True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.
Of all the things I struggle with, self-acceptance is probably my biggest challenge. And when I look at society, I know I’m not the only one (though admittedly there are times I feel like I am). People spend a lot of money on appearance, whether it’s plastic surgery or expensive possessions, because they care how others perceive them.
We humans are wired to live together, we all have the need to belong somewhere. The question is, where do we want to fit in? Do we want to fit in in the superficial world that tv and magazines show us? The world in which being skinny, pretty, famous, successful and making a lot of money is valued?
Or do we choose to be with people who accept themselves and others the way they are and are ok with nobody being perfect (and for the record, being rude to someone under the pretense you are “just being yourself” has nothing to do with acceptance, it only shows how much you still need to learn).
It shouldn’t be a hard choice, but for many (myself included) it is. We want to feel accepted and connected to the people around us. And from a young age on, we are taught the things we need to do to fit in to earn acceptance. Boys wear blue, girls play with dolls. A boy who wants to dress up and play with dolls? Still not accepted by most people. Best case they think he’s weird, unfortunately there are still people that think it’s his own fault if he gets bullied. While really, we should be supportive, because he is being him.
Growing up, we hardly talked about feelings in my family and you certainly didn’t want to air your dirty laundry. Also, I learned that it was better to take yourself down, so that someone else couldn’t. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that no one else can take me down, unless I let them. Only you have the power to take you down, either by doing it yourself, or giving your power to someone else.
And of course, as with most things, the concept is simple, yet the realization may be a little more challenging.
Authentic me, I’m still looking for me. I was 9 when my parents divorced and I was the oldest of three. My mother was very depressed and I felt responsible for both her and my siblings. The result was that I identified so strongly with my mother that when I went to live on my own I literally had no clue who I was. Usually puberty is the time when we take distance from our parents to develop our identity. Not me, I did what I thought would help my mother, be a nice girl, not make any trouble, be there for her when she needed me, look after my brother and sister. And somewhere along the way I lost myself.
When I realized, I literally did not know who I was, I started working on myself. I read books and went into therapy. Slowly, step by step, I am finding myself. I still have some challenges ahead, but then, I believe life is a journey and that we need to keep learning.
Keeping things to myself and putting on a mask has brought me a lot of pain and sadness, I’ve lost friends over it. Because I would always say I was doing ok, even though I wasn’t. But I felt like I couldn’t keep on saying that I wasn’t doing well. And sometimes I would actually believe myself when I said I was doing ok (I’m a little hard headed, I still do that sometimes). What did I have loose? Could thing get any worse? And so, I decided to open up and get honest about myself. Yes, it was scary, it will probably always be a little bit scary, and that’s ok. That means I’m getting out of my comfort zone.
And it was the best thing I could’ve done. I was overwhelmed by all the sweet, positive, heartfelt responses. Sometimes even from people I didn’t know. It made me realize how many people really care about me and also, how much we need one another to be open and honest, because that is the only way to really connect to others. That is the power of being authentic.
The other day I was having coffee with a friend and when we were about to leave, she said let’s get together in two weeks, I want to keep an eye on you. That was so sweet and made me feel so accepted. That morning I was ok-ish, and I felt better during our coffee, but that really made me feel cared for. That was so powerful.
I guess I must be doing something right to have a wonderful husband and some awesome friends 😊 .