Is fitting in the same as belonging? It might be interesting to “unpack that bag” and see what we find. I’ve quoted Brene’ Brown several times during this series, but she is the expert in the field, and no conversation about belonging is complete without her valuable research data. Today, all quotes are from her books.
… the greatest barrier to belonging? Fitting in. I’ve discovered during the past decade of research, [fitting in] is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely—it’s showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are… Many us suffer from this split between who we are and who we present to the world in order to be accepted… But we’re not letting ourselves be known, and this kind of incongruent living is soul-sucking.
Authentic people embrace their imperfections and are not afraid to share them with others. In doing so, “the others” can let down their guard and be vulnerable themselves. And little by little, a community, a sense of “we belong together because we are going through this together” begins to happen. When we hide our imperfections because we fear rejection, and we just try to fit in, we all stay safely in our own little corners. We tip-toe around in the shallow ground of “Hi, how are you? I’m fine.” territory.
“Fitting in” is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted.
“Belonging” on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.
We all want to fit in, right? And we’re smart, we know the ins and outs of our “places of belonging.” What’s acceptable and respectable. We know where the lines are, where safe territory is, and we’re very careful to stay within the lines. At least I am. As the saying goes, I play my cards close to my chest because I don’t want to show my hand. Revealing my heart is scary and way too vulnerable. “You don’t give yourself. You hide. I don’t know you.” Those words were spoken to me, a few years ago, by my closest and dearest friend. Not long after, similar words came from a beloved extended family member. Ouch.
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.
So there it is. We are afraid of being who we really are. Everyone looks so perfect. Everyone has it all together. We are the only ones dealing with … You can fill in the blank. Divorce. Money problems. Rebellious kids. Eating Disorder. Pornography.
And besides, if I am really me, will anybody even like me?
I think I’ll end there for today, and we’ll just let that question hang out until tomorrow’s post. I hope you join me because, seriously, we’ve only got that bag half unpacked.
And I’ve left things just kind of messy.
If you’ve missed any of this series, Do You Belong, you can catch up here.