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  • Writer's pictureAmy Clark


Updated: Jan 10, 2020

When we think of the meaning of the word "belonging" what typically springs to mind is-- being accepted by something larger than us like family, community, clubs, teams, religious groups, friend groups, professional affiliations etc.

In her latest book Braving the Wilderness--The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, social scientist Brene Brown, best known for her research on courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy, debunks and challenges the concept of "belonging" as we know it! Her research shows that "belonging" is

.....not something we achieve or accomplish with others: it's something we carry in our heart. Once we belong thoroughly to ourselves and believe thoroughly in ourselves, true belonging is ours.

Belonging to ourselves means being called to stand alone--to brave the wilderness of uncertainty, vulnerability and criticism. And with the world feeling like a political and ideological combat zone, this is remarkably tough. We seem to have forgotten that even when we're utterly alone, we're connected to one another by something greater than group membership, politics, and ideology----that we're connected by love and the human spirit.

Given Brown's theory that our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance, we asked the women in our November Circles if they felt these findings resonated for them. Do they or could they belong to themselves first and could they see a clear pathway to teaching our children how to belong to themselves in a social media driven world?

The discussion provoked questions such as: How can you feel you belong.....

* if you're alone--no spouse or kids, job, religious group

* if you're grieving a loss

* amidst circumstances of separateness

* if you're in survival mode

* if you don't feel a spiritual connection

* if you're not happy---does one preclude the other?

Here are some of the suggestions and recommendations resulting from our discussions:

* No one on the "outside" should have any power over you or presume to know you better than you know yourself. Looking on the outside is a dead end to self belonging. People come and go and are more interested in themselves than in you. If you live your life to please others you'll never belong to your own life!

* Belonging to yourself is between you and you! We all must take the journey to inner knowing with everything in life

* You must learn to meditate, find quiet and stillness to find your inner voice. Trusting that voice will lead to belonging to yourself

* Letting go of fear, worry and the need to control outcomes will get you to a "spiritual connection" much quicker

* Listen to how your body feels (as taught by Abraham Hicks). The better you feel the more you can feel you belong to yourself and a higher power

* Feeling a connection with God or your higher source will get you to self belonging quickly

* Have empathy and remember to be kind to yourself

* Remember "belonging" happens from "being" not "doing"

* You can still experience negative emotions and belong to yourself

* Knowing who we are can lead us to self belonging-- which can lead us to a level of peace -and finally a level of happiness

* It's of paramount importance to teach and direct our children how to connect with themselves and their inner voices in order to put them on their path to self belonging. It's our responsibility to help them learn that "fitting in" and conforming to the unwritten rules of social media has the potential to disconnect rather than connect them to themselves and others (a whole other topic of discussion for another time)

In her book, Brown reminds us,

True belonging is not passive, It's not fitting in, pretending or selling out. It's a practice that requires you to be vulnerable, get comfortable, and learn to be present with people without sacrificing who we are. Belonging takes courage!

Do you feel like you belong to yourself? Are you someone who needs outside validation to feel you belong? Have you had successes in steering your kids to connecting to their own inner voices and belonging to themselves first before their peers? We'd so love to hear from you! Please add your thoughts and wisdom below!

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