Antonyms: aloofness, distancing, alienation, antipathy, coolness, opposition
Dr. Brené Brown has said, “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”
At 46, I no longer know how to bend my personality to be what others want me to be. I am energized by other people who lower the facade and show their authentic selves. People who are wholeheartedly and unapologetically themselves. Even when…maybe especially when…they are different than me.
Still there are days that I try like hell to belong. But there are other, better days. Days like the one this past Spring, where I woke up, looked in the mirror and said “It’s enough. I free myself from trying to belong here.”
The thing is…I know what it means to deeply belong. I belong to my people. To my sister, my nephews and nieces, my best friends, the writing community I am a part of, the circle of leaders that I am in relationship with. And first and foremost, I belong to myself.
In these groups I am expected…required…to be myself. Nothing more. No one asks me to be someone I’m not. They are not surprised when I am introverted and need quiet. They don’t raise an eyebrow when I laugh so hard that I snort. They are never shocked when something simple (a song, a memory, a sunset) makes me cry. They call me to be better when I’m less than my best self. they ask more of me when I get stuck in neutral. But no one is going to ask me to be someone I am not or try to shame me for disappointing them by just being me.
- included, a part of something bigger
- validated for who you are, not for what you do or deliver
- like being listened to all the way to the end of your sentence
- like a hug that lasts just an extra second to make sure you know you are so very welcome in this space
I don’t always get this right. Lord knows I have failed at times to make people feel safe and valued for who they are. I know that my intensity has sometimes made others feel that I want them to be someone they are not.*
I have also been made to feel this way. And it is in those times that I am recommit to the core value of Belonging.
Belonging brings out the very best in each of us. It gives every person a voice and a seat at the table. It lowers the walls and the hierarchies that are constructed to keep us apart or at a distance. Belonging says “Me too” or “I’m so glad you survived” and “I’ve never met anyone like you.”
One of the things I say to my team members when they leave for new opportunities (or more recently when I resigned) is, “Once you are one of mine, I am very hard to get rid of.” This is one way of telling those that I care about in a professional environment that they will always have a place of belonging with me.
I do not take for granted how fortunate I am to have places and people who demonstrate Belonging in my life. I am so very grateful. So much so that I want to open up more spaces of belonging for others to bring their whole selves to life, work, and community.
So if no one has said this to you lately, there is only ever going to be one you!
We need you.
You belong here.
*Note: If you have ever been made to feel you don’t belong by me, I’d be open to a conversation about it.