Note: This is a follow-up on my previous post The mixed-race experience: the search for belonging.
It took me a long time to find a sense of true belonging, but the irony is that it was always right here.
I looked for belonging externally, only to find it deep within myself: knowing that whatever happens, I’ve got my back.
What that means is that you can find a deep sense of belonging within rather than looking for it outside of yourself through achievement, approval and all of the other external “goodies”. It means you put yourself at the centre of your life and at an equal footing with others. It also means taking responsibility for yourself and doing whatever is necessary to take care of yourself in the best way. You give yourself what you need and you stop waiting for someone else to take over. You get to be your biggest cheerleader, parent and caregiver.
Practices to cultivate a sense of belonging
I’ll be the first to admit that this is a lifelong practice – and like everyone else, I’m right there on this journey with you. I’ve outlined some of the practices that I feel have been most important in cultivating that feeling of home within myself:
- Belonging must start from self-awareness: get to truly know yourself. Spend more time on your own, explore your likes and dislikes, your hopes, dreams and desires, start getting to know what feels good for you and what doesn’t – body, mind and soul.
Be patient, this is the process of a lifetime. There’s no endpoint here that you’re working towards. Self-awareness literally is a process where you uncover more and more of yourself as you dedicate time to this. Some of the tools that I have found incredibly helpful here are journaling, meditation, and working with therapists and coaches.
- Set up a range of rituals to help you stay deeply connected to yourself. For me, that means I like to start my day with making my coffee, meditation, journaling and reading. See what works for you. It doesn’t have to be in the morning either. What is most important is that you create sacred time just for yourself, to check in and see how you are, to connect to all that is important to you so that you can make sure you are prioritising the things that are meaningful to you.
- Put your self-care at the centre of your agenda: what do you need to feel at your best? Taking care of your own needs – and knowing that you are safe in your own hands – is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. And yes, sometimes also one of the hardest things. We often come up against various arguments why our self-care isn’t a priority and that it’s somehow selfish.
“What do you mean what do I need? I have no clue?”
Yep, I’ve heard this come up from time to time with clients. Why not do a short bodyscan? Sit or lie down, close your eyes and focus your awareness to the crown of your head and then slowly scan from top to bottom through your body. How do you feel? Do you feel any strain anywhere? Any aches or pains? Simply bring awareness to your feelings, what’s coming up for you?
- Speak kindly to yourself. Feeling safe with yourself is one of the most important things in finding belonging within yourself. How you speak to yourself is incredibly important in this. Frankly, most of us do a crap job of this. We’re often much better at treating others with love and kindness than we are for ourselves. Become aware of how you speak to yourself and replace your harsh and critical tone with encouraging and supportive words. This might feel strange in the beginning, but I promise you, it will make ALL the difference.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
- Put your I before the WE and advocate for yourself: again, this must come from a place of self-awareness: What do I need? What do I think? What do I want?
It may mean that you need a bit more time to explore what your answers are to these questions are. If you don’t have the answers just yet, that’s ok. You can simply start by taking out a bit more time for you to answer these questions for yourself. Rather than asking everyone else for their opinion immediately, ask yourself first.
- Take responsibility for yourself, become self-directed and validate yourself. Without realising it, you can sometimes give away your power and look outside of yourself for the answers that only you can provide yourself. If you’re not aware of your values and your priorities (yes hello self awareness!), it’s so much easier to get distracted by what you believe “others” want from you. Many of us still look to others for permission and approval. This is a natural tendency that we all have, yet it keeps us looking outside of ourselves rather than within.
- Set boundaries that delineate what is OK for you and what not. Boundaries are hard work sometimes, but oh so important in cultivating a stronger sense of self and taking care of yourself. Boundaries are challenging for us recovering people pleasing empaths (I hear you!) because we’re so aware of the other person and we fear we may upset someone. However, not setting boundaries means you run the risk of betraying and upsetting yourself, and it’s critical to know that you can trust yourself. Setting boundaries doesn’t necessarily mean anyone gets upset (although sometimes it will), and it can be a beautiful way of safeguarding your relationships, including the one you have with yourself.
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”Brené Brown
- Stop hiding who you are and learn to accept all of who you are. In the process of “fitting in” we often disown certain parts of ourselves that we deem not good enough. In this way, we make our enough-ness conditional and may hide parts of who we are. True belonging can only happen if you show up to the world fully and bring into the light your so-called “shadow” parts. You may never completely love all of it, but understanding that you are human, just like everyone else might help you to accept yourself more.
As said, these are all practices: you must commit to these each and every time – and by no means are these necessarily easy. These practices will inevitably get you to the edge of what feels comfortable and you will run into resistance. That’s ok: your edge will show you what might need further healing.
Why should you do this work?
Having a deep sense of belonging is a fundamental human need and I believe it is critical to our sense of happiness and wellbeing. The relationship that you have with yourself is the most important one that you have. If you are somehow in disharmony with yourself, you can’t fully show up for anything else in life. You may be wildly successful at work or in your social life, but if at heart, you are not happy with yourself, none of the other happiness indicators matter.
The journey back home to yourself and finding true belonging within yourself is one of the most important journeys you can make. It’s the journey that marks my work in the most profound way and in many ways I believe is the work that I am meant to do.
I’ve come to realise that so many of us feel separate, often for many different reasons. And if that is you, I just want to let you know this:
I’ll be different with you, each one of us in our own way, united in what it simply means to be beautifully human. You are home. You always have been and you will always be, because that which you have sought outside of yourself lives within you.
Hello my friend, welcome home.
I hope this series of posts has served you (please also see The mixed-race experience: the search for belonging) and I’d love to hear from you! Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.