Do I Belong Here?

Do I Belong Here?

Belonging is a core human need. It feels really good to have a home -a soft place to land. I dedicate an entire chapter in my book to finding your true sense of self, because I feel it’s the first step in true belonging. Belonging is simply owning who you are, in any and every environment, yet so many times, we strive to fit in with the world around us and mistaken it for a sense of belonging.

Belonging is internal.
Fitting in is external.

Some days, I fit in with my environment, but I don’t feel like I belong. Conversely, sometimes, I’m confident in my sense of belonging, but I don’t feel like I really fit in with my current environment, or with what’s popular. As I navigate through life, I realize that the most important focus should be to belong, that is, to fully be yourself (in any situation.) Easier said (written) than done, right?

When I made space, in my life, for yoga, I felt that I would instantly have a place to belong. From the outside, looking in, yoga people appeared peaceful, friendly, and welcoming. It was a season of my life where I needed more of that, and so I mistakenly placed all of the responsibility for my sense of belonging into the yoga community. Now, it was yoga’s job to make me feel like I belong … or so, I thought.

I can speak to this from a deeply personal experience, as I journeyed through a multi-year battle with feeling like I don’t belong. It turns out, I was trying too hard to fit in, that I lost my sense of belonging. I would be with a group of women, whom I felt I had connection with, and suddenly feel lost. The sense of not belonging was very vivid for me, as they discussed the ages of their children, their to-do list surrounding the needs of their children, sharing recommendations for the best day care, mommy’s day outs, child photographers, and whether or not to vaccinate. With such conversations and the debates over natural child birth vs other options, I didn’t have much to offer, as a child-free woman. I just sat there, smiled, and listened, wondering if I should excuse myself. I would be in the middle of a hot yoga class, when the instructor would relate a challenging position to a toddler with a temper tantrum, and how somehow, we were to relate the need for patience in a pose to the patience a parent would have with their challenging child. I just held myself up, sweating, searching for something else to relate it to.

What happened to the community of like-minded people, who see things the way I see them, and around whom I would feel safe and accepted? My reality didn’t match my expectations, and even within yoga-land, I was met with the sting of insecurity of not fitting in. I did a nose-dive into what was really happening, and I learned that I used yoga to escape the responsibility of self-acceptance. It was my responsibility to find belonging just by being who I am, and I needed to journey further into my own sense of self and release others from this obligation. My yoga journey was a powerful companion as I navigated the ups and downs on the journey to belonging. I am forever grateful to myself for stepping out, even in fear, and to my teachers and fellow yogis who held space for me to learn the lessons, who met me where I was at, and encouraged me as I got to where I wanted to go.

It wasn’t just the yoga community either. Before I received the awareness of true belonging, some social situations felt like a war zone; public places felt like mine fields; all just waiting to attack me with a social debate or discussion that didn’t relate to me or my life. It’s true that, as a child-free woman, I am different from most women my age who choose motherhood, but we have similarities, too. The details of our lives may be different, but we are connected as women who feel some of the same emotions. Feelings of insecurity, doubt, and frustration pop up in the human experience, despite the roles we’ve chosen. I learned to lift up out of the conversations, debates, and opinions shared by others enough to acknowledge where others are at, meet them there, while standing firmly in my own space of belonging. From here, I can send empathy to any conversation.

As a yoga teacher, my own journey has equipped me to speak in a way that welcomes everyone to the space. I don’t know what kind of day my students have had, what’s on their plate, or what journey they are currently on. I do know that they showed up to class to share a space for practice, feel the fellowship of community, and to grow in a safe place. I make sure my cueing and conversation supports these goals. Although, it’s not my responsibility to ensure they feel a sense of belonging, I do feel it is my job to make sure they feel safe to continue their journey and to feel supported. Men and women can choose to serve in various roles during their lives, and I am proud of that versatility and freedom. Now, if I find myself in a situation or conversation that doesn’t relate to my reality, I send an empathetic energy out to the other person/people, whether in the yoga community or in other communities. After all, those are my fellow humans, trying their best on their journey as well -just like me -and we do all belong here.

*For an extended version of this journey, check out High Performance Detox, by Lacey Pruett, & Audible.