This month we have been focusing on the importance of mental health. A sense of belonging is a major contributor to our mental health and it is the most significant need we have as human beings. This is true in every culture around the world. From infancy to death, we all need to know that we have people we can depend on for acceptance, love, and affection. Without belonging and connection, we are at more risk for depression, anxiety, and isolation than if we have people in our lives.
There are two categories for belonging. These are:
I like to define belonging to self as being accepting of who I am and that I am different than other people. I can be confident and emotionally secure with myself in many situations. I don’t have to change who I am to be okay with myself.
I love seeing this played out every day at Weighting Comforts. We have employees from many different countries, religions, and cultures within our building and we all get along. Some of our employees wear hijabs (a religious head covering for Muslim women), long sleeves and dresses, skirts, or pants. Comparatively, I wear knee-length dresses without sleeves. We all accept that we have different beliefs and cultures. We know that we can belong to our work environment while still dressing in what makes us comfortable and speak in our different languages. I love seeing each individual person practice their personal beliefs without feeling like they have to change or adapt to their surroundings.
The second category of belonging is to others. How I define belonging to others is knowing that you are wanted, invited and accepted by a group of people. All of the employees here have a group that they belong to, whether they speak the same language, practice the same religion or that they all work at Weighting Comforts together. It is a great feeling to know that you can walk into a room with your loved ones and know that you are wanted there. You don’t have to prove that you are good enough, they already believe this about you. You are loved and accepted by those important people in your life and you can share your thoughts, ideas, creativity, and beliefs without fear of rejection. There is peace and rest that comes from knowing that you belong.
When you feel like you have to change yourself to belong, you are actually shifting towards “fitting in.” Brene Brown discusses the differences between fitting in and belonging in one of my favorite quotes from her:
“Fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I've discovered during the past decade of research, 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—love of gourd painting, intense fear of public speaking and all."
Many us suffer from this split between who we are and who we present to the world in order to be accepted, (Take it from me: I'm an expert fitter-inner!) But we're not letting ourselves be known, and this kind of incongruent living is soul-sucking."
I want to challenge you this week to ask yourself these questions about belonging in your own life.
When do you feel the strongest sense of belonging to yourself?
What challenges your sense of belonging?
What group of people do you feel the safest with?
Whether you think about them throughout the week or you write them down in your journal, it is important to know these questions to better understand yourself and your personal definition of belonging.
Donna Durham, MMFT
Owner & Founder