Life is about finding the people and places that help you feel that you belong. This message is one that I have come to understand much more deeply in the last few years.
As a first-generation American, and experiencing college as a first-generation student, I had many experiences where I was reminded that I did not belong. If you consider the outsider perspective of having to elbow your way into a situation, you can easily see that engaging in opportunities not designed for you can be exhausting, and requires much strength. Through these two identities, I have experienced numerous examples of this feeling.
Most recently, I felt this way when I was working on a project where I did not feel heard. I could not understand if it was the way I was speaking, my age, my outfit, my identity, or something going on in my peers heads – but I could tell, my voice was not being heard. Even though I had been appointed leadership of this project, I was not fully accepted, and my voice did not belong. As I explored these feelings with friends, I recognized that perhaps this was not something I needed to worry about. Instead, I was encouraged by my friends to let go of this work, and focus on work where I belonged – with those who valued my voice, because that is where I would be able to do my best work, and in turn make my greatest impact to serve and support others.
This concept of finding the people and places that help you feel that you belong comes from recognizing that not all people or places “are meant for me,” and finding peace with that truth. Rather than trying to elbow into every situation, I can choose when to bend and adjust into a group, and when to let go.
This makes me think of the leadership quote, “Great leaders know when to step up, and when to step back.” Sometimes, you’ve got to let go of the people and places that help you feel that you DON’T belong – in order to find the people and places that help you feel that you DO belong. And to me, the purpose of life is to live and love a life that you belong in.
To encourage you to reflect on this topic, here are a few self-reflection questions to get you started:
- Who helps you feel that you are fully accepted?
- Where do you feel most at peace with yourself?
- What work do you get “lost” in?
- When was a time that you felt you did not belong (at a place, or with certain people)?
- What did you do about that?
- How do you wish you had behaved, and what changes might you make in your future behavior?
Continuing my journey of having a heart for people…