“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
Brene’ Brown

Most of us want to belong. We want to be accepted, liked, and admired. Sometimes we feel that the only way to get this external validation is to silence an important part of ourselves in order to fit in.

For me, this drive to belong is a paradox. I want to be authentic and act with integrity and I also want to be part of the team. I want to stand for my beliefs and convictions and I also notice times in which I care more about pleasing others and keeping the peace

In her 2017 book, Braving the Wilderness Dr. Brene’ Brown provides a definition of true belonging as: “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”.

Brown dedicates a chapter to each of four practices that help us achieve this definition of true belonging:

People are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In. People who have the strongest sense of true belonging avoid the trap of labeling, feeling superior to, and dehumanize groups of strangers. Instead, they form their opinions based on their actual, in-person, up-close experiences. They stay focused on trying to understand the motives and interests of people in their lives, avoiding larger narratives about who is good or bad, friend or foe.

Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil. Being in conversation with someone who seemed to believe “what I think matters more than the truth” is infuriating! Civility in the face of BS means claiming one’s own identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process. It’s about taking on BS by disagreeing without being disrespectful.

Hold Hands. With Strangers. When we forget that those who annoy or anger us are also humans with whom we have an inextricable connection, it’s easy to engage in their BS and resent them. To avoid this, Brown recommends putting yourself in places where we experience joy and pain with strangers like concerts, sporting events, and worship.

Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart. In order to abandon the familiar security of our own ideological bunkers, we need clarity, courage, and integrity (strong back). We need compassion, curiosity, and vulnerability (soft front). And we need to embrace the paradoxes of being alive (wild heart), including feeling tough and tender, loving and livid, fearful and brave.

Do you have a practice that helps you achieve true belonging?

Photo Credit: Marko Knuutila

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