A square peg in a round hole ….why fitting in matters

Feeling like you don’t fit in or you’re a “square peg in a round hole” has huge implications for your ultimate happiness and success. I want to introduce you to some psychological theory so that you can better understand the impact of your feelings and, more importantly, ensure you do everything possible to ensure you are happy and successful.

The theory I’d like to introduce you to is that of Abraham Maslow. In the 1950’s Maslow studied “exemplary” people (including Einstein) and introduced his theory of psychology called “The Hierarchy of Needs”.

Malsow’s theory is iconically depicted as a pyramid or triangle showing a hierarchy of needs that must be satisfied in order starting at the bottom or base of the pyramid. So, our basic physiological needs must be met before we can satisfy our need for safety and security. Our need for safety and security must be met before we can satisfy our need for love and belonging …….and so on.

On this basis, moving up the hierarchical levels our true potential or “self actualisation” is only achievable when the lower 4 levels have been satisfied.


Fitting in and belonging to part of a wider group is one of the major needs and motivational factors depicted here in the level “Love and Belonging”. Many would attribute this inherent need to evolution, as historically, being part of a group and “belonging” was essential to human survival – our prehistoric ancestors hunted and cooked together and looked out for each other.

Using Maslow’s theory then, in essence, if you feel like “a square peg in a round hole” you have stalled on the Hierarchy of Needs to satisfy that sense of belonging and therefore you are impacting the two higher needs – that of self esteem and the pinnacle of self-actualisation.

Applying this knowledge……

Imagine you’re looking for a new job. You’re prepping for the interview. First and foremost, remember an interview is not only a potential future employer’s opportunity to interview you. It is also an opportunity for you to interview a potential future employer – it is a two-way process – you can assess and find out about the person you will be working with, the team you will be part of and the organisation to which you will belong. And you are more likely to belong if the vision, the mission and the ethos of the organisation fits with your own ideals and values.

Identify your ideals and values in the workplace and in your “world”. Ask yourself – what’s important to me at work? What’s important to me in my “world”?

If you’ve identified that working within a team is important to you then don’t apply for a role where you will be working on projects alone. If you’ve identified that giving something back to the community is important to you, choose an organisation that has such a scheme in place.

For when we are working in an organisation that fits with us – we are fitting in, we are satisfying our need to belong.  And without a sense of belonging we are holding ourselves back in terms of our self esteem and realising our true potential.

Fitting in really does matter – for without this we are unable to achieve self esteem and ultimately self actualisation.

Lindsay Taylor
About the author

Lindsay Taylor is the owner and Director of Executive Coaching and Training Organisation Your Excellency Limited. She is also the author of the blog ‘Wise Words Indeed’. You can follow Lindsay on Twitter: @your_excellency and @wisdom_pearls.

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