Don't Fit In? Finding a Sense of Belonging Amidst Your 'Otherness'.

Prasanta Verma

by Prasanta Verma

Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.



Go back to where you came from.
One of these is not like the other.

Maybe you’ve seen funny memes pop up once in a while which show photos that are meant to make us laugh, sometimes in a self-deprecating way.

That’s how I felt growing up in a small town where there was no one else who looked like me (besides my immediate family). One of these is not like the other.

I was the one who didn’t “match” those around me, the oddball, the piece that didn’t fit.

As I grew older, I wrestled with my roots, my heritage, my current place of belonging, and my identity. I wrestled with God. Who was I? Why was I born elsewhere and then brought here? I was both grateful and confused. I felt like I belonged neither here nor there.

Maybe we all feel this way at some point or another. I’d venture to guess that most of us do.

It could be our skin color or some other outward, physical attribute. It could be something unseen, such as anxiety or a learning disability—something that makes us feel like we’re just a bit (or a lot) different, and that we don’t fit in.

But you know, Jesus didn’t quite fit in, either. He sometimes asked weird questions that seemed out of context and made no sense. He sometimes gave odd, indirect answers when others asked him questions. He hung out with the “wrong” people and had a very unlikely group of disciples who followed him around. He didn’t act like other people acted. One of these is not like the other.

He was on the outskirts until he became popular—and the crowd welcomed him. But then soon afterward, he became unpopular—and the same mob demanded his death. Crowds can be fickle like that.

Being popular and fitting in, doing what the crowd is doing, aren’t roadmaps to true belonging. If those things mattered, we’d have a different Jesus—one who pandered to public opinion and peer pressure. One who is very much like the others.

What is belonging? Real belonging isn’t about fitting in. Belonging means we feel safe to be authentic, that we are accepted as we are.

And that is how I came to reconcile with my otherness. Discovering I belonged as a child of God, despite the circumstances around me, freed me to show up as myself.

When I show up as myself without trying to hide my otherness and live unapologetically of my background, I have respect and love for myself—and others will love and respect that, too.

This demonstrates how I “love others like myself.” I love others well by showing up as my authentic self. They get to know the real me instead of an imposter, someone who is wishing she were someone else.

We find joy on the road of embracing who we are.
We find peace.
We find belonging.

We find home.

Jesus embraced his unusual identity of being the son of God and also a human man. Was it easy? Absolutely not. Was it essential to him finding and fulfilling his purpose and finding eternal and lasting joy? Yes.

And so it is for us. Our purpose is found by digging deep to our roots, by pulling out the weeds of embarrassment. It’s found by nourishing our otherness, so we can grow and blossom and bloom in our authenticity.

I am experiencing the greatest joy in my life, and it’s not because I’ve achieved all I want (not yet!), or because life is perfect (heavens, no), or because life is happening according to my plans (are you kidding me?). Nope, life is pretty much the opposite of all of that.

But I find a sense of joy and peace knowing who I am: loved by God, beautifully and wonderfully made. That’s where my joy comes from. That’s the joy of belonging.

I wish I could go back and tell that young girl that she isn’t defined by words like mophead. She’s defined by the Lover and Giver of all good gifts.

Our differences and our ethnicities are reasons to celebrate. Celebrate your otherness. Celebrate your ethnicity. Celebrate what it is that makes you you. Celebrate that you belong, and God loves you and created you, as yourself. It’s marvelously good. And I’ll be over here, cheering you on, championing you, too.



Prasanta Verma (MBA, MPH) was born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills in the South, and now resides in the Upper Midwest. She is the author of Beyond Ethnic Loneliness. When she's not writing, speaking, or working, she's drinking chai, walking, or reading. Find Prasanta online at and on Instagram @PrasantaVerma