Are you uninterested in water cooler talk? Are you that battle buddy who is always smiling, even when secretly unhappy? Are you stationed at a remote base with no one you feel comfortable talking with? Answering yes to any of these questions may mean you’re finding it hard to fit in.
Feeling like you don’t fit in, or feeling alone and harboring negative thoughts, could stem from not conforming to a group, hiding behind a façade or being reclusive, all of which can make your situation more challenging and have other negative consequences. For example, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), “Service Members assigned to remote locations outside the contiguous U.S. can experience isolation, less access to mental health resources and other challenges that may increase their suicide risk.” Whatever your circumstance, there are ways to help yourself feel that you belong.
One way to shift your focus is to connect with others. Authentic connections can change social knowledge. Instead of masking your feelings, try to share them with someone. Expressing yourself can help you feel less isolated.
Consider the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) program. It’s a resource to help improve Soldiers’ quality of life. The program provides opportunities for Soldiers to participate in recreational activities and community service. A support group can give you a more positive perspective on life. There are 74 BOSS communities Army-wide. Contact one near you.
Leaders must also do their part to help Soldiers feel included. Even when leaders are busy, it’s important they make time for Soldiers who need someone to talk with. Liz Bechtel, Suicide Prevention Program Manager at Fort Bragg, believes that leaders who are “able to be there for that person in that moment is the most important thing … there may not be tomorrow. So, you need to take the time and do it now. You can get answers from the meeting later, but being able to take the time out and talk to that person when they are stressed, when they're having issues, is the most important thing at that moment.” Work can be urgent, but timing is crucial.
The Army Resilience Directorate also offers a variety of programs, tools and resources to help Soldiers reduce counterproductive thoughts, connect with others and learn to be more resilient. Visit ARD’s Resilience in Focus series to learn more.
If you find it challenging to fit in, you’re not alone, and you can change your situation for the better. Check out some programs and contact your leaders to help find someone who will understand what you’re going through.