The other day I was thinking about belonging. I had worked with a client who said to me, “I don’t know where I fit in…” To which I replied:
“The question is not where do you fit in… The question is where do you belong.”
It’s so important to feel a sense of belonging. Ideally, we feel like we belong to our families as we are growing up – but I know that’s not true for a lot of people. Then there’s the fellowship of community: neighborhoods, religious institutions, school groups, sports, activities. All of these create opportunities for us to belong to something. To be a part of something. But even then it can be difficult to feel a sense of belonging.
As we go through our adolescent and young adult years, the hope is that we have found a place to belong, at least temporarily, as we figure ourselves out. Unfortunately, I’ve often seen that backfire. Because we don’t figure ourselves out… we figure out where we can fit in, instead.
We take the square peg that we are and over time (or fear) we shave off our corners to try and fit in the round hole. And we’re never whole as long as we do that.
We do our best to “fit in” because we crave belonging. We’re hard-wired to belong to something. It’s in our nature.
Humans are tribal by nature. We have to be – it’s how we survived. We learned to rely on each other and protect the tribe as its own entity. Different members of the tribe learned different skills in order to support the tribe. This is not new to human evolution, nor is it something we grow out of, in my opinion.
Instead, it’s something we’ve worked to overcome, by replacing belonging with “fitting in.” And we’re worse off for it.
So, again, the question is not (and never was): “Where do I fit in?”
The question is (and will always be): “Where do I belong?”
Only when we endeavor to answer that question will we start to heal our trimmed edges and begin to feel at peace within ourselves.