Belonging has been a driving force in my life. I wanted to belong to the cool group in high school and yet was painfully shy. I enjoyed putting on my choir robes knowing that I belonged. Both of my marriages at some level were about the desire to belong in a relationship. Although I learned a lot from each of those experiences neither of the marriages lasted.
Recently I attended a two-day business development workshop. The first day I experienced a sense of not belonging. I heard inner thoughts like these: “My business is not like theirs. I don’t deal with real estate or finances. I deal with the invisible realities of life. My way of expression, what motivates me is not like the others.” Then I enjoyed an evening meal and stimulating conversation with a few of my fellow participants and the messages I was giving myself about belonging changed. So I decided that I really do belong and the second day was absolutely magical. What was the difference? Only my inner thoughts. Only what my mind decided to believe.
This experience sent me on an inquiry into the nature of belonging and how we know we belong. Initially belonging to a tribe was about survival. In our early years as humans we literally needed to be together for our physical survival. This instinctual need to belong runs deep.
Over the millennia humankind has defined belonging more by outer signs. I might choose to wear a shirt announcing the sports team I root for. Every season there are styles to dress by if we want to be considered stylish. The outer sign of belonging becomes more of a status symbol and limits our perspective of the true nature of belonging.
What if we are all born with a ticket to belong? What if there is nothing we have to do, no particular way we have to behave to gain the status of belonging? In every encounter we have the opportunity to remember that each of us was born with a ticket to belong. If this were the case then it wouldn’t matter whether we were talking with the president of the United States or the clerk in the grocery store or the homeless person on the street. And if that were our experience then jockeying for position in life would cease to be the top priority. The need or desire to please, to impress would diminish and we could enjoy simply being ourselves.
In invite you to join me in a grand experiment. Commit a day or a week or a month to greeting everyone in your life from the place of knowing that each of you has a ticket to belong. Then you will no longer have to long to belong. Perhaps, after all, belonging is really about longing to be. To simply be. How would your life be different from that perspective?
Comments and questions are always appreciated.