Image of a costume mask

Fitting In vs. Belonging

Justice, Equity & Inclusion


In this activity participants will discuss the individual effort of fitting in vs. the community effort of creating a sense of belonging and how this relates to social justice work. This activity is suitable for all groups and works best within a program that is tied to social justice.

“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are.” – Brene Brown

  • Participants will be able to define the differences between “fitting in” and “belonging”
  • Participants will be able to describe at least one reason why conversations about belonging are appropriate to social justice learning
  • Large flip-chart paper (or large sticky-note paper)
  • Markers or other bold writing implements


This activity is about defining the differences between fitting in and belonging

  1. After framing the exercise split the group into two groups. Give each group one large piece of flip-chart paper and a marker.

  2. Assign one group “belonging” and the other “fitting in”. Explain that you want each group to spend 5 minutes or so defining their term. Beyond defining the terms, they should write anything else they believe is relevant: what it feels like to belong or fit in, who is doing it, how do you know you’re doing it, etc.

  3. Give the groups time to work together to complete the task.

  4. Bring the groups back together.

  5. Ask each group to present out to the larger group their conclusions.

  6. See if anyone in the other group has anything to add to the conclusions of the other group.

  7. Process/debrief the activity.
  • What are some of the major themes we see across these two terms?
  • Does anyone have any emotional or visceral reaction when thinking of the difference between these two terms?
  • Why do you think it is important to consider the differences between fitting in and belonging?
  • What do fitting in and belonging have to do with social justice?

Wrap Up

  • When we talk about inclusive spaces, often what we are really getting at is creating a space where more people have the opportunity to feel like they belong there.
  • Fitting in takes a lot of energy from the individual. Belonging may take special effort from the community, but a lot less energy from the individual.
  • It is the responsibility of people who create the norms of a group or environment to consider who feels they belong and who is simply fitting in.
  • Social justice education often helps us bring to light the work that some people are doing to “fit in” to our communities, as well as helps us acknowledge ways that we can make more people feel they have the opportunity to belong.