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There are millions of us out here who have never felt like we fit in—black sheep and misfits, and ones who just could never choose to follow someone else’s pre-cleared path.
Not fitting in can be celebrated, as it comes with a slew of benefits—we are the creators, the free-thinkers, the healers, and the revolutionaries.
But there’s another side to not feeling like we belong. You know, that uncomfortable and painful feeling that creeps up on us on those long, dark, and quiet nights—and brings with it its own shade of panic.
It whispers to us, “you aren’t supposed to be here.”
So, how do we make that feeling of un-belonging go away? Better yet, how do we transform this story into one where we are okay just the way we are?
How do we connect to the unshakable strength that knows we do have a valid place in the greater human family?
Remember that awkward questions, “Do I fit in? Do those around me see me, or even appreciate that I am alive?” It can be a surprise that we are not the only ones who have felt this way. It can also be a shock to comprehend that this uncomfortable feeling doesn’t go away when we accomplish more things, achieve a larger friend or colleague circle, or fall in love.
Not belonging is an epidemic of grand proportion. How does one fit into a society that is constantly changing at such a rapid level? How do we develop a ground of worthwhile-ness in our lives when there are so many pressures that ask us to do more?
We crave real connection while our electronic devices and media channels constantly disconnect us.
The sneaky thing is that our feelings of loneliness and separation (of un-belonging) stem back to something we can’t totally fix through altering the outside world. Our prolonged feeling of not belonging comes from our habitual identifications with unworthiness.
Ugh. That’s not what we were taught, was it? We were taught if we fixed our position, title, education, and place in society, that we would feel just right. Unworthiness, though, runs deeper.
True belonging is not achieved in a glamorous way. Often we must understand that we will not be okay with the feeling of being “different” until we are okay with the experience of not hiding anymore. Our worthiness expands exponentially when we gain the courage to have our unique selves seen.
With any type of remediation work, it takes time. Healing is not linear nor is it altogether clean. Counteracting our story of un-belonging may go back 20, 30, 40, 50, or more years to when we first felt that sensation of not being supported to being who we are.
Our fear of being separate may even go back further than that. Our phobia of not belonging has become a cellular-based memory from when we were once tribal people, immigrants, refugees, and nomads. For our very survival, we had to “fit in” and be a part of the “pack.”
So it makes sense that the feeling of belonging is so important to us—to belong meant that we would survive.
But what does this word represent to us today? We no longer need to be part of the “pack” to not be eaten by predators. But to do well, we need to feel seen, supported, and loved.
Could that sense of belonging be an inside job?
The reality is that those in history who have not “fit in” are often the people who have led the evolution of our societies, either in the innovation of culture, spirituality, science, or mind. Many of these individuals though, also felt an incredible amount of internal suffering at their lack of belonging.
What these people, and perhaps ourselves, are missing is the understanding of our invaluable place in this world and the realization that what we offer is a worthy part of the greater whole.
We need to banish the idea that “different” means that we will remain separate and alone. A way to do this is to choose an alternative story to tell about ourselves—a story where we understand that the belonging we long for is innate and occurring all the time.
A term that may help us absorb this shift in belief about ourselves is “interbeing.” It is a word that the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated, Thich Nhat Hanh, first conceived. He speaks of interbeing as the unbreakable connection and interdependence of all things. In the award-winning book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turner, she writes that interbeing means that, “Everything lives in relation to all other things.”
Yes, we too are in constant relationship with all things.
Each morning when we wake, we can visualize ourselves as an equally supporting thread on the giant web of life. We can see threads of ourselves connecting and holding up the world, people, animals, and environment. And threads from each of these other things do the same for us.
We overcome our old fear of not having a place in the world (not-belonging) by returning to a belief that was practiced by many older societies—we abide and believe in interconnectedness.
We begin to consciously notice that each thing we do impacts and is inseparable from all the other things.
“Blessed are the weird people: poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters, and troubadours for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.” ~ Jacob Nordby