What does "belonging" mean to you?
The dictionary defines it as being a member or part of a particular group, organization, or class.
As children, our first desire is to feel a sense of belonging within our families, yet years of coaching reveals this is often not the case.
According to Brené Brown in Braving the Wilderness, not belonging in our families is one of the most dangerous hurts because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth. She very candidly talks about how her strong sense of not belonging developed for her and how it has affected her life, both good and not so good.
And that can happen even within generally loving families.
As children, our tender selves are easily molded and bruised. Out in the world of school and sports and ballet or piano lessons, belonging is often performance-based. Or rooted in the clothes we wear.
Other children, often trying to carve out their own sense of belonging, can be brutal, intentionally or unintentionally. The child who can go home to a sanctuary where they are comfortable in their sense of belonging is more likely to develop resilience.
The child who has no such sanctuary (or doubts that sanctuary) will seek solace in other ways:
1. They will seek relief by numbing it and/or inflicting it on others.
2. They will deny their pain which allows it to fester, ensuring that it infects those around them and gets passed down to their own children someday.
3. OR they will find the courage to own the pain and develop empathy and compassion towards themselves and others which gives them a unique ability to spot and be sensitive to hurt in the world.
(List paraphrased from Braving the Wilderness)
I certainly tried the first two which backfired, increasing the pain and the sense of not belonging.
Seeking my people became a quest of epic proportions and led to a weird combination of doing everything I could to fit in punctuated with some wild breakouts.
It made me a lonely stranger even to myself. Like Dr. Brown, it also led to studying people intensely and to my career choice. Studying people is fascinating. The pitfall is that you can know all about them, perhaps more than they know about themselves, but lose yourself in the process.
And that's the real seat of truth when it comes to being able to rest within a sense of belonging - it begins and ends with knowing that you belong to yourself. That is your compass and comforter. And it is enough no matter what life and the world may hand you.
Anne Wade is the founder and publisher of The Soulmate Dance. She is a writer, educator, life coach, and lifelong student of soulmate relationships, devoted to expanding our understanding of all types of soulmate relationships and experiences.