The Letters: You belong here as much as anyone else.

By March 15, 2021 Blog
You belong here as much as anyone else
March 15, 2021 Blog

Let me share with you a small WhatsApp exchange I had recently:

C. : “Are you coming to the event?”

Me: “Do you want me to be there?”

It was one of my old patterns showing up. Something that hadn’t happened in a while, but I had been feeling a little insecure that day and there it was, showing up again. What I was really asking her was:

Is it ok for me to be there?

It wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling, I felt like the little girl in the school playground again who felt different from everyone else because she looked different. While there was often no bad intention (and sometimes there was), being asked over and over again: where are you from? Or worse, what are you? – and having other experiences of exclusion, over time left deep scars of not belonging. 

By far this is probably the thing that still holds me back most, and it feels vulnerable to share. It’s old pain that still surfaces from time to time, expressing itself in an internal whisper saying: 

They don’t want you here

I can almost feel myself shrink again as I write this. I share this because I think it’s important for us to understand what the pain of not belonging can do: it’s like an undercurrent that you take with you, stopping you from being able to be fully present and share the talents and gifts that you have. You don’t feel fully safe to be yourself and to participate.

A lack of belonging can show up in many different ways. For me, it very much has to do with being mixed race and a highly sensitive woman. For others, there is a myriad of other ways that we may feel that we are different from the dominant group around us.

When have you felt like an outsider, and how did that impact you? 

So much of the work that I have done is around this topic and while I have come a long way, I still catch myself out sometimes. The adult woman momentarily swooped back in time. Sharing this with you feels vulnerable – shouldn’t I know better by now? Isn’t it my personal responsibility to put myself “back in the game”?

The answer is yes, a big part of this work is doing the personal growth work that looks at the different ways a lack of belonging shows up for you, holds you back and then reclaiming your sense of power:

Where do you need to speak up when you mute yourself? 
Where do you need to become more visible when you hide?
Where do you need to set boundaries and practise more self-love?

I also believe it’s about embracing the pain that we have and understanding that we are whole people that sometimes still suffer from old wounds. Every time we meet that old pain is a new opportunity to transform and to hold a bigger vision for ourselves of who we are and what we are capable of. Personal growth isn’t about perfection, but rather about self-acceptance – wounds, shadows and all – and then making choices every day that align with the truth that I continue to hold in my heart for myself and for us all:

You belong here as much as anyone else. 

But we cannot put the responsibility solely on individuals. We must look at our communities and see, where might we still be excluding others from participation? How can we support people to feel safe to be themselves? What societal and cultural messages are we still sending out that may make people feel like outsiders, odd-balls or painfully not good enough? 

I’m incredibly grateful to have people around me who understand that sometimes when I hesitate or hold back that I just need a little nudge. The friend that texts back and says: 

I always want you to be there.

Change isn’t always about going it alone. We all need other people in our lives to remind us of who we truly are and support us on our way. In fact, I’m learning each and every day that we can transform in ways beyond our wildest dreams when we are supported and lifted by others. I’m lucky to have such people by my side and who help remind me of who I am and what I’m here to do. 

PS: The Letters are a compilation of personal letters to my mailing list, which cover a wide range of issues relevant to the topic of belonging, confidence and worthiness. If you’d like to receive The Letters, please sign up for my newsletter. There’s a subscription box on the right-hand side of this post! And I promise, no spam, your inbox is very valuable to me!

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