Longing for belonging
Moving to a new country can accentuate a longing for belonging and this can derail you from the path of authenticity onto the ever unsatisfactory path of attempting to fit in. You haven't relocated abroad to lose yourself, have you? If anything the opposite, so why when you do your best to fit in with the values and norms of the new country, you risk losing not just your roots but also your compass and your true self?
In our society there is strong pressure to conform and this somehow makes us confuse 'fitting in' for 'belonging'.
In order to be accepted and included you apply yourself to learn what's expected of you, and somehow mould your beliefs and behaviours to fit into a particular scenario or relationship, for instance. Have you tried to belong to a new group of people or a partner and then decided to step back from them because you felt you couldn't recognise yourself any longer? The same can happen when you long to belong to a new country. You can lose your true self.
What if belonging wasn't a feeling for someone, somewhere or even something, but was a skill? A skill we can all learn.
FITTING IN VS BELONGING
In her new book Braving the Wilderness - Brene' Brown offers us a rich distinction between 'fitting in' and 'belonging'.
Belonging 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 is 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. â Brene' Brown
Our desire for connection, recognition and love runs so deep that we may compromise who we are in order to feel part of something bigger, in order to belong.
But, as Brene' Brown clearly suggests the only true belonging that exists, and the connection that underscores everything else and all other relationships in life, is that powerful sense of belonging to ourselves.
Imagine if you could stop trying to be like everyone else and be comfortable with your differences, your accent and imperfections instead.
Imagine belonging to that beautiful and rich mix of cultures that comes from having lived in different countries.
Belonging to ourselves is not something we achieve or accomplish with others; it's something we carry in our hearts. Once we belong thoroughly to ourselves and believe thoroughly in ourselves, true belonging is ours.
Brene' Brown describes this deep belonging to ourselves as akin to being in the wilderness, the place that we have the courage to experience and ultimately become our true selves.
Belonging so fully to yourself that youâre willing to stand alone is a wildernessâan untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we canât control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and itâs the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand. â Brene' Brown
A SKILL WE CAN LEARN
This idea of an unpredictable place of solitude as searching for your true self in the wilderness rings true to my story, and yet I know how hard it can be. If you aren't comfortable with being alone you may consider reading my recent blog post The Magic of Solitude
When moving abroad you may be pulled in different directions - you might adjust some aspects of your personality, wanting to feel included, while simultaneously you might reinforce some other aspects that make you stand out even more. This can sometimes manifest as a tension between two different cultural identities and can be disorientating.
A good starting point to fill reconciled is exploring your values - your 'imported values', from your upbringing and culture of origin and your 'new values' and everything in between.
Taking the time to explore where you position yourself in relation to all these values can enrich your sense of belonging to yourself.
There will be other aspects of your dual cultural identity that might need exploring too. If you'd like support in uncovering your values and how to stand by them, even when alone, know that I'd be honoured to put my experience at your service - book a FREE discovery call here.
PS: I hold BrenÃ© Brownâs work in high esteem, in particular her work on shame and the power of vulnerability. However, I have to add that I struggled to feel at ease with some of the political aspects of the book Braving the Wilderness. While she makes an honest effort to present the political and sociological fragmentation of our society, I donât think she manages to speak to the minorities that live across the globe, and I felt distanced by the minimal acknowledgement of her privilege (White. American. Able-bodied. Christian. Middle class. Woman.).
For me, owning my privilege is crucial - it has determined my life choices and is embedded in all the work that I do. I can see another blog post coming on on the importance of owning our privilege in society but, for now, I shall just share a little video with you.