You Don't Have to Fit In to Belong
At 8:30am I hopped on a train to NYC. Headed for three days of personal development. By 10:45am, I arrived at Penn Station. And by 10:51, I was surrounded by millions of humans, pounding the pavement of the Big Apple. (“If I can make it there…I’ll make it anywhere…”).
I felt exhilarated, energized, full of curiosity and wonder. Then, I caught a glimpse of a perfectly reflective window, one where I could see both, my entire self, and about 100 other people. My vision then shot down to my immediately to myself. I glanced at my feet, my legs, and I proceeded to gently rub the top of my head.
Light washed distressed denim, beads around my wrist, classic Birkenstock sandals, a Dodger snapback cap, with Patagonia hiking bag slung on my back. I couldn’t have looked less the part. Less NY. Less Big city.
My eyes fluttered around: black shirt, black button-down shirt, black pants, expensive watch, leather bag, comfortable (yet fashionable) tennis shoes, designer loafers, well done hair. Everyone clearly owns an iron, or at least has a solid relationship with their dry cleaner. I divorced both of the aforementioned entities years ago. And truth be told, I never had a great relationship with either.
With all these newly acquired observations, I scan myself for an emotional response. And asked myself a critical (and scary) question: “How do I feel in my skin right now?”
I immediately thought “Oh my gosh.”
“Here it comes…”
“You’re probably going to want to swing by your hotel, and change, because you’re not fitting in. Your heart is about to race. Here comes the sinking feeling.”
I though for sure, one, if not, all of those thoughts, were moments from bubbling to the surface. Then, I waited a few more moments. And asked another question, “How do I feel right now?” Nothing came up. I paused again. Finally a smile surfaced, then a laugh.
“Holy shit, I feel good!” My heart was beating calmly. I felt light. And I there was something in my body indicating that I didn’t care about looking like everyone else. My walk, turned into a sassy strut through Bryant Park. I felt relaxed. I felt home. I felt like me.
Here’s what I can say. While it isn’t always easy to fully articulate the difference between ‘fitting in’ and ‘belonging,’ the internal feeling is unmistakable. Belonging feels like freedom. It feels like ease. When you are clear that you ‘belong,’ you’re flooded with energy and play. You can stand in a room full of 1000 people, or stand alone, and feel equally at peace. ‘Fitting in’, feels like work. It’s like carrying an invisible weight. It zaps your energy, and leaves you feeling like Mercury is constantly in retrograde (or like you left all our crystals, Palo Santo, and Angel Cards at home).
Belonging is truth. It’s truth to yourself, to the universe, and to the world. And truth will always feel like home.
Tapping into that sense of belonging isn’t some easy breezy magic. It can be a painful journey, where you sometimes feel like you’re fumbling around in the dark. The journey is about asking yourself the question, “how do I feel right now?” and then having the balls and curiosity to ask yourself another question. “How do I feel in my skin?” And then you ask yourself another question. “What feels true about how I’m showing up right now?” And after patiently peeling back the layers, one at a time. Over and over again. You reveal a sensation. And if you’re getting close to belonging, you’ll feel that giant sigh. Your shoulders will drop. And you’ll feel home.
Now, I’m by no means saying I have this ‘belonging’ business nailed. It’s been a 32 year journey, and I’ll probably still be on the journey for the next 70 years. What I can say is, I’m aware. I’m aware of when I’m slipping into a bad habit. I’m aware enough to ask myself tough questions. And I’m aware when I’m not truthful with myself.
Here’s the most magical part. WE ALL BELONG. WE ALWAYS WILL. We each need to discover it for ourselves. And when we do, we find home.