To follow up on the A is for Alone blog, I thought I would write a bit about belonging. I was just listening to Brené Brown talk on 60 Minutes about vulnerability and courage and connection. Her research on vulnerability and shame has proven that humans are wired for connection and we can connect with others if we are vulnerable. I spend a lot of time encouraging my clients to let themselves be vulnerable, reminding them that we are, in fact, wired for connection. I reassure them that if they allow themselves to be vulnerable and real and brave in the face of uncertainty and possible rejection, they will discover belonging.
This is a difficult concept for many, myself included. We hold ourselves back from belonging because we are afraid that there is something wrong with us, we assume that this horrible flaw, should it be discovered, will keep us in isolation and lonely (i.e. without a sense of belonging). We don’t want to risk opening ourselves up because we fear being rejected for that flaw, that terrible thing that could send potential friends screaming in the other direction. So, we remain isolated and lonely, wrapped in our invulnerability, closed off so no one can see us, really. But it’s a self-defeating cycle. By if we refuse to risk rejection, we cannot open ourselves to acceptance and belonging. And somehow it seems easier to be 100% lonely than to risk rejection.
We have to summon our courage, become brave enough to risk connection, if we hope to cultivate a community in which we belong. For myself, being vulnerable means writing. Writing often means taking huge risks, both exposing my innermost thoughts and feelings and putting them out there for anyone to read. It is especially nerve-wracking now that I am a practicing mental health counselor. But writing is where I find community. It is my identity, more than any other part of me. And while it is scary to put myself out there, the alternative is to make myself smaller than I am, to hide my true self, and to feel more alone and disconnected in the world.
And now more than ever, we all need connection. So, come on. Get your brave on. You might just discover you belong.