Updated: May 21
When you don't belong anywhere, no place, and with no one...You learn to belong to yourself.
What once was a curse is now developing into a beautiful gift. The gift of belonging to myself.
For many years I have tried to fit in, with classmates, with colleagues, and with friends. Desperately searching for the feeling of belonging.
Brene Brown, best selling author and researcher says that "the opposite of belonging is fitting in". Now, your first reaction to this statement may be "what, I thought belonging and fitting in were the same thing". I was a bit confused at first as well.
As I listened to Brene explain further, I had an aha moment. (Aha moment: a moment of clarity when it all seems to make sense)
Brene says that when you try to fit in, you adapt and change who you are so that you can be like the others in whatever group you are trying to fit into. On the other hand, you will only feel like you belong when you are authentic to yourself and living what is true for you.
Belonging = Finding out who you are authentically + Bravely expressing it
This is a formula to pay attention to if you too are searching for the feeling of belonging. Now, getting to work on this formula is life's work. To the best of my knowledge, there is no magic wand or instant solution. (If you do have a magic wand, please send it my way)
There is also another formula to consider that is directly tied to the one above, and that is:
Being Brave = Risk + Uncertainty + Vulnerability
To embark on a journey of self discovery takes courage, it required that you take risks, befriend uncertainty and above all else let yourself be seen. It is not easy, and the rewards are worth it.
“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.” Maya Angelou
In a conversation with Bill Moyers, Maya Angelou said that she has never belonged anywhere, and that she belongs only to herself. She said "more and more I belong to myself. I’m very proud of that. I am very concerned about how I look at Maya. I like Maya very much. I like the humor and the courage very much. And when I find myself acting in a way that that doesn’t please me, then I have to deal with that."
When you decide to live a more authentic life, it calls you to examine all your actions, behaviours and attitudes. The key to a more pleasant journey in self awareness, is to examine rather than judge. Judgement condemns you, it imprisons you in guilt. Examining frees you, it gives you the guidance to change.
I consider myself a much better human being today then I was 10 years ago. I have grown in compassion, kindness and love. I have the ability to bounce back from failures and darkness much faster.
I am available to listen and support people in a way I simply could not a few years ago. My journey to self awareness and to belonging has not been easy, and it's not over either...by no means have I arrived or figured it all out.
It is still painful not fitting in, not as much as it used to be, but it still carries a sting. As humans, we are conditioned to want approval and attention from a tribe. In Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, belonging is at the centre as one of the major needs that motivate human behaviour. The key is to stop trying to fit in by being someone other than who you really are...you will only truly belong when you show up as your true self.
As Dr. Susan Biali states in Psychology Today "not letting ourselves be known, and this kind of incongruent living is soul-sucking."
Belonging to yourself does not mean you can't have healthy relationships with other humans, actually it directly influences your ability to have healthier relationships. When you are self aware, you are less likely to blame others. You are more likely to look inside, examine how the other person has triggered an emotion for you, and be objective in finding a resolution to a relationship conflict.
The gift of belonging to myself frees me, it gives me permission to live my life, to learn and express what is true for me.
Why is fitting in so alluring? Share your insights in the comment section below.
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Wishing you love, joy and peace,