Noun: Belonging - An infinity for a place or situation.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this word recently. A sense of belonging is something that I’ve always desperately craved but rarely felt. Growing up as a nerdy gay kid in a small town, I never really felt like I fit anywhere. I was never one of the boys, but I wasn’t one of the girls either. My friends and I were often referred to as, the girls and Daniel, sometimes simply, the girls. There was never any malice intended. That’s just how it was. I was either separate or invisible.
To complicate things further, I’ve never felt comfortable in large groups. At a party, unless I’m inebriated, I’m much more at home in the corner with a fellow outsider discussing books or some 90s cult sci-fi TV series. I’ve always been extremely sensitive and had a strong sense of empathy. A psychic once told me I was an empath, and even though I’m fairly certain they were a fraud, I believed them. I get overwhelmed in large crowds. It’s emotionally exhausting, and as soon as someone says something mean or ill-willed towards another person or group, I instantly disengage and put up a wall. Sadly, more often than not, this is the case. For this reason, I function better in small trusted groups.
“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.” ― Brené Brown
Throughout my life, I’ve searched for belonging through various means; relationships, spirituality, the queer community, writing, my work. But I never found the connection I desired. It wasn’t until I moved to the other end of the world, that I realised I couldn’t belong anywhere until I truly belonged to myself. I was reminded of this epiphany recently when I read Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. It reaffirmed that I would never find a sense of connection through conformity. We can’t truly belong until we find the courage to stand alone and be ourselves. It’s only then, that we will find our place in the world. This book was exactly what I needed and it inspired me to write this piece. Every time I read Brené Brown or listen to one of her talks, I feel so much lighter, and find myself standing a little straighter in self-assurance. In Braving the Wilderness, she examines true belonging. Through research and personal accounts, she encourages practices and thought processes that help us to be kinder to ourselves and to others. Turning on the news or even just scrolling through social media can be quite overwhelming at the moment. If like me, you're feeling bogged down by all the divisive debate and political rhetoric, this book is for you. It will give you the courage to brave the wilderness, and the tools to understand those around you better, creating stronger connections. We don’t all have to share the same opinions, but we do need to learn to coexist better.
“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” – Brené Brown
I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum. Fuck people-pleasing! I will always strive to be kind and mindful of those around me. But I will no longer bend to fit in or please others. Kindness is a fundamental part of me. When you’ve seen the darkest corners of this world and overcome the unthinkable, you understand the importance of empathy. It can literally save lives. Never underestimate the power of small acts of kindness.
For the first time in my life, I can clearly see all of the places I belong. I belong with my partner. He is my loving, supportive, unshakable rock. I have never known a love truer than his. When the world gets ugly, I can always count on him to be there. I belong with my family. I am eternally grateful for the supportive, understanding, funny, beautiful weirdos I’ve been born into. They taught me to roll with the punches and laugh through the pain. There’s no greater healer than humour. They are everything to me, my blood, my best friends, my kin. I belong with the small group of trusted friends that I’ve cultivated over the years. They get me. They understand me, even when I’m not at my best. They know who they are. I belong to this world. I’m just as much a part of it as anyone else, and I owe it to myself to stand up and be counted.
Most importantly, I belong to myself. I know who I am and what I stand for. My days of being a chameleon and anxiously trying to blend in are over. This scares some people. There will always be those who prefer conformity. Your individuality and courage will intimidate them. But that’s not your problem. That is a reflection of their fear and insecurity. Don’t let it hold you back. Be bold. Be you. Stand up and stand out. Let that freak flag fly. Belong.
“You are only free when you realize you belong no place- you belong every place- no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great." - Maya Angelou.