Belonging. It’s a powerful word. It’s a positive word, yet it’s a word that fills me with dread because how hard I find it to achieve.
I’ve always struggled with belonging. My parents divorced when I was very young. My mother remarried very shortly after her divorce, and not long after had a child with my step-father. Despite assurances that I was loved as much as their joint daughter, I never felt that. The three of them shared a common bond of name and blood that I wasn’t past of. My father later went on to marry as well, and have a son with my Bonus-mom. I only lived with them for a short period of time in my growing-up years, and only saw them all once ahead or so the rest of the time. This caused me to not feel like I belonged with them either. I was an outsider to two families.
As a young adult, I continued to struggle with feelings of belonging and fitting-in. I don’t think I ever really had an idea of what that meant. In my effort to try and “fit in” in a way that I thought was the right way, I ended up not only not fitting in, but associating myself with groups of people, types of people that were detrimental to my emotional well-being.
Now that I’m in my “Middle Age”, I find myself being worlds more comfortable with who I am, but I still struggle with “belonging” and “fitting in”.
The questions in Brene Brown’s second lesson were:
What ways have you tried to fit in? What was the result of those experiences?
Can you identify a time when, instead of fitting in, you remained authentic? What was the result of that experience?
In the past, I tried to fit in by acting as a chameleon, and mimicking those that I was trying to fit in with. For some reason (one that I know, but won’t get into now) I chose to try to fit in with people that I had zero in common with. These people were the polar opposite of what I knew to be familiar and comfortable. These people were, mostly, wonderful people, but we had nothing in common. They were mostly Christian Conservatives. I chose to marry into this “group” and for 15 years lost myself into them. It did not go well. I wasn’t true to myself, and I was unhappy. Unhappy is an understament. I was in a perpetual deep depression. I drank too much, and was often suicidal.
I left it all behind in 2006.
Leaving it all behind, saved me, but destroyed my family; my relationship with my sons. The more I found myself, and the more I learned to be authentic, the faster my children moved away from me. I don’t have confirmation for this, but I think that them seeing their father remain at a standstill in a negative place, while I moved into positiveness and light caused them to feel protective of him, while dismissive of me. I don’t have proof of this, but I have pretty strong feelings that this is the case.
Today, I am authentic to myself. I am, who I am. I’m not pretending to be someone else. I speak my mind, I embrace what I love and I leave the rest behind. I’ve begun to reach into the realms of belonging through church and through my relationships in the dog world.
I still haven’t quite figured out how to ‘belong’ though. I have a hard time ‘connecting’ on a deep level. I have a plethora of friends; people who I love dearly and I have a pretty rich social life that keeps me connected to friends, but I haven’t ‘connected’ to anyone deeply because I don’t know how. I’m so used to relying on myself, of being comfortable in my head, of simply not knowing how to ‘be’ with someone else. I have a close relationship with my husband, and there really isn’t anything that I can’t or don’t talk about with him, but I see my Bonus-Mom, and the close relationships she has with other women. A group of 5 or 6 women that ‘belongs’ to. They are integral parts of each others lives, and I find that so warm and comforting. I find that so alien. I would love to be part of something like that, but have no idea how to open myself, or, be available and present for another to open themselves that way to me.
I don’t think that a relationship like this, whether it’s with one person, or with 10, can be forced or created. It has to happen naturally, and all I can do is keep doing this type of thing, and expand my comfort zones until I can embrace belonging to a friendship and embrace having a friendship belong to me.