By You Jin Kim, Reporter for Yonhap News (with closing statements by FEBC-Korea staff writer)
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
I’m sure most of us have experienced at least once in our lifetime that fear of trying to fit in. First day at a new school, at a new job, at a new neighborhood, you name it. Having had to move across different countries every two to three years or so in my youth, I think it’s safe to say I’ve encountered many of those moments, more so than many of my peers.
But that was exactly the problem, that many expected me to fit in with ease, simply because I’m the “culture-savvy one” that can strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. This is not the case. To this day, even when I’ve put those awkward college years behind me, I still struggle, pushing down the stutters in my voice and the butterflies that are going frantic in my stomach. More often than not, trying to make small talk with a new group of people still takes me back to my first day of high school, which also happened to be my first day at that school, in that city, in that country.
Of course, it might be true that I’m somewhat more accustomed to the dissimilarities among different cultures, that I am more at ease with the mind-blowing customs and perspectives that exist around the world. But that didn’t really matter, because ‘fitting in,’ for me, usually meant remaining anonymous, letting go of any past experiences and erasing that part of myself that might stand out from others, just to blend in. And I admit, at the same time, I was ashamed I couldn’t be the culture-savvy one, feeling useless like a chameleon that has lost its ability to change colors.
But as I grow older, looking back to those days of self-suppression, I’m starting to think I had it all wrong. Fitting in doesn’t have much to do with being familiar with others, absorbing their every thought and moves. It’s more about fitting in with myself, being comfortable with who I am, however much different I may be. As cliché as it may sound, it really is true that you have to be comfortable in your own skin first in order to be comfortable with those outside.
And this is something I’m still working to improve—to embrace myself for what I am, and to never be sorry about unveiling, or even parading, myself to other people. And the same goes for any of you who may be suffocating in your own skin, feeling frustrated to have to give yourself up for the sake of fitting in. Because that is not how it works. Have a firm grasp of who you are and embrace that identity. Once you do, others will follow suit to understand and fit in with you.
Ms. You Jin Kim’s personal experience of as an individual, who moved from country to country growing up, sheds light on the struggles of learning how to fit into each new environment and while solidifying her identity along the way.
God has instructed us, “the foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:34). This act of embracing someone outside of one’s own primary culture is actually a way to highlight God’s love for all His people. From either side of the spectrum, whether we are the natives in a country or the foreigner who is residing in a new country, as Christians we are called to treat others with the same godly love and respect.
On the other hand, God has also called us to be confident in knowing our “identity as children of God through faith… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26-28). Regardless of where God has placed us, we need to believe that there is a reason we are called to be there. “Bloom where you are planted” because what will never change is that we are children of God.