Think of a time in your life when you stepped into a scenario, and immediately upon entering, you knew you didn’t belong. Maybe everyone around you looked different, or dressed differently, or you showed up to a costume party without a costume (or to a regular party and you were the only one wearing a costume!).
Have you had an experience like that?
I know it’s a little soon to be talking about Christmas, but I have to share a story about one my family’s Christmas traditions. Every year around Christmas time we would drive 3.5 hours to San Francisco to get our family picture taken with Santa Clause on the 7th floor of Macy’s overlooking Union Square, in downtown San Francisco.
While we were there, we would always take a day to go sightseeing. And at the end of our sightseeing day, when we could not possibly look any more like tourists, wearing the San Francisco sweatshirts we had just bought and our cameras around our necks, my parents would take all of us to the St. Francis Hotel.
Now, you have to understand, we weren’t checking in; we weren’t guests at the St. Francis Hotel. Far from it, actually. Guests at the St. Francis were the people having the valets park their Maseratis and Bentleys out front.
No, you see, the St. Francis Hotel happened to always be at the end of our sightseeing list because it had outside elevators. These were glass elevators that faced Union Square and took you from the ground floor all the way up 32 floors to the top of the hotel. And at night, especially, the view was spectacular. This was free entertainment for the Fitzpatrick family, and we loved it!
I mean really--you can pay almost $100 per person to go to Disneyland… or you can ride the free elevators at the St. Francis Hotel.
So every year, we would walk into that hotel like we owned the place, past the gingerbread houses that look like they took three months to construct, past the gorgeous Christmas trees adorned with expensive ornaments, past every real guest of the hotel who was dressed to a tee, straight to elevators.
You should have seen some of the looks we would get. Talk about fish out of water! Especially when we packed our family of six into the first available elevator, pressed the button for the top floor like we were staying in the penthouse suite, and then all squeezed our way to the window to get the best view for the ride.
For me, it was the norm. This is what we did. I don’t think I really began to realize how out of place we looked until I was in junior high and you start noticing those things. But it was also at that time that I realized what a gift my parents had given us to not care. We were going to ride those outside elevators at the St. Francis no matter what we looked like!
Sure, we may have looked out of place. And people may have looked at us and said, “How awkward is that?” But it’s only awkward if you let it be.
We obviously didn’t belong in the St. Francis hotel. But we stepped outside our comfort zone, and we walked in with confidence.
Can you imagine if we had missed the experience of that family tradition simply because we felt out of place?
I wonder how many times we talk ourselves out of opportunities that could end up being really incredible experiences by telling ourselves that we don’t belong, by giving in to the idea that feeling “out of place” is a bad thing?
Maybe we should work on becoming comfortable being uncomfortable.
Next time you feel that lie crawling to the front of your mind—the one that tries to convince you that you don’t belong—push it right back, in full confidence, knowing that you were created to do great things. Sometimes we just have to step outside our comfort zones in order to create those opportunities.