Real Belonging

I’m almost certain that each of us has experienced the feeling of not belonging–whether it be in some place or within certain groups. I know I have and am struggling with this part of my existence right now. It seems that I need to be inebriated or high to actually fit in and be accepted. But fitting in is not the same as belonging and being accepted for who I am not, goes against my core value of authenticity.

In Brene Brown’s book, Atlas of the Heart, there is a quote from an eighth grader. It says, “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” Here’s a really brave question for ourselves, “Do I want others to be like me or do I want others to be themselves?” Let’s be honest here. I mean, I often judge others based on their personal journey and their core values. I don’t like this about myself; I want to change it; but, it’s a difficult thing to do. The personal journey of someone else is theirs and theirs alone. Who am I to judge that? Who am I to judge anyone? What I can do is hold myself accountable for my reaction to the core beliefs and values of someone else.

I don’t have to like them (other people’s core beliefs) but I need to respect them because respecting the journey of someone else is high on my own list of values. To be true to myself, I need to allow others the freedom of their own personal exploration of themselves. They may not be where I want them to be, but they are where they need to be. The reverse is also true for me. I need my own personal journey to be respected by others–especially those who are close to me. They don’t have to conform to my beliefs, but I feel they need to respect them if I am to feel a sense of true belonging with them. Otherwise, I feel disconnected and unsafe. When I feel this way, I don’t want to be around them. I want to hang with the people who believe in me for who I am, not for who they want me to be.

After listening to Brene Brown’s “Braving the Wilderness”, I have come to realize that in order for me to have a true sense of belonging with others that I need, first, to feel I belong with myself. Problem: I am my own worst critic. I think that, deeply, I respect my own journey, but it is difficult to outwardly profess this. The end result, though, if I can be okay with where I am, is that I will always belong. Let that sink in. To truly belong, we have to belong to ourselves first. Without this acceptance, appreciation and respect for ourselves, we will never experience the sense of true belonging with others. Whew! That’s a difficult concept to get my head around. That is where my work is right now. It is rarely out there that our progress needs attention, but within ourselves. Be okay with where you’re at. For me, right now, that is respecting my own values and beliefs. For you, it will be somewhere else, but it will almost always be within you. 

Watch out for it. Wait for it to slap you in the face and knock you down. Then brush yourself off and run with it. You are okay where you are! Just don’t get stuck there or your full potential will never be realized. Change is inevitable if we are life-long learners. But, maybe, that’s not your journey right now. Maybe you just need to be okay with you. Build a sense of belonging with yourself and you will begin to belong everywhere you go!

peace balance empathy

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