I was inspired to sit down and write about what I think when I think:
The first thing that comes to mind is Church. I'm not exactly sure why, I didn't grow up involved with a church and I don't have a church community now as an adult. I think it has to do with the simplicity that when you belong to a church you have a built in set of people that you in theory have a lot in common with like values, political ideals, and goals - both personally and globally.
But lets slow down and look more closely at one word: BELONG.
According to Brene Brown in Atlas of the heart belonging can be defined as: "the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness" (pg.156-157).
"True belonging doesn't require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are."
"Believing in and belonging to yourself" is what REALLY stands out for me. It hits me right in the chest and I ask myself: Have you ever had that? Where did you experience that? How do I cultivate that?!
The answers are probably not that surprising: 1) Yes - fleetingly. 2) With the special people in my life. 3) MORE time with my SPECIAL PEOPLE!
Let's a look at fleetingly: for most of my life I felt on the outside - looking in at everyone else just "getting it" and I had a feeling that I should be also but I didn't - and I also didn't really want to be where they were. I could see the pain that so many people were experiencing just trying to "fit in." I didn't want that, but I DID want to Fit In. Be Part Of. BELONG.
So I kept looking. I had friends from all walks of life. In highschool I had friends that were "jocks," "geeks," "nerds," "preppy," "religious," "goth," and "aggies." I just liked people - well some people. I didn't care what they were into, or how they dressed. I only cared if they were kind, compassionate, and in general gave a shit about me and those around us. I would then return the favor. Et voila! Friendships!
But there was still something missing. I never really divulged my true deep authentic self - not until much later in life. And let me tell you - it was quite the emotional rollercoaster, both finding my authentic self AND those that loved and accepted me for it.
It's strange to think that now, as a 39 yr old woman (who recently found out she's autistic!), I have found a community - actually more than one! I have a community with my family - my husband, my children, my sister, my mother, my sister and brother in law and their baby girl, and my husbands extended family (Hi Karen!). I have my framily (friends that are like family) - my best friends, my clients, and other close colleges. Then I have my coaching community - the loving and supportive group of coaches that I have been blessed to know, learn from, and grow with.
With all of these people I am me. All of me. All of the time. I do not feel like I have to change or bend or adjust who I am or how I feel when I am with them. Happy? Sing it! Sad? Cry it out girl. Blah? Let's chill.
And I bet a few of you out there are wondering "yeah, but HOW DID YOU GET THERE?"
It started with ME. I got up close and personal with myself, faced my "demons," and tried new things. Specifically, I moved to a national park by myself at the hight of my social anxiety. I lived in an 8x10ft canvas tent with a complete stranger. Started a job I had never done before with no one I knew in a place I had only visited once. It was terrifying. I was lonely. And I tried new things. I got up the nerve to talk to my co-workers, learned how to play dominos and climb granite walls. Spent time with just me and my camera (and this was before digital was accessible for everyone). I started journaling, and crocheting, and made an attempted to hand sew a quilt...not a success!
You might be asking if I'm still connected with the friends I made there - and the simply answer is yes. The long answer is yes, but only me. I made friends with myself. I learned what I liked and didn't like and met people from all around the world. I experienced things I never would have otherwise. Most certainly not the true me, my authentic me, the unmasked me.
I then took this person back into the "real world" and started making choices to try things. See what I liked and what I didn't. I made new choices from those experiences. I found me and I keep finding me.
I am at the center of all of my connections within my communities - as you are in yours.
I can't know where I belong until I fully belong to myself! Everywhere I go I "fit-in" because I always belong with myself. I then make the decisions on how much time I spend in spaces: do I like this? Does this feel good? If the answer is yes, then I've found a community and I can make meaningful connections with those around me.
Do you belong to yourself? Have you found your authentic self?
Are you a woman (cis or trans) and want to talk more about Community and Connections?
Join Diane Wilde and myself March 28th for a Live Zoom Event!
Brown, Brene. "Atlas of the heart." 2021