Where do I belong? This is a question that I’ve asked myself my ENTIRE life. Everywhere I’ve ever gone, anything I’ve ever done, there have been people who have told me or made me feel like I don’t belong, and for whatever reasons, rarely do people take the time to actually tell each other that they DO belong.
Seven or so years ago, when I was feeling desperately alone, I started a moms’ group that turned into a ministry for moms and I realized that I was not alone in these feelings of not belonging. All of us had received those same messages, sometimes straight out, and sometimes it was simply our perception because of our own insecurities. Either way, we began to tell each other that we belonged, and the garden of women who bloomed together was beautiful. I learned to get outside of my social anxiety and paralyzing insecurities to smile at and speak to people even in situations I just wanted to hide, because I figured there was a good chance they felt similar about whether or not they belonged, and that’s where the magic happened. That’s where I met my kindred spirits.
In my classroom, in my church, in my moms’ ministry, in my work with GLSEN, I have ALWAYS tried to make sure that people feel like they belong. I realized, though, that the more I’m questioning MY belonging, the less I focus on TELLING others that they belong and making them FEEL it, because how do I tell someone they belong if I’m not even sure I belong?
As a people-pleaser, I find it entertaining at best that my calling is to be in a place, to be doing work, where there are people on all sides who don’t want me there. Haha, the joke’s on all of us, because despite my insecurities, I was also created with an obstinate soul and blessed with people in all areas of my life who SEE me and are the most amazing of encouragers. When I’m around them, it feels like our souls, that must have been plucked from the same patch of universe where Light and Love bathe everything in rainbows, are reunited for a moment. It’s intense, and raw, and INCREDIBLY inspiring. To know there are people to whom I belong and to know that I am a part of THAT, that light and energy that is working tirelessly to change the world so that everyone feels like they belong, is maybe the most amazing thing to experience ever. And they remind me that I belong. They remind me of Brené Brownisms like “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just stand your sacred ground,” and “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,” and “You are imperfect and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
So, yes, I belong. You belong. I’ll work again on doing a better job about telling myself I belong so that I can make you feel like you belong. We will belong together because we DO belong together!