The Spiritual Practice of Belonging

I want you to imagine two different scenarios.

Scenario #1

You’re walking into a room filled with people you don’t know (aka your absolute nightmare). It’s a networking event, which, you secretly despise since you usually grip to your phone the whole time as you try to fill the awkward silence and mingling.

As you’re walking in, your palms are sweaty, your heart is racing, and you’re all of a sudden painfully critical of the outfit you decided to wear (although you tried on about 40 before you decided on this one). You’re inner dialogue sounds a lot like this:

“Ugh, I hate these events, I feel so awkward and out of place the whole time. I know I’m new in town and my boss suggested I come. He said, “you’ll make friends and great work connections I promise!” But I’m definitely regretting taking his advice. What if no one likes me, and then I’m doomed in this new city?! I guess I’ll stay for an hour, tops. And then I’ll go home and put on sweats and  pretend the night never happened.”

Here is scenario #2:

You’re new in town and at the suggestion of your new boss you made the decision to come to this networking event. You were hesitant because small talk is not your favorite, but you thought, “hey, you never know who I could meet and what other great experiences this could lead to?”

You tried on a few outfits, and were unsure which one was going to be the most appropriate, but you decided on something business casual. After you were all ready, you took a look in the mirror, smiled and said, “you got this. You are amazing and brave and I’m so proud of you for taking the leap tonight no matter how it goes.”

You arrived at the event, and as you walked in you reminded yourself that this room would be filled with strangers, but that you never knew who could become a friend. You rehearsed your mantra again about how brave and proud you were of yourself and launched into the sea of strangers and small talk.

If you’ve ever experienced scenario #2, that is both amazing and rare.

Last fall I read, Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown and it opened my eyes in a whole new way to our collective need for belonging. This is what she has to say about it:

“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 a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.”

Perhaps for you that networking event might feel like a modern-day wilderness. The differences in the scenarios are many, but the one major difference is the person’s sense of belonging. When they looked at themself in the mirror and spoke kindly and truthfully to themself, they were engaging in this spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to THEMSELF.

Brené quotes Maya Angelou in Braving the Wilderness that, when I first read it, had me reeling for days.

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…” – Maya Angelou

I shared this with a client not long ago and they looked at me like I had lost my mind. I get it. I was perplexed by this quote and idea of belonging to ourselves for awhile. What I discovered was this…

We will either live working FOR belonging, or working FROM belonging.

If we are working FOR belonging we will be perpetually living out scenario #1. We will be entering spaces and relationships begging for belonging and approval. We will unknowingly be handing over our power of self acceptance and self worth to another person to choose as they will. That is dangerous, no matter who the other person may be.

Conversely, when we work FROM belonging, we will experience more of scenario #2. We are walking into spaces having already accepted ourselves…fully belonging to ourselves. We aren’t begging for approval or affirmation, we know we are already accepted not just by ourselves but also by God. Of course, we’re still human and we would love to connect with others, and would feel disappointed if that wasn’t happening. However, we wouldn’t be as quick to question our worthiness to belong because of the disappointment.

Imagine how different life and relationships could be if we lived FROM a place of belonging? We might take more risks, forgive ourselves and others more readily, extend grace to each other for life’s disappointments, and the list goes on. How can you begin to engage in this spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself? And how do you think it would change the way you walk into new and old spaces?

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