“Belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are;
it requires us to be who we are.”
– Brené Brown
Growing up I always felt different. Different, as in I’m not sure I belonged or where I belonged. Even to this day, I jokingly tell my parents, “are you sure I wasn’t switched at birth or adopted?” They laugh and agree but fully know I am their daughter because I was born in their house under a mango tree.
In Karen Waldron’s book, The Beauty of Different, she celebrates the uniqueness of individuals and presents their imperfections through stories and photographs. I love this idea. I try to make a point of always of looking for the good in people even if it’s just one good thing. Sometimes it’s challenging, but I usually manage. I don’t actually have the book but I have the iBook copy (my first – yay!…I know what took me so long, right?) so I am not actually sure what the book feels like in my hands. She writes with ease as if she is sharing coffee together with a good friend. I only wish I wrote this book first.
In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown, writes about love and belonging which is a topic I find completely fascinating. One would think that belonging is instinctive and natural especially within a family, but it isn’t always the case. She compares belonging and fitting in. I now realize they are not the same thing. She defines belonging as “the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us” while fitting in is actually “one of the greatest barriers to belonging.” When she presents the topic to eighth graders, they clearly understand and express the differences.
Belonging is being somewhere where you want to be and they want you.
Fitting in is being somewhere where you really want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.”
“Belonging is being accepted for you.
Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.”
In a world where conformity plays a huge role in schools, in social circles and cultures, it’s hard to know when it’s okay to stand out or “dance to the beat of our own drum.” Naturally, there are boundaries and of course, no one should ever get hurt physically, emotionally or psychologically for being different. Belonging is learning to be authentic and genuine which is not the same as changing who you are to fit in.
Authenticity is a daily practice.
Choosing authenticity means:
cultivating the COURAGE to be emotionally honest, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the COMPASSION that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle and connected to each other through a loving and resilient human spirit; nurturing the CONNECTION and sense of belonging that can only happen when we let go of what we are supposed to be and embrace who we are.
Authenticity demands WHOLEHEARTED living and loving – even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it.
Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite GRACE, JOY and GRATITUDE into our lives.
– Brené Brown
Some days trying to find my identity is no easy task. And other days I wonder if I really belong in a city like Berlin. I’m still not certain but last month, we went to the annual BetaPitch Berlin 2015 which included a diverse group of people trying to make their mark in the startup world. The room was filled with young, energetic minds who were courageous enough to share their passion. I thought it was exciting, uplifting and hope that I learned enough from them to know that sometimes it’s okay to be vulnerable and afraid. Sometimes, just showing up is enough. Because guess what? I made a new friend.
She was wearing white pumps when I met her on the stairwell. She is different. Like me.