Just recently I had the wonderful opportunity of holding a self-love circle space at my dear friend’s yoga day. Earlier we had talked about theme, thinking of chakras, and when she was keen to explore the root chakra and belonging I was in!
I’ve recently been on another Brené Brown binge, and so a sense of belonging felt very appropriate! For those of you who don’t know, Brené is a research professor at the University of Houston who studies courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. One of her big inspirers has been Maya Angelou, and Brené often refers to one of Maya’s quotes that had a huge effect on her:
You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…
One of her most painful aspects growing up was not feeling like she belonged, and so it took years of her journey and research to come to an understanding for herself of these words. She makes a distinction between the concept of fitting in versus a sense of belonging, which really struck a cord with me:
We confuse belonging with fitting in, but the truth is that belonging is just in our heart, and when we belong to ourselves and believe in ourselves above all else, we belong everywhere and nowhere.
Sometimes this can feel contradictory.
We’re hard wired to fit in, it’s in our genes. Back in tribal days we needed to be a part of our group. It wasn’t safe to wonder around a loner. And when a child is born into a family it has to fit in and be accepted, otherwise its survival is at stake.
So, no wonder we believe fitting in is belonging. Even one of the dictionaries defines it like this: Belonging is a sense of fitting in or feeling like you are an important member of a group.
This is in direct contrast with Brené’s definition in her book, Braving the Wilderness:
True belonging is not passive.
It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group.
It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer.
It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are.
I see this as self love.
If we desire to feel a true sense of belonging, we require a certain level of self worth, self love, self acceptance. We need to mostly enjoy the person we are, to be our own best friend and cheerleader, even when we least feel like it.
This distinction between fitting in and having a sense of belonging doesn’t mean that being part of a group or movement, or particular family cluster is not going to feed your soul. I see it to mean that the more we love and enjoy ourselves and shine our unique light, without shifting and changing to fit in with those around us, the more joy and realness we can receive from any group we’re part of.
Inner critic and inner wisdom.
The voice that tells us we need to fit in, at all costs, is our inner critic, born at a time when we really needed them to protect us. The voice that encourages us to be present with people without changing who we are and being vulnerable, that’s our inner wisdom. Our inner knowing, that as an adult being who you are, is the most freeing experience.
One of the really powerful tools on my self love journey has been the ones that help me to become more aware of these two voices, and quicker at distinguishing between the two. When I listen to and acknowledge my inner critic, then I create space to hear and listen to my inner wisdom.
If we make it an inside job, then a sense of belonging can always be with us…
…whether we’re alone at the beach or in a room full of strangers. When we’re completely comfortable in our own skin, willing to show up authentically and are happy with who we are, then we’re going to be so much more present to the moment, and to all those in our life. More open to receiving the love all around us.