It’s funny how life goes in seasons – big, sweeping ones, like seasons of singleness and decades of marriage, or seasons of education and seasons of work, but also littler seasons, themes that pop up for a few weeks or so, apparently by themselves like those surprise flowers that appear in gardens without you ever having planted them.
The last few weeks for me have been all about finding my fit. Here’s three things I’ve learned.
First, I realised that I don’t have to fit everywhere – I don’t have to be a chameleon to get by in life. A group of us were at a posh spa for the day, we’d got a great deal online so had a day to lounge around in the pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, plus three treatments. It was great, and I loved every minute… but I was very aware of feeling like I didn’t fit there.
When I heard that having my eyebrows shaped would involve wax, I nearly jumped out of my robe and slippers. When I lay down for a massage, I had to check with my (very patient) friend three times how I was supposed to arrange the sheet over myself. When the therapist doing my facial asked about my skincare routine, I umm-ed and ahh-ed and muttered something about ‘make-up wipes’.
I didn’t really fit. But that was okay! In the past I might have panicked. I might have tried to fake it. I might have felt ashamed and resolved to become more like these beautiful, polished people. But instead, we had a laugh at my inexperience, I learned to relax a bit, and I came away with a few lotions and potions that make my skin feel amazing. It turns out that it’s okay not to fit.
Next, I discovered the relief of changing out of something that’s not right for me, to something that was made for people like me. See, I don’t buy clothes all too often. I still wear things that my little sister grew out of years ago. My wardrobe still includes hand-me-downs from a bin-bag of old clothes a friend passed on to me as a teenager. I was a skinny kid, a bit of a late developer in the boobs and hips department, and blessed with that sort of high metabolism that some teenagers seem to have. Always buying the smallest sizes was my normal – it became how I saw myself.
But as tends to happen to awkward, scrawny teenage girls, I grew up. I’ve changed shape, got bigger, gained new proportions. I’ve had to keep getting to know my body as it’s settled into it’s adult form. My clothes hadn’t really changed though – I was still holding onto that self-perception that said I should buy the smallest sizes. It made me miserable, wearing jeans that pinched in all the wrong places, tops that made me feel like I looked 5 months pregnant, underwear that hung all wrong. It made me feel like I was wrong, not the clothes.
So I took a deep breath and went shopping last week. I worked out what size I actually am, gave myself a little pep talk, then got on with it. A few hours later, I was the proud owner of clothes that fit me. And now I realise, it was the clothes that were wrong, not me. There’s great power in finding your fit. It’s hard to accept yourself when you surround yourself, perhaps literally, with fabric that doesn’t fit.
A snapshot of the Diverse Church London hub’s picnic
Finally, I’ve found that some of the best people are those who help others to fit. The last couple of weeks have involved a scary amount of stepping away from the laptop and into rooms of people I don’t know. Having become a member of the Labour Party a few months back and limited my campaigning mostly to social media, I picked up chocolate bar for bravery (it works) and toddled off to my local Labour Party’s AGM. Expecting to feel awkward and out of place, it was all the more brilliant to find a group of people who were welcoming, friendly, curious and excited. Questions were asked, ideas were floated, and above all a passion was shared for making our community and country a fairer place for everyone. It didn’t take long for me to catch the bug and volunteer myself as Women’s Officer.
I’ve also progressed from typing and clicking to being present in the flesh with a couple of Christian LGBT groups recently. Diverse Church is a supportive community for young LGBT Christians who gather on a secret Facebook group and also in person in regional hubs. I’d started to join in on Facebook but knew the next step would take a little bit more courage. So there I found myself last weekend, stood in a packed out London park on a bright, sunny afternoon looking around for a group of people I’d never met before. Questions floated around my head: Am I queer enough to count? Would anyone notice if I mentioned dating boys? What if they turned out to be a cool clique that I couldn’t get into?
Needless to say, I shouldn’t have worried. No-one questioned me on when I’d last kissed a girl, and no-one judged me for my lazy Sunday lack of make up. They didn’t even seem to mind that I’d forgotten to bring any food for the picnic – I’d barely hit the grass before I was being handed homemade cake and making new friends.
Confidence boosted, I trotted along a week later to two:23, a meeting of Christians connected by LGBT issues for worship and networking. I quickly spotted familiar faces, a few people remembered me from the picnic and others encouraged me along to the pub before I’d even had time to ask their names. No qualifications necessary – a desire to be there was enough to fit right in.
So there you have it. A few weeks of learning about fitting in.
Human beings flourish when we know we don’t need to fit. We don’t need to be the same. We can be comfortable with one another without the pressure to imitate and conform.
Human beings are happier when we stop trying to squeeze into what doesn’t fit. We make ourselves miserable when we’re too quick to find fault with who we are, to decide we must be defective in some way, when in fact it could just be that we’ve chosen the wrong size.
Human beings are at our very best when we help one another to find our fit. Welcome is one of the most under appreciated words we have – we wipe our muddy feet on it on doormats, but it’s the difference between a stranger and a friend.
(PS If you’d like to support Diverse Church but don’t fit the demographic to be part of it, you can join the group of Diverse Church Friends – updates and prayer requests are shared there regularly. Thanks!)