By Nikki Nau
“Belonging is the innate human desire to be a part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
By Brene Brown, Gifts of Imperfection
Compassion, Kindness, and Love for oneself
Acceptance of self may be one of the most significant challenges we all face. Acceptance that is free of pride, vanity, and illusion allows us to accept all our mistakes. Recognizing and working with our imperfections frees us from shame and regret. Accepting oneself includes paying attention to one’s needs, being kind to oneself, and loving unconditionally. Self-acceptance does not hinge on what we say or do, or how we look, or who we know; it is only about being who we are.
Forgive Your Imperfections
In the search for true belonging, you must first authentically belong to yourself. Belonging to yourself means loving yourself even when you make mistakes. Mistakes are normal and part of our growth as whole human beings (mind, body, and soul). Understanding this essential process of making mistakes, learning, and moving forward is not selfish. Thomas Merton, a 20th Century Trappist monk, reveals that our mistakes are often for the benefit of others.
“It is by making mistakes that we gain experience, not only for ourselves but for others. And though our experience prevents neither ourselves nor others from making the same mistake many times, the repeated experience still has a positive value”.
-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island
Living and learning are part of our daily experience. When you accept that making mistakes helps you learn and helps others learn, you can more easily forgive yourself and move forward.
“You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great”.
by Maya Angelou
Once you accept yourself, be brave enough to be yourself. Confidence in who we are draws deep into our wells of courage. The messages of the world often beat us down and make us question ourselves. Often we are inspired to go against the comfort of the status quo because we are awake and aware of our inner spirit. This can put us in a vulnerable place. While vulnerability may elicit thoughts of weakness, the reality is that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic is a reflection of our courage. Being who we really are is our destiny and our calling in this life. Denying this can sidetrack us along the way. Being vulnerable enough to ask for and accept help, and admit when you are wrong helps you expand into the full awareness of who you are meant to be.
It is not always comfortable to be who you are. Sometimes you have to speak up when it is uncomfortable, and sometimes you have to deeply listen when you really want to scream at someone! Going deep within oneself while residing in courage and strength, love and compassion are challenging and worth the struggle. As Maya Angelou says, “The reward is great!” We have to push ourselves, take the next step, and trust that the reward is great even though we cannot even begin to imagine how great it is.
Belonging Is Not About Fitting In
Fitting in is about being like everyone else. In contrast, being authentic and uniquely you are gifts to yourself and everyone around you. Being who you are allows you to engage in meaningful relationships instead of shallow ones. Being yourself means you just show up and be you. It helps to understand that comments from others are most likely reflections of their inner struggles and not judgments about you. And if you do sense judgment, you always have the option to inquire deeper and ask for more information. You also have the opportunity to free yourself from owning judgment – it’s not about you, it’s about another person’s perspective.
Miguel Ruiz’s wise words from the book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom explains:
“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”
Being Alone is Not Loneliness
When we know ourselves, and we can love ourselves, then we are comfortable with being alone. Being alone in a quiet space helps us to connect with the divine within us and connecting with our source gives us our highest sense of belonging. Time for quiet contemplation is essential in our journey to understand and love ourselves. In silence, we can more clearly hear the quiet voice of the divine and the needs of our soul.
Self-acceptance is about being guided by the love within yourself. It is about recognizing yourself, who you are and all of your circumstances – good or bad- and working with the divine source to move through daily life. In this process of intentionally surrendering to the highest power of Love, you begin to recognize the love given to you at every moment of your life. This love is the same love you have permission to give yourself – unconditional and infinite – and the same love you can give to others.
Healthy Boundaries Stated with Love
When we love ourselves, we experience the freedom to establish healthy boundaries with love. First, we have to understand our own needs clearly. Then we state our needs with kindness and love. Of course, we need to honor the boundaries we set and stick to them in order to authentically respect ourselves. These are essential steps in developing healthy relationships. We create healthy boundaries not to punish others but to honor ourselves, to be honest about our abilities, and to respect those we love by communicating our needs.
In a loving relationship, we honor each other’s needs and feel honored when someone feels comfortable enough to voice their needs. In unbalanced relationships, setting boundaries is imperative for the survival of both people. Setting boundaries honors the innate dignity of every human being. Someone who violates these boundaries without respect towards you may be a toxic entity in your life. Stating boundaries helps to identify what needs to be weeded out of your daily existence or gives clarity on what you can release. Setting parameters also offers you the opportunity to interact with others with more compassion and empathy.
Brene Brown reflects on her research around true belonging in Braving the Wilderness:
“Participants who put true belonging into practice talked openly about their boundaries. … The clearer and more respected the boundaries, the higher the level of empathy and compassion for others. Fewer clear boundaries, less openness. It’s hard to stay kind-hearted when you feel people are taking advantage of you or threatening you”.
Be In Community
We, in this human family, are all connected whether we are aware of it, or not, and we belong with each other in community. We are made to connect with each other. A community can be your family or a best friend; it can be your office co-workers or your book study group. And we often overlook the broader community of nature in which we inherently belong. Our belonging expands beyond our families, friends, and communities into the larger world of all of humanity and all of nature. Spending time in the natural world is a beautiful place to remember our essential connections and allows us to welcome peace and strength. Remember your crucial relationships in this life: You always belong to yourself, to the Divine, to nature, and to the human family.
Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Each of us is invited to participate in creating the beloved community envisioned by the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It begins with loving and accepting ourselves and then being authentic and loving in our relationships with others. Intentionally connecting with your soul and bringing forth the gifts of your genuine being are qualitative changes we can all make. Moving into the world in this way creates a ripple of love and compassion that begins to change the lives of others.
The best way to do this is to be who you are. There is no need to make excuses or hide our true selves. When we are comfortable with ourselves, we are naturally drawn to communities that support and accept us. Being alone in a quiet soul space allows us to hear the gentle voice of the divine and the forward calling of our lives.
We are made to experience joy and laughter, and these can indeed be the best medicine for us. Connecting with others and doing fun stuff can be one of the best healing choices we make in our lives. Creating and supporting a beloved community comes with hard work and joyful playtime. Embrace the challenges of the tasks at hand and enjoy the rewards of the joy and laughter that follow.
Ask Questions and Listen Deeply
“I am determined to practice deep listening. I am determined to practice loving speech.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart
A healthy culture claims all our identities. Belonging does not mean identical. The real beauty of true belonging is when you are accepted even when you have a different opinion than others in the group. In our current age of bi-partisan, wall building, and finger pointing, engaging in civil discussions that maintain respect, love, and deep listening even through disagreements encourages deep healing and transformation. Instead of needing to have the last word and attempt to convince others, ask questions and sincerely try to understand someone else’s perspective. If you accept yourself, and you are authentically comfortable with who you are, your confidence allows you the freedom to hear other’s ideas without needing to own or resist them.
True belonging Begins Within
True belonging begins within you. You must accept and belong to yourself first. Then, you can recognize you belong to the divine within you, to your fellow human family, and to the natural world that sustains you. True belonging is part of the journey to whole healing. I invite you to open your mind and spirit to this love of self and to bring this love into the communities you belong. You are the light in this world; please let yourself shine.