"How do you balance the desire to be accepted by the people around you with the desire to follow what's in your heart and soul?" So begins this book authored by psychologist, Leonard Felder, Ph.D. Fitting in, he argues, requires striking a balance between social conformity and fulfilling your creative wants and aspirations. The path, however, can be difficult. On one hand, merely following the crowd is limiting and self-defeating. And yet, always being on the outside can be emotionally unsatisfying. How then does one negotiate this dilemma?
Felder concentrates on family, workplace, and societal circumstances that challenge individuals who think and act "outside of the box." For each of these areas, he explores situations that cause discomfort. Parent, for example, may have different expectations for their children, some co-workers try to control the flow of ideas, and friends sometimes can't tolerate your idiosyncrasies. Rather than abandon individuality to simply fit in, Felder suggests seeing our differences as strengths that can be applied constructively to improve the lives of other people. Through inspirational stories about public figures, therapy descriptions of clients, and his own experiences, he gives the reader many suggestions for adapting to social pressures without relinquishing core values. Most of his recommendations can be easily implemented, while others may require guidance from a behavioral health professional.
As a self-help book, Fitting In Is Overrated is easy to read and likely, would be a source of direction and contentment for some people. It does not examine mental health problems such as social anxiety, social phobia, or personality disorders which could account for some of the interpersonal conflicts Felder covers. Instead, the focus is on the day-to-day events that confront individuals who describe themselves as "outsiders" or minimally, are conflicted about their autonomy relative to traditional norms and customs. Part cheerleader, psychotherapist, personal coach, and advisor-at-large, Felder gives us new ways of thinking about being different and making life fulfilling choices.
© 2009 James K. Luiselli
James K. Luiselli, Ed.D., ABPP, BCBA is a psychologist affiliated with May Institute and a private-practice clinician. Among his publications are 6 books and over 200 journal articles. He reviews books for The New England Psychologist.