“I don’t want to stand out anymore. Why can’t I be like everyone else? Why does everyone else seem like they are confident while I’m over here faking it? Why can’t I have a fucking conversation without my words fumbling out of my mouth? I sound like an idiot…”
So were the thoughts of younger me. I didn’t understand the power in being different. And from 8th grade through… well, my entire life, I’ve felt different from everyone else. In some aspects I was proud to be different (read: multi-racial). But when it came to my introverted nature, I felt that I stood out too much. And not in a good way.
Pema Chödrön in her book, Start Where You Are, states:
“We’re always not wanting to be who we are. However, we can never connect with our fundamental wealth as long as we are buying into this advertisement hype that we have to be someone else, that we have to smell different or we have to look different.”
“We’re always not wanting to be who we are.” That sums up my teenage years and my early adulthood. I would say, it’s sometimes still a struggle for me today. But how do we stop listening to the “advertisement hype” and learn how to be beautifully ourselves?
As I was drafting this post and pondering what exactly I wanted to write about, I finished reading Dr. Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong. I had no intentions of immediately starting her latest book, Braving the Wilderness, but figured that I would read the first few pages in my car before heading into work as I usually arrive early. And oh my goodness, the universe comes through again!
You see, in my original draft, I was writing about how to stand out. But as I started writing I realized that for those of us who don’t feel like we fit in, standing out is all we’ve felt we’ve ever done. So then I thought I would write about why standing out is something we should embrace. But when I started to read Braving the Wilderness I found that, once again, Dr. Brown through her research was able to give me the vocabulary I needed to write this post.
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brown talks about belonging versus fitting in and states:
“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.”
She revisits belonging again in Braving the Wilderness and even quotes how she defines “true belonging” from The Gifts of Imperfection:
“Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. 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.
And it all came together for me (and this post) when she added to the definition of true belonging in Braving the Wilderness:
“Being ourselves means sometimes having to find the courage to stand alone, totally alone… Once we belong thoroughly to ourselves and believe thoroughly in ourselves, true belonging is ours.”
True belonging she says in Braving the Wilderness is, “a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are.” And just like that, the universe gave me what I needed to write this post.
When I became conscious that I was different from others, I spent so much of my sanity sacrificing who I was to fit the mold of what I was told I should be – I sacrificed who I was to appease what I thought others wanted to see.
In my younger days, I was so busy running away from who I was to “fit in” and ultimately lost who it is that I am. And in losing myself in order to fit in, I spent way too many years hating myself. After reading, “Once we belong thoroughly to ourselves and believe throughly in ourselves, true belonging is ours,” I realized that which I have been searching for my entire life: true belonging.
And ultimately, I think that is what we are all after. And sharing my findings with you about topics like this is what this blog is all about. For me: True belonging = finding the beauty in being yourself.
I’ve only just begun on this journey of true belonging and vulnerability and having the courage to be myself and I already feel so empowered and I want to encourage you, if you’ve been searching for a place to belong, to read Dr. Brown’s research. It has been life changing for me.
I’ll leave you with her definition of true belonging from Braving the Wilderness:
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.
To read more about Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, her books, and her works visit her website: brenebrown.com