I’ve been petrified of not belonging. I will avoid feeling on the outside at all costs, and yet there I often find myself – outside. Close but not close enough.  Good but not good enough.  Wanting to be seen for who I am but masquerading as whatever people want me in order to fit in.

I don’t know one person who doesn’t feel this way.

Here is one thing that unites us all: a great desire to belong, to be seen and understood. To find our tribe that “gets us” and we “get” them.

What’s the secret, then?  How does one fit in?

You don’t. That’s the secret.

The courage to belong…. but belong nowhere

A few months ago, I read Brene Brown’s new book, “Braving the Wilderness”.  It deeply impacted me.  She quotes Maya Angelou in her book, “You are only free when you realize you belong to no place, you belong to every place, no place at all.  The price is high, the reward is great.”

I didn’t like that quote at all. For years I’ve been teaching resilience to students with the message that “we are one another’s courage”. I’ve seen courage rise in students when they felt the support and compassion of their classmates. The idea of standing alone completely went against what was proven to me time and time again: when we belong, we become. When we belong, we are resilient. The only reason I didn’t brush the quote aside with a scoff was because Maya said it. When Maya talks, I listen, but this time I was going to wrestle with her on this one. What I discovered has given me more freedom than I have ever experienced.

I discovered that I belong.

That’s it. I just belong. No one gets to dictate whether I belong or not. I just do. Because I belong, I belong anywhere I go. I can travel the world to different countries and enter the home of someone who speaks a completely different language and belong. I can mingle with the “outsider”, even “the enemy” and still belong. I can have conflict with someone and still come out knowing I belong. Someone can spit in my face, push me, and call me all kinds of profanities and it wouldn’t change anything. I belong.

Because I belong, I can be courageous.

Because I belong, it means I can extend a hand of belonging to anyone.

Anyone.

Why? Because they are not the source of where my belonging comes from anymore. Someone’s acceptance or rejection of me does not dictate whether I belong or not, or whether I welcome them into my world or not.

I love what Brene Brown says in the book, “If you go around looking for where you don’t belong, you will always find it. Stop looking for evidence in others that you are not enough.” 

So then the opposite is true as well: if you go around just assuming you belong, it could possibly change everything for you. You may actually experience for the first time what belonging actually feels like.

Belonging isn’t something you accomplish, it’s something you already have. Imagine you faced the world with this perspective? The truth is, true belonging is spiritual. It’s coming to the realization that you belong to God. You are sacred.  This is why when you present anything but your authentic self, it feels toxic. It is your birthright as a child of God to be radically you.

This is where you will feel life flowing through your veins again.