Belonging To Yourself: What the self-love journey can teach you about your surroundings
Hello, Loves! What a beautiful week it has been. The weather in my part of Southern California has been cool, gloomy, and quiet...a perfect combination for a thinker, reader and writer like myself. The stillness of a gloomy day takes me to a place of quiet solitude, a place of peace, filled with sights and smells of the earth around me -- similar to the woods, or what some may call the 'wilderness'. Many refer to the 'wilderness' as a place of uncertainty and loneliness, but, as we go through our self-love journey, we have an opportunity to turn that 'wilderness' into a place of reflection and connection with ourselves. A true sense of belonging invokes meaningful connection between people, but true belonging means that you accept and embrace belonging to yourself. Let me explain.
In Brene Brown's book, Braving the Wilderness, she breaks down the meaning behind true belonging. In her previous book, The Gifts of Imperfection (2010), Brown defines belonging as follows:
"Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try t 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."
While this definition has withstood the test of time, Brown also comments how belonging doesn't always require participation from outside people -- we can simply belong to ourselves. "Belonging to ourselves means being able to stand alone, brave the wilderness of uncertainty, vulnerability, and criticism.", says Brown. While many of us feel that the only way to belong is to be a part of something (in a relationship, a group of friends, a club, a church, etc), ultimately we are always connected to one another through love and the human spirit. We can sometimes sacrifice authenticity, freedom, or power in pursuit of belonging to something. This perpetuates the 'us versus them' mentality that plagues our politically and racially divided society now, which gives light to spiritual disconnection.
Fitting in, conforming, due to fear of jeopardizing belonging is a disservice to the spiritual connection with yourself - the place where your self-love work is done the most. We simply MUST acknowledge that we belong to ourselves, and can stand alone in our truth without requiring justification or acceptance from others. It's nice to feel like you're a part of something, of course, but it's important to ensure that we do not minimize our own self-loving spirit journey in order to make others comfortable. We must learn how to trust ourselves, and know that all the love and validation we need is within us, in our inherent worth and in our spiritual connection with the world.
For me, this lesson has helped me understand that my experiences in life will always be a connected continuum of people's differences of opinions, ideologies, values and ethics. Our upbringings shape our initial thought processes, and the changing of life cycles modifies those processes over time (i.e. what we hold true in our 20's, will be different from what we hold true in our 40's). There was a time when I valued belonging to a group of friends, a team, or a club; to feel like I was valuable because a group/entity wanted my presence to shape their experiences. Today, I much more value friendships of quality, not quantity. I enjoy being around people that stand in their truth, and give me the space to stand in mine -- not requiring me to sacrifice my values to fit in to a certain mold that co-signs their own, or makes them comfortable. That's the beauty of belonging to yourself. You don't need validation to be who you are. You just ARE.
As we learn to love ourselves, it's important to evaluate your surroundings and figure out what is growing you, and what isn't. Certain habits must be modified. Certain relationships will probably change or need to end altogther. Not because you are better than they, but because you now understand your inherent worth, and value yourself enough to know when someone is mistreating you, or is a detriment to your growth.
Learn to stand in the wilderness, alone with yourself. Not everyone will agree. Not everyone will understand why you don't need their validation any longer. Those who will love you in your truth, will stick around whether they agree or not. Those who thrived on your desire to be validated by their approval, will slowly fade away into the trees. In the end, it's YOU who inhabits this body, this life, this experience. Make it your own. Belong to YOU.