"Belonging is being somewhere where you want to be, and they want you.
Fitting in is being somewhere where you really want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.
Belonging is being accepted for you.
Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.
I get to be me if I belong.
I have to be like you to fit in.”
This is an excerpt from Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. It was written by a bunch of 13 year-old kids. I felt really uneasy when I read it. Yes, my stomach was churning.
I don’t think I’ve ever belonged: not at secondary school, not at Girl Guides, not at Saturday Gujarati class, not at university. I didn’t belong when I moved to Kenya and started working there, nor did I belong during my stint in San Francisco
Always the outsider. Always looking in.
Even in instances where I felt truly connected to the reason why I was somewhere (think nutrition studies), I was never on the inside track.
But, in recent years, this has begun to change.
I now seem to be in places where I know I am different, but everyone else is different too. It is not a homogeneous group that I am trying to be a part of: rather, everyone in the group is a comfortable seeker in their own right.
There is one particular place I have in mind as I write. I feel like an insider, as if I belong, and people even know my name. I cannot tell you what a wonderful feeling it is - especially as I am not even trying.
What is so different about this place to all the others that I have been to? That I chose to be there? No. That I did the work required to be a part of this institution? No. That everyone there was so welcoming? Maybe. Or that I could just be me and it worked? Yes. That.
Surely there should be more places like this, where I can just be me and belong? Surely indeed.
As I write this on a trip home for Christmas, I realise that if I just am who I am, I will belong. It’s that simple.
The feeling of being ashamed of myself, being unable to fit in, disappears - to be replaced with one where I am sure of who I am and thus secure in my surroundings. I am accepted and loved. I feel safe while I sleep. Somehow everything begins to be reset.
It is move out of the primitive reptilian brain where everyone is a potential threat, to a place where I can relax and repair, create and thrive.
It is a very nourishing place to be.
A sense of belonging isn’t just for Christmas. I can have this all year.