“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance”Brené Brown
I believe that a sense of belonging is single handedly the purest and deepest thing down to our core that we as individuals seek out in this life. Of course we seek love and happiness and to accomplish our dreams, but in the deepest portions of ourselves we want nothing more than a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging to me does not necessarily mean to feel accepted by everyone around nor do I think it means that we feel we fit into every situation we are in. To me a sense of belonging is to feel so at peace and at home within ourselves that we can trust there is a place for us in this world and at every step along our journey.
There have been a few times in my life where I have struggled with this sense of belonging, both entirely different situations. The first time I found myself really exploring what this meant was when I was rowing. In rowing we did these things called seat racing. Seat racing was meant to determine who would be the quickest and best fit for a seat in a boat. Seat racing was typically done in boats called “fours”. Two people who were going to battle it out got in opposite fours and raced typically for a predetermined time. After the time was up they switched boats and raced again, both times seeing who made the boats move faster. The individual that made the boat move the farthest in the alloted time and run the smoothest won the seat race and would be consequently put into the seat they were racing for. As much as seat racing was a physical test, it was a mental test just the same. I often found myself fall under the mental pressure during seat races, psyching myself out. One day my coach came to me after I lost one of my seat races and said something that I don’t think I will ever forget: “You have to trust that you belong in that race. If you do not cannot trust that you belong in the race, then you have lost before it even started.”
This message resonated with me deeply, through my entire career of rowing and even in life now. Going into a race, social situation, or any other type of event feeling like you don’t belong will cause the entire experience to be ruined. Wherever you are, you have to know that you belong there and you wouldn’t be there if you did not. Sitting at the start of a race and trusting that I belonged in that seat, in that boat, and in that race made instrumental differences in the way I competed. I wasn’t just someone who ended up there by a fluke, I worked hard to get myself into that seat and to be competing in that race.
Lately I have been struggling a little with a sense of belonging but it’s much different here. I love where I am right now and I know this is exactly the place I should. The sense of belonging i’m struggling with comes more from myself. In this entirely new space with entirely new individuals I have to find people that I can share all the pieces of myself with, all over again. It feels more complicated than just me belonging with my friends. I am developing new relationships with people every single day, people I have for the most part, never met before. Friends I had at home who I knew I could do this with are still there, but I also need to find those friends here. I feel like I have found so many of them already, but I have to be willing to share all these pieces of myself with them authentically to create this sense of belonging. In this way, the sense of belonging does not come from me feeling like I can fit in, it comes from me trusting that these are the people I can be my honest self around. There are so many people here who I feel like I can be that around that it almost feels scary sometimes. Scary in a good way, I am beginning to realize that these people right here in this small town will be some of my lifelong friends.
In both situations it really is about trusting that you belong. Trusting that you belong right where you are, if you did not, you wouldn’t be there. It’s also about trusting deeply within yourself that not only do you belong right where you are, but also that you belong there as your purest and most authentic self. Both of these go hand in hand, knowing you belong somewhere only gets you so far, you must also know that you do not need to change yourself to belong in that space. It doesn’t matter where this may be or what you are doing, but you were meant to be there with each and every piece of yourself.