Do You Ever Feel Like You Don’t Fit In?

How to Train Your DragonIf you’ve ever felt like you don’t fit in, you have something in common with a Viking teenager named Hiccup.

Hiccup is the scrawny, clumsy, yet creative son of the Viking chieftain in the Dreamworks movie How to Train Your Dragon. No one quite understands Hiccup’s unique ways of doing things. More than anything he wants to kill one of the mysterious Night Fury dragons who attack his village, because he thinks that if he does, he’ll earn his father’s respect and won’t be the laughingstock of his tribe any more. All of Hiccup’s attempts to fit in only make him stick out more, and the girl he has a crush on thinks he’s a loser.

At times I’ve felt a lot like Hiccup. I grew up a sparrow in a family of blue jays. I desperately wanted them to like me and be proud of me. I wanted to feel like I fit in and was accepted, but I couldn’t hide how different I was. Like Hiccup, my weirdness always reared its head at the most inconvenient times.

But Hiccup figured out quicker than I did that, when you’re willing to be yourself, you’ll find truly creative solutions to the problems you’re facing.

One night, during a dragon attack, Hiccup manages to use one of the weapons he’s created to bring down a Night Fury, but no one believes him. He goes out looking for it on his own, planning to cut out its heart and bring it back as proof.

The only problem is that, when he finds the dragon, he can’t kill it. He’s the first Viking in 300 years who wouldn’t kill a dragon. He sets it free instead and thus begins a friendship that seems to prove he’s the world’s worst Viking. The dragon, who Hiccup names Toothless, shows him everything the Vikings thought about the dragons was wrong, and eventually their friendship helps save the village.

If Hiccup had been like every other Viking, the cycle of Vikings killing dragons and dragons killing Vikings would have continued until one wiped the other out. It’s always been the people who are brave enough to be themselves who come up with the greatest innovations.

Leonardo da Vinci. Albert Einstein. Steve Jobs.

And, eventually, if you stay true to yourself, you’ll find people who like you for who you are.

Near the end of How to Train Your Dragon, the girl Hiccup likes asks him what he’s going to do about the fact that his father has chained up Toothless and is headed to destroy the dragons’ nest.

“Probably something crazy,” Hiccup says.

Her lips quirk into a smile. “That’s more like it.”

She and the other Viking teens help Hiccup because, over the past weeks, they’ve learned to like him just the way he is, quirks and all. In the end, he also earns his father’s respect. He never would have earned it by trying to fit in.

I wish I could tell you I earned what I wanted from my extended family, but I haven’t yet. I have seen a little progress, a little hope. Even if they never come to accept me, I have a husband who does, and parents and a brother who believe in me. And in being myself, I’ve found friends both online and offline who like me just the way I am, in all my nerdy glory. For all of you, I’m very grateful.

Have you struggled to fit in only to have it fail? Have you been able to finally find people who accept you and like you just the way you are?

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