“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.” Brene Brown
I am fond of saying, “we’re all still in 7th grade.” Of course, I don’t mean all the time, but on those occasions when we worry about being or feeling judged, exposed, or embarrassed.
We become afraid that someone will finally see our flaws in such a black and white way that there will be no question of our not okayness. Then they will know how fraudulent we feel or act because, in seventh grade, nobody feels like they belong.
There is an antidote to the seventh-grade syndrome. It requires taking on the challenge of entering our inner wilderness and exploring the concept of belonging.
In her book Braving the Wilderness, Brown talks about our habits of working to confirm our not okayness, our lack of belonging instead of working to excavate the authenticity that will set us free.
We all know at least a few people who challenge us to like them. They seem to work hard at making statements that challenge us to prove ourselves to them. Most people won’t bother and walk away, thereby proving to them that they were right. They are unable to try on a different lens to view their interactions. As they experience failure after failure, they become hardwired to their concept of being right.
That’s the extreme end of things. It certainly speaks to a lack of social skills but it’s a good example of someone who simply can’t trust their own belief in themselves to trust that others could like them.
When someone challenges you in such a way they are also conveying a message that they don’t believe your authenticity – that’s why it feels so bad – they are calling you a liar. The worst part of that is they will never know because by then, you will have walked away having said a few choice epithets about them, feeling pretty uncomfortable.
It’s so easy to approach the explorations in our own wilderness from the starting point of disbelief. but you have to ask yourself why would we start from such a negative point of view?
Why couldn’t we simply start from the point of joyful exploration of our authenticity?
I know when I am being authentic, I am experiencing joy. I am laughing more. I am sharing with someone something so deep and it makes me wonder why I ever tried to cover it up because of the fear of being judged.
When we are being our most authentic selves we are letting our goodness and our frailty be seen. In doing so, we give others permission to share theirs and our bonds deepen.
Give it a try. Be on the lookout for expressions of surprise and then a relaxation that someone feels that they can be themselves around you. Be willing to show your gifts but also the places where you aren’t so gifted. Be willing to laugh at yourself. As you do so the wilderness that you sometimes find yourself in will recede and you will start to feel aligned with the rest of humanity.
These are fleeting moments, but they are, at least, moments when we get a glimpse of what is possible for us making us want more of it.
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