Many times in the past few weeks, I’ve felt like the outsider, the one who doesn’t fit in with the cool girls, the one who isn’t asked to play at the playground, or sits at home on a weekend night when everyone is out partying. I so want to be in the inner circle, part of a tribe, to belong.
I re-read Brene Brown’s discussion on belonging versus fitting in. “Fitting in” is assessing groups of people and then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are. For many years I was trying to fit in for a feeling of belonging; now I just want to belong.
Belonging has been a deeply held need of mine for years. I used to say I wanted to be Norm on Cheers – I want someplace where everyone knows my name and is happy when I arrive. I don’t want to be on the sidelines watching the game being played. I want a seat at the table. I want to be on the invite list. I want to feel like I belong.
In high school, I did the human pretzel, from pledging with a sorority (considered a highly rebellious thing in my school) to playing a sport (I am not a natural athlete) to singing in the choir (with the band geeks) and joining a church group. Yet, I never fit it and was always on the edge of things; I never made the inner circle in any group. This feeling of not belonging continued in college and even in my job/adult life. I very often felt like I was on the fringe of things, not part of the inner circle. A few times towards the very end of my career I started to feel like I finally belonged, and then I retired!
My feeling of not belonging has flared again. I know it is compounded by our move distancing me from some close friends. And compounded by the on-going social isolation of the COVID resurgence. And compounded further being in a new place where I am not yet on people’s radar. But there were individual moments recently where it was so obvious I wasn’t part of the tribe invite that I ended up in tears.
According to Brene Brown, “Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect. When we don’t have that, we shape-shift and turn into chameleons.”
Well, I’m trying to be my authentic self. So, why do I feel like I’m back in high school and not being invited to the prom (I wasn’t)? Do they view me as not active enough, not smart enough, not spontaneous enough, not friendly enough to be asked? Maybe it’s because I’m not a good friend. Maybe it’s because I just dabble; I’m not full into anything – not sports, not gourmet cooking, not latest best seller reading. Why am I NOT ENOUGH? Oh dear, this not belonging feeling is activating my Compare & Despair… or vice versa!
I don’t want to change myself to fit in, but these feelings of being not enough, being on the periphery, not being part of the tribe, are heart-wrenching.
Do you have a place you belong? Do you have somewhere to go where everybody knows your name?
“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came”
Picture credit: A sunrise this week… lots of rainy days and Red Tide back, so no beach walking.