel the same way.

She wanted me to experience a Canadian childhood – to fit in – and that meant learning how to skate. For any of you who are first- or second-generation immigrants, this story may sound familiar. You could equally substitute “figure skating” with “hockey” or “Tim Horton’s.”

I used to see fitting in as a form of belonging. Learning to skate helped me fit in so I would belong to the larger (Canadian) group.

Then I heard Brene Brown talk about fitting in versus belonging. She explained that fitting in and belonging are actually opposites.

Fitting in means accommodating to external norms by changing who you are. In contrast, belonging “never asks us to change who we are. It demands that we be who we are.”

As social animals, humans need to belong. You’ll discover belonging on the third rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Belonging is a pro-social function that bands groups. You achieve a sense of belonging through connection.

As I said, sometimes fitting in gets conflated with belonging. You think – hope – that by fitting in, you will therefore belong. If they’re opposites, though, as Brene points out, then fitting it actually creates disconnection between you and others.

Layering in the external environment, you absorb social norms by fitting in. For example, you learn to sit at a desk in school facing the front of the classroom so you can learn from the teacher for many hours each day. Those who don’t fit in, such as the disruptors and outliers, end up excluded from the group.

The pressure to fit in is real, driven by human wiring that seeks connection with others and societal pressure to conform. Social norms around fitting in become seen as the tool for belonging.

Brene identifies self-awareness as the key component that distinguishes fitting in from belonging. Self-awareness means knowing who you are and how you are perceived by others.

In fact, fitting in is the action that comes after belonging. Brene’s research shows belonging is being who you are. Fitting in is changing (i.e. the action behind) who you are.

Ironically, you can’t belong to the group unless you know who you are as an individual. Knowing who you are is the outcome of self-awareness.

Without self-awareness, Brene is saying you can’t experience a true sense of belonging.

Belonging satisfies the human need for external connection. You acquire your sense of belonging through internal connection, knowing who you are and your purpose in life.

I’m grateful to my mom for putting me in figure skating. It’s a skill that has served me for life in Canada, having the confidence that I can do winter sports with the rest of my group.

Connection is everything. I may not have won a gold medal for skating but skating gave me a gold medal in belonging.

Ask yourself, Do I feel like I belong or like I’m fitting in? If the answer feels negative, it’s likely the latter. To resolve it, build your self-awareness and you’ll experience a greater sense of belonging.

You have to be open minded in order to grow. The coaching that Laura gave me opened my eyes to what and how I was doing things and allowed me to see the bigger picture. I am not done yet but I already see the changes in my everyday life.


I think coaching is a great way to help you clear your mind when you get stuck with overwhelming situations or when stepping into changes in your life.


Coaching is life changing. It pushes you outside your comfort zone and challenges your perspectives.  It is highly motivating and the exercises and techniques used are both fun and informative.  I think the main benefits of coaching are to see yourself, others and the world more clearly.  I think coaching is valuable to anyone regardless of where you are in your life or career.


I honestly never thought I’d need a coach. I thought coaching was for CEOs and industry VIPs. I didn’t think it was for the “little guys” (i.e. me). Now, I’m of the belief that everyone – yes, EVERYONE – needs a coach. Coaching has really benefitted me and I’m so grateful to have had that time with Laura. It’s changed my life!


Laura is very patient. She took the time to understand what was causing me to be stuck where I am today and help me build a better vision so I can continue to grow.


I think Laura’s coaching was what I had been waiting for. Laura was so approachable, kind, and open. Her willingness to help and support made a difference for me. I found in her coaching new strategies, ideas, and perspectives that I could incorporate into my goals and objectives that I didn’t see before.


Laura is an incredibly intuitive, positive and caring coach. Her techniques helped me recognize both my strengths and areas I might want to explore as I embark on the next chapter of my career. The exercises she employed were instrumental in providing self perspective and challenging my frames of reference.


Laura is a natural coach. Her probing and compassionate questions helped me learn about myself: my value system, interests, goals and strengths.


Coaching sessions with Laura gave me new perspectives on how to process specific feelings and situations in life.  She showed me how to sit with my emotions, acknowledge them, and then use visualization strategies to move through them.  I now feel more confident and in control of how I choose to walk through life.


From the beginning, Laura put me at ease, creating a safe, open space for me to talk and share freely without fear of judgement. I loved the variety of approaches she used depending on the topic we were working on and it was fun being able to try out things I wouldn’t have considered before! With Laura’s coaching, I substantially grew my confidence in the workplace, overcame fears, dealt with issues I’d been carrying around for many years and, most importantly, learned to value myself and define a path forward into the future.


Laura’s coaching was a breath of fresh air and EXACTLY what I needed at that point of my life. I didn’t realize how impactful coaching was going to be, but by the end of the sessions together, I left feeling refreshed, inspired and genuinely curious about what my future held for me. Because of Laura and her coaching, I believe I became a better person – someone who is more open-minded, someone with a clearer focus, and someone who is willing to explore opportunities and possibilities far more than I ever did before.


I engaged Laura for coaching as I took on an expanded role leading an asset management company in Canada. As a female, I knew I would be a role model and had high expectations of myself. I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

In our first few coaching sessions we worked through exercises that allowed me to reflect on my purpose, leadership style and what mattered most to me. I continue to be grounded by the clarity I achieve in my coaching sessions – allowing me to be resilient and confident when challenges came my way.