The Gifts of Imperfection, I am reading about the importance of belonging.
"Most of us use the terms fitting in and belonging interchangeably, and like many of you, I'm really good at fitting in. We know exactly how to hustle for approval and acceptance. We know what to wear, what to talk about, how to make people happy, what not to mention -- we know how to chameleon our way through the day.
One of the biggest surprises in this research was learning that fitting in and belonging are not the same thing, and, in fact, fitting in gets in the way of belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn't require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are."
At one level this seems really obvious -- or, at least, it should. But with one of those flashes of epiphany you get sometimes, I could see, upon reading it, that a lifetime spent moving from one community to the next (Before Bainbridge, I never lived anywhere or attended any school for more than 3 1/2 years) was excellent training for fitting in, but poor preparation for building a sense of belonging.
Which explains a lot, I think, about my current malaise. Some part of me -- having lived in one place for almost ten years now -- is deeply restless. And I think it's because I can finally see that fitting in is NOT the same as belonging. Which means I have work to do, if belonging is important to me (and, since I'm human, it definitely is.)
Belonging, says Brown, "is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because 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."
Guess I gotta work on that one...
So then, as always, the question becomes, why this image? Partly just because I like it, for sure. And the thought of rowing standing up is pretty harrowing. But I think it's because I was never, growing up, part of a team; I never did sports. And looking at this, I can see that in order for a team to function well together, each member needs to be clear about their struggles, their strengths, and their weaknesses -- at least in that particular sport. But to make yourself vulnerable on that physical level probably means you're vulnerable on an emotional level as well. So missing teams may be another reason I struggle with this one.
Not that I'm looking for excuses; mostly I'm just trying to understand where the work lies, and to relate it back to my own experiences being -- or trying to be -- part of various communities over the years. But actually, Brown makes it clear where the work lies. "We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection."
Understanding this distinction between fitting in and belonging, she says, "forced me to acknowledge that cultivating self-love and self-acceptance is not optional. They aren't endeavors that I can look into if and when I have some spare time. They are priorities."
How's that self-love thing working for you?