What does it mean to belong?
That’s a question I have been asking myself a lot recently. Along with, is belonging the same thing as fitting in, and I thought we’re not supposed to try to fit in because we’re taught to always be ourselves. This internal conversation has been going on in my head for a while, which are all inevitable thoughts for a teenager who’s trying to figure out who their real friends are and what group they belong in, especially because we live in a time where social media plays such a prominent role in our lives.
The first article I’ve ever written is about social connection, but I see now that there is a huge difference between the importance of social interaction and the importance of belonging. Belonging is about vulnerability, authenticity, and self-acceptance – not the acceptance of others.
Who led me to this impactful knowledge was the incredible Brené Brown in her book Braving the Wilderness. She looks at the meaning of belonging at a completely different angle from how I used to and most of us see it, which we define as “the human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group.” To me, that explanation just doesn’t feel right, because the need to be accepted suggests that I have to conform and alter who I am to be welcomed into a group. Brené explores what it means to truly belong, and explains that true belonging is about “believing in and belonging to ourselves so deeply, that we can share our most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something, and standing alone.” Contrary to how our society defines “belonging,” it’s not about changing who we are to be accepted, but it’s about accepting, trusting, and belonging to ourselves.
As Brené points out, we all need to realize that “we’re connected to one another by something greater than group membership, politics, and ideology,” as we’re connected to each other simply because of our coexistence as people. Believing in ourselves and finding the courage to embrace who we are with uncertainty is how we belong to the world and allow others to see us for our raw selves, and once you have accomplished this, it is super liberating.