Choose to Belong

Do you feel like you don't belong? You do. On the other side of this feeling is growth & fulfillment. But, it's going to require something of you to get there.

Choose to Belong

My daughter comes running off the soccer field crying. She doesn’t want to play anymore. This is a surprise. She is a tenacious 7-year-old kid, outgoing, and loves being with other 2nd graders. Something is wrong.

I get on her level and ask, "Why? What's wrong?"

"I don't want to play."

"Of course you do! You said you really wanted to play soccer."

"I don't anymore. I don't feel like I belong with these girls."

This hit home. I knew exactly how she felt. I feel it when I am trying something new and out of my comfort zone. Like I’m an impostor. I feel different from everyone and just want to retreat somewhere in the shadows.

Need to Belong

When do you feel like an impostor? Where do you find yourself wanting to shrink into the shadows? I’m sure you can think of a few places where you feel like you don’t belong. In those places, it's easier to hide and to be unknown. It's easier to stay in the shadows.

So why is this such a problem? If it is easier, why change?

The problem is, doing what’s easier conflicts with a basic human need: the need to belong.

We all have the built-in desire to be known by and connected to other people. It's part of the human condition. We want to be known by others and we want to be accepted for who we are. If we stay in the shadows, we miss out on opportunities to belong.

However, when we do step out, we are met with the thought, "What if I am not good enough to be around them?" We ask ourselves, "Would they like me if they really knew me?" Impostor syndrome kicks in.

We don't want to be uncomfortable, but we also want to be connected to others. So where does this leave us?

Move to Belong

It leaves us with taking a leap of faith. It means sticking with something even if it's uncomfortable. If you are already a player like my daughter, it means staying in the game.

If we remove ourselves to avoid the pain, we will miss the opportunity for growth. The chance to move from our current comforts to the new possibilities around us.

For me, this is stepping into the risk of publishing my writing. A few months ago, I was scared to publish anything. I didn't know if I was good at writing, if anyone would like it, or if I would have the ability to keep at it for more than a day. I also knew I didn’t want to stay in the shadows, so how do I move from where I am to where I want to be?

I came up with 4 questions to help me move:

  • Will I learn from this experience?
  • Am I willing to commit to the work?
  • Am I willing to accept the risk if I fail?
  • Am I willing to accept the loss of not trying?

These questions helped push me to the place where I was ready. I decided to take a risk, to step out, and bet on myself.

Since then, my journey has been one of fulfillment, new opportunities, and a lot of fun. I joined a writing group, published essays, started a newsletter, and met people from all over the world. It has also included its share of fear and being uncomfortable. Yet, above all, I took a leap of faith.

Decide to Belong

I realized I don't need to wait for someone else to give me permission. I own my journey and create my opportunities. I decide if I belong.

It's the same with you. You may not feel comfortable with stepping out and taking a risk. This is what it feels like to try something new and different. It's where growth waits, ready for you to step into the experience.

The question for you is: where do you need to take a leap of faith?

For my daughter, the opportunity for growth was sitting in front of her, waiting for her decision. As I looked in her tear filled eyes, I said, “You do belong. You belong on this team as much as every other girl.”

“But I’m not very good.”

“You have to start somewhere. Just like all of the other girls did and like your mom and I do when we try something new. It’s uncomfortable, but the more you play, the better you’ll get.”

She thought about this. As one might expect with the tenacious kid she is, she moved forward into the uncomfortable space. She summed up her strength and resolve, stepped back onto the field, and stayed in the game. She met uncertainty with determination and decided she belonged on the team.

This is my hope for you as well: that you choose to belong. If you are ready, step into the uncomfortable space where growth waits for you and experience the journey.

Decide to take the risk. Don't wait for permission.

Take the leap.

Thank you to everyone from Compound Writing for the feedback on this essay!