True Belonging, Fitting In, and Finding Yourself in the Wilderness
"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."
- Brené Brown
Brené Brown has a great perspective on belonging. True belonging vs. fitting in. True belonging is knowing we are safe to express who we are in our full integrity and maintain authentic connections - or weather the solitude of standing alone. Fitting in very often requires abandoning our own core values in favor of being accepted or protected by others.
Sometimes we learn to survive in a group by fitting in; sometimes being accepted by our community allows our livelihood to remain intact and we give up little pieces of ourselves in order to stay relevant in business. Sometimes we stay quiet about injustices that are "just the way things are around here" to shield our children from the scrutiny and exclusion we know all too well. But in order to fully thrive, we must find the strength to reclaim our own authenticity, our own voice, our own truths.
Fitting in can become a way of life - so ingrained that those who step out of the "fitting in" mold are chastised for abandoning their traditions, judged for calling out injustices (that happen to be rooted in said traditions) and sometimes ostracized publicly. Sometimes not fitting in can incite bullying meant to tear us down, or threats to our families meant to silence us. Sometimes people literally end up with toilets placed on their lawns by the "respected people" of the community. Sometimes people are doxxed when they start blowing the whistles on traditions that are harmful.
Methods like these, bullying tactics, are often rooted in the intense desire to maintain a status quo that protects certain people. Often, groups that intimidate, bully and dox those who shine a light on injustices are the very groups that harbor "sacred secrets" and protect bullies within the community and within families. Keeping things "status quo" and not turning over all of the stones to expose what these groups are built upon is the ultimate goal.
Some people are horrified at the level of change 2020 has brought; some wish to "go back to the way things were!" Those people are almost all living in a state of safety and privilege, and seeing the relentless call to true justice just makes them sooooo uncomfortable! But for those waiting to live their lives in safety, 2020 has brought a crack in a structure that has been built strong upon the backs of their ancestors. The crack in our nation's foundations expose the continuation of deeply held values of racism that are then wrapped in the stars and stripes of patriotism and protected vehemently.
At times like these, many of us white folks who choose not to stay on the bandwagon of white comfort will discover we no longer fit in. Many, many places and spaces and conversations will come up to reiterate the fact that we don't fit in. If we choose to be part of dismantling the maypole of white supremacy that we've been swinging around for centuries, we discover pretty quickly how we don't fit in to the groups whose identities, religions and communities have been built from a place of believing they are "supreme," "white and delightsome," and "making America great by discrediting black and brown people who illuminate the collective gas lights..."
True belonging is so very different from fitting in, although in the interim, the dangling out in space disconnected from groups can feel alarming. But if our belonging has depended on giving up pieces of ourselves to fit in, this dangling in space and standing in the wilderness offers an opportunity for us to deliberately choose to belong to ourselves; belong to ourselves, own our own spirituality and relationship with the divine, and step in the direction of discovering true belonging in areas we may have never ventured. Maybe the wilderness is where we strip away the traditions, the arbitrary "shoulds" and discover our own humility.
If you should find yourself standing alone in the wilderness, don't despair. Take a deep breath, feel your feet on the ground, and seek out the flower patch; stand triumphantly on the mountain; lie in the meadows; howl at the moon; dance in the dappled light of the trees and swim in the stream. It is here, in this vast wilderness that you will have the opportunity to make new choices. And as you honor the vast openness of the wilderness, don't forget - you are not alone.