For years now I've been spending a lot of my recreational time reading inspirational books, listening to motivational podcasts and basically consuming every thought provoking piece of media I come across. Self awareness and self improvement have always been an interest area.
A common theme that is popping up lately is the concept of belonging. Researcher and author Brené Brown has built an entire career around researching belonging and vulnerability. She has shared her findings through her many books, which are all fabulous by the way. I'd highly recommend picking up one of them if you're interested in the topic.
In her book Daring Greatly she says, "“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Read that again.
I understand this to mean that we will never achieve a full sense of belonging if never fully accept ourselves.
It's a powerful statement.
I've always looked at belonging as being more related to fitting in. I fit in or belong with my family, my friends, my community - the place where I was born and raised as well as the place I now call home. It is in these places and with these people that I feel accepted. Therefore, I belong. Right?
Brené's statement indicates there's a deeper layer to belonging. Not everyone experiences belonging or fitting in, even with family, friends and community. Sometimes this feeling comes and goes. One day you fit in, another you don't. So how do we balance that, or how do we achieve a sense of belonging when we don't attach it to a group of people?
The question that begs to be asked then is:
In our quest for belonging, do we alter our behaviour (aka our true selves) to achieve acceptance or to return to it? Do we hide our imperfect selves in order to fit in? I think the answer is most definitely, YES! And in doing so, we lose a part, or hide a part of our true self.
The need to be part of a group (part of a tribe), is primal to human beings. In the beginning we could not survive on our own. Tribal members worked together to provide and protect. It is in our nature as humans to need this connection with others..... but to what extent are we willing to forfeit our true selves to do so?
Self-acceptance and self-compassion are becoming more and more rare in today's world. In many ways we are moving away from authenticity and towards uniformity. We live in a society that is hyper focused on judgment and comparison.
Practically everyone today is walking around holding a catalysis for comparison in their hands - a cellphone. We are chained to those things. While there are many benefits to technology, we must also be aware of how much it is shaping behaviour, and consequently society as a whole. Every time you look at an Instagram post or a friend's Facebook feed, there are triggers of comparison and judgment firing in your brain, whether you are aware of them or not. We are in a constant state of determining whether or not we measure up.
How do you think that is affecting self-worth? We can say we won't let it bother us, but is that really true? Are you monitoring your thoughts as you scroll through feed after feed on your phone. Of course not. In fact, social media has become the new TV. It is now the new way to numb the mind...... but is your mind really being numbed?
Where will all this numbing and judgement and comparison lead to? Why am I even wondering? I like pondering these things I suppose.
I have so many questions? LOL.
Yesterday, I was driving down a rural road in Norway listening to a podcast while heading to an appointment. It was mid morning so there was very little traffic. I was driving down this straight stretch when I happened to notice a group of trees all in a row. One, and only one of those trees, had a significant number of birds nests in it. I'm sure I must have seen a similar sight somewhere at some other time, but yesterday I noticed it.
It struck me enough to stop and take a picture of it. I've been pondering on it ever since. What happens when I ponder, you might ask? I write to figure out why I'm pondering. So here I am :-)
I love my husband dearly, and I love living life here in Norway with him. However, I do feel isolated at times. I don't mean lonely. I mean isolated.
He travels quite a lot, so I'm here on my own for long stretches, usually pretty frequently. I'm not complaining. I actually enjoy spending time on my own as much as I like spending time with him, and others. I am never bored. In fact, quite the opposite. I get to explore more of myself and my own personal interests when I'm alone, and I believe that's a good thing.
Here in Norway it feels like I've made my nest close to others, but perhaps in a different tree. I might be in close proximity to others, but I'm not close to them.
Part of the reason for this is definitely the language barrier. I have tried my best with Norwegian, but it's not going well. Language learning is very difficult for me, and even though it's not an excuse, trying to learn my first language at this age is tougher than if I were younger. I'm no good at it, and I've accepted that.
Language is just part of the picture though. Society is different here than where I come from. Friends don't just pop around; spontaneous meet ups don't happen with a phone call; gatherings and events are for the most part couple focused; etc. People are generally more private and keep to themselves. It is a very family oriented society - which is admirable in my opinion. Generally speaking, families do more things together here, and more often than in most societies. This is a good thing.
I like life in Norway. I am not putting it down, nor am I feeling homesick for Newfoundland. What I do miss is the feeling of fitting in or belonging.
These days, I'm digging deeper into a lot of concepts. I'm exploring the meaning of a lot of things and how they apply to my life while I am writing my first book. In this regard, I cherish my isolation because it gives me the space to complete this important project for my own life. I'm eternally grateful for that. On the days I'm not teaching, and especially when my husband is not here, I can write for hours undistracted. Having the freedom and time to do this has truly been a gift that I do not take for granted.
In saying all this, I am acknowledging a truth about myself - a truth that is in contradiction with itself, a dichotomy of sorts. I have both a desire for isolation, and a need to eliminate it.
In the end, I suppose it comes back to balance. There are times when I need to be alone, and there are times when I need my flock.
You are part of my flock. Having a connection with you, albeit electronic for the most part, gives me a sense of belonging - so thank you for being here.
I guess what they say is true: Birds of a feather really do flock together. It's part of our nature to do so, and to want to do so. I'm glad you're in my virtual tree :-)
Thank you for reading. I'd love to hear your spin/experience/thoughts on belonging. Feel free to pop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd appreciate hearing from you.