Updated: Sep 14, 2020
“Belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are, it requires us to be who we are.” – Brené Brown
A sense of belonging is intrinsically connected to a person’s level of happiness. To truly belong means to have relationships or a community which completely and unconditionally accept you for the person you are, flaws and all. The closer we can get to connections like these, the more fulfilled and content we are likely to feel.
Belonging can be disguised, sneakily, cleverly, by the notion of ‘fitting in’. We find a group we want to be a part of, and then we find ways of editing ourselves to be accepted by it. Of course we can find support, guidance, fun, and love in these relationships, and we build a sense of security and comfort from knowing we have found ‘our tribe’ of like-minded people.
But this way of connecting with people has a dark side. When we try to 'fit in', we show up as the person we want others to see rather than the person we truly are, authentically. We censor our words, alter our appearance, downplay aspects of our personalities, exaggerate others, and do whatever else we need to in order to really feel part of the group. This often happens in subtle ways that we don’t even consciously notice. So the sense of ‘acceptance’ you get from those you love is of the person you are being rather than the person you are.
This means that not only do the connections feel more shallow and not as wholly fulfilling, but that we are telling ourselves, over and over again, that who we really are is not enough. So we live feeling like something isn’t quite right, feeling anxious, uncomfortable in our own skin, and, often, lost. And even though we are surrounded by people, we can feel utterly alone.
But there is something you can do to change this: show up as often as you can, as boldly as you can, as who you really are. There will be people who aren’t able to accept you like this, or who no longer feel like they connect with you, but the fact is that these are not your people. And the relationships you had, or could have had, would be based on you being someone who isn’t you.
But the people that stay, the people that surround you, that love you, they will give you a sense of belonging that is real and lasting, and don’t require you to mould yourself to fit in.