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We all want to belong. To feel like we’re a part of something. To feel accepted. And to fit in. For some people, it all seems to come natural. That person that succeeds at everything without seeming effort. All those people with those perfect lives and stunning photos on Instagram. And some navigate this life trying to find their place. To find true belonging.

This post is inspired by a book I finished only a few days ago. It is a subject very dear to my heart. Yesterday I posted a photo with a quote from this book on Instagram and the reaction was very weak. I think it got less than 10 likes in a day, which is an all time low on my account. It made me think if I should write this post at all. I decided to do it anyway. Because I don’t want this blog to become a collection of clickbait topics and perfect SEO titles. I have a few of those as well, but I always choose topics that are close to my heart, even when writing for others.

This post is for me. And for those who felt like me at least once in their lives. Who felt that no matter how hard they tried, no matter what they did, who they talked to, they just didn’t fit in. It’s a book review of sorts, but it is also my own view on the subject.

The Quest for True Belonging

The book I am talking about is called Braving the Wilderness – The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone and it is written by Brene Brown. If you are interested, you can find the link to it below.

The book itself is inspired by a wonderful quote by Maya Angelou:

You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.

Maya Angelou

The concept is hard to grasp at first. How can freedom mean belonging nowhere? I want to belong. Everyone does! I was compelled by it too. And, as the Dr. Brown herself confesses, she didn’t quite understand it either. The book pretty much starts and ends on this quote.

I’m not a book reviewer by nature, so I’m not gonna write an in-depth review. Plus, there are a quite a few lovely reviews already – one I really like is by Lisa Maria. I’m just gonna tell you it’s worth it. It will help you better understand belonging, what it really means and why it’s so hard nowadays. And it will help you understand the meaning behind the beautiful Maya Angelou quote.

What does belonging even mean?

What does it mean to you?

Does it mean being accepted for who you are? And as you are?

Does it mean that they care that you are there? And that they want you to be there?

Or perhaps it’s just fitting in? Adapting yourself, changing who you are so that you become like them?

To me, as to most of those interviewed by Brene Brown in her book, belonging means being accepted just as you are. It means that they care you are there. They care for your opinions.

It is a very different concept than fitting in. You see, in order to fit in, you change who you are. You adapt so that you are more like them. And you hope, with each change you make, that they will like you. But you know what the truth is? The more you need to change in order to fit in, the less you actually belong.

And here is where the quest for true belonging begins.

True belonging means sometimes you’ll walk alone

Man, this can be such a scary thing, isn’t it? I’ll take the liberty to quote from Brene’s book:

Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness – an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t 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 it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.

To me, walking alone is the best way of knowing myself. For years I tried to fit in. I confused the two terms. I thought if I could just be like them, I’d belong. And many times I managed to fit in. Was I happy? Shortly. Very shortly. And it was never true happiness. I felt wanted, I thought I had a group of real friends. We were all alike, shared the same ideas.

But at the end of the day, when the noise subsided, when the parties were no more, when it was just me at home, I realized I did not belong. Not matter how much I tried, I was not like them. I did not share their ideas. It was an effort to be there, among the cool kids. I didn’t hate them. I just…didn’t belong.

No place – every place – no place at all

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. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.

This quote from Brene Brown’s book sums up the idea of true belonging very well for me. And it is also a nice follow up if you will, to Maya Angelou’s idea. You have to belong to yourself first and foremost. To find the courage to be authentically and unapologetically you. To trust that you are an amazing person, with amazing talents to share with the world. That your ideas are worth hearing, even if they contradict the popular opinion.

However, it doesn’t mean to go about it in an offensive way. In Brene’s words, speak truth to BS! Have a strong back, but a soft front! Be ready to be strong, to face adversity, to stand your ground. But allow yourself to be vulnerable, sensitive, open. Vulnerability can be an opportunity, not a weakness.

Closing thoughts

I hope you found some inspiration from my musings around this amazing book. There are more ideas that came to me while reading it and I will most definitely tackle them in the future.

And regarding true belonging, I know one thing – it is a journey. It is something we learn every single day. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not. The little voice that tells us to fit in will come back time and time again. Don’t listen to it! But also don’t hate people. Don’t become judgmental of those who do not share your ideas. Chances are, they are facing the same struggle as you are and just want to belong.

Also, if you like my book recommendations, check out this post with 5 books every woman should read.

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Comments (7)

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    Paula @ I'm Busy Being Awesome

    This is such perfect timing. I just finished Brown’s Daring Greatly and was wondering which one to read next. Now I know! Thanks for the great review 🙂

    Reply

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      Laura

      Glad it helped 🙂 I’m going in the reverse direction. I’ll continue with Daring Greatly!

      Reply

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    HARAPRASAD CHATTERJEE

    Nice idea. More on mental construct process would have made it awesome!

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Laura

      Thanks for the idea! I’m gonna try to do a blog on that soon 🙂

      Reply

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    Katrina Gorman

    Wonderful 💖

    Reply

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    Mandy

    This is so true. Thanks for sharing. The words resonated with me so much. This has been me for a long time and while I’m happy that I truly know who I am, it’s still lonely sometimes to be fully aware of how few people understand me.

    Reply

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    Jillian

    Thank you for sharing your story and review. I have only recently learned a little about Brene Brown, and I’m very intrigued by her work. She does a great job of reminding us that we are all human with the same needs and emotions. I think owning who you are as an individual is an imperative part of true happiness. Maybe your Instagram following just didn’t resonate, but don’t let that deter what you write here. I loved it. ~Jillian

    Reply

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