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There is a thread that binds us all, a deep yearning and longing to belong. A sense of belonging resonates deep inside all of us. In the mainstream world, we can belong with family or a partner, community and country. However many feel that they have never belonged and harbor the fear that they never will.
We often look to others to invite us in from the cold exile of loneliness and aloneness. When we feel alone, it means that we are still connected to ourself and often enjoy time and space alone. Alone time gives us alot of freedom to discover who we really are and do what we enjoy. However when we suffer from loneliness, it means we have not only lost touch with others but have lost ourselves. We sometimes feel so far from ourselves that the very thing we want so badly, is the one thing that we cannot step into, so we often don’t hear or believe an invitation to belong when it comes.
The feeling of loneliness can become a core, chronic experience and life edge. Seeing a therapist or psychologist can often help us feel a bit more connected to ourselves and then be supported to reach out to a few more people. We want to join and become part of something, but can’t quite do it because we feel fearful, scared, isolated, insecure and apprehensive and we lose our confidence and give up. We can sometimes sense that we are different and feel that no-one understands us. The feelings can manifest from a young age or from mainstream values from parents or school, work and community or from being bullied. All these experiences tell you that you ‘do not fit in.’ eg. You may not like sports but are happier reading or painting or you may be more of a ‘geek.’ You may be a ‘dreamer’ and get told to ‘get a life.’ This results in making us feel not accepted even more.
It can also be because of how we feel we look and that we don’t look like the models in magazines or adverts. It can come from belonging to a different race or religion, or economic circumstances or having suffered from sexual abuse and trauma.
The experience is that of a felt sense of ‘there is something wrong with me or people don’t like me.’ We feel cast out and alone. It can cause anxiety, depression and addiction.
“There is no house like the house of belonging.” David Whyte
Feeling like we don’t belong brings terrible loneliness. We all need a circle of friends where we can truly be ourselves with, can be supported and give support, feel accepted and accept back. Feeling that we belong is a basic human need. We all want to feel at home but we tend to externalize it. We long to feel accepted and included by others but we also need to look at how we don’t accept ourselves.
We often don’t realise that we have abandoned ourselves so deeply and thoroughly that we unconsciously abandon all others. Unable to really know ourselves, psychologically and spiritually we turn away from others while at the same time, lament their and our inability to connect. We search endlessly for “our tribe,” dreaming of meeting people who we can feel a connection with and who will understand who we are and accept us. And it is indeed true that many people suffer from not meeting their ‘kind of people’/group to belong to.
“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.” Brené Brown
Yet our belonging starts with us. We can belong to a place or to Nature, the wind or sound of the waves crashing on the shore. We can belong to the soft voice that whispers to us inside and tells us who we really are and who we can become. We can belong and connect to ourselves and then we will belong and connect to others.
“Communities can be magical places, but the magic comes from us, not to us.” Hugh Mackay
When we belong to ourselves, life becomes deliciously simple. We feel at home wherever we happen to be and with whoever we meet.
“Whoever I meet is just an old friend I forgot” His Holiness, the Dalai Lama
Finding Your Tribe
If we are a stranger to ourselves, everyone we meet will feel like a stranger. When we truly have kindness and friendship to ourselves, everyone we meet will feel like a friend. Coming home to ourselves is an internal journey full of wandering down long circular paths that often lead us back to where we started, or at least it feels that way. Yet, learning to trust ourselves and listen to our deep intuition, even as we feel we are a failure and criticize ourself, we will begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Not only to just fit in, but to be truly who we are, trusting that we will find ‘our tribe.’ Belonging is not the same as fitting in. It is being who we are and accepting ourselves, not trying to make ourself into who we think we should be, so other people will think we belong with them. When you try to fit in, it never really works and you and the others know it. It’s like staying in a hotel and pretending that its home. Fitting in is about trying to adapt to a world that’s not your own and so you never feel like you belong there. You don’t because you are pretending to be someone you are not.
“The strangest feeling is to fit in nowhere, but belong everywhere” Sheila Corneil
So how do you find your people, your tribe? You start by not pleasing everyone else but finding what makes you happy. What sort of people do you enjoy hanging out with? If a group of people like loud rock music, surfing and drinking and you like painting, writing, meditation and living a healthy lifestyle, you’re not going to belong. This is actually a good thing!
So, at the same time, not belonging can have a tremendous amount of freedom. It means that we may find a way of forging our own path in the world as we find who we are and our own place. Then we can then invite other like minded souls into our space.
“Some of us aren’t meant to belong. Some of us have to turn the world upside down and shake the hell out of it until we make our own place in it.” Elizabeth Lowell
Being different from the pack, even though it can be painful at times, is in fact the very thing that can transform us.