What is belonging and why do we often feel so far from it? Why are we telling ourselves that we don’t belong or that we are not wanted in a space when there is no evidence that that is remotely the case? Feeling alone in a room full of people is one of the loneliest feelings I have experienced. What I have also learned about these moments is that they are self-inflicted. Not always, but more often than not.  

We are powerful storytellers. Something that unifies us is our constant weaving pieces of information, judgement, internal conflict, and emotions together to create stories about our existence, about people, places, and things. I want to emphasize how powerful this is—whether we like it or not, this sways our opinions on who we hire, who we deem dangerous, and how we connect to others. How are the stories you are creating in your mind altering your reality and experience in this world? How much time do you spend creating vs. listening? 

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” – Maya Angelou 

Belonging is a vital need in our human existence, and I believe that you have to do some internal work to allow yourself to belong anywhere. Yet having the space to really learn who you are is hard when we live in a society that teaches us our worth through our productivity. 

We asked folks from SOWA to send us pictures in their camera roll that reminded them of moments of belonging—specifically for 2020.What has made you feel a sense of unity, or fullness, of true peace and belonging? The pictures ranged from solo wilderness adventures to food w/ friends to family to backyard hangouts. There are several similarities but also some riveting differences. This is how some of our folks at SOWA actively belong. What’s your communities belonging story?

This year has had me, and I hope most everyone else, re-evaluate. On any given day, I have mixed feelings of gratitude and rage. The time alone, in solitude – with less distractions like events, parties, and just buzzing around Seattle has granted me the longest held self-reflection period ever. I have re-evaluated in communion my definition of productivity, community, and belonging. I offer you these tidbits: 

  • My existence is not deemed worthy by my production levels.  
  • Production does not need to be beneficial to something (a company) or anyone outside of myself. 
  • Productivity is also choosing to grow, to heal, to hold space for myself and my community. 

I highly encourage folks to examine their priorities, goals, and what is holding the most space in your mind lately. And reflect (without judgement) if those things are there because they align with the capitalist agenda or with the best version of you agenda. Knowing yourself, who you are and what you stand for is one of the most grounding feelings.   

No one can control my feeling of belonging in a space more than myself; I will not relinquish that power. And whenever I am having doubts, imposter syndrome, or just not feeling at my best. If possible, I take a quick bathroom break and go into my full-on Issa Rae from “Insecure” pep talk mode (I’m not exaggerating). I need the confidence of an overpaid middle age white man at all times during my 40-hour work week.  

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” – Brene Brown  

Creating a sense of belonging doesn’t mean that there’s pillows on the floor or that every meeting is made perfect for every one of the 40 employees you have. It’s about having a transparent space where folks feel as though their baggage isn’t something they have to actively hide. Its being able to keep it a buck and express your needs without repercussions. True communal belonging is in those moments where we are letting our confidence slip up and your community is right there pushing you back up.  

Belonging is not something you create, but curate. The pulling together of people, resources, energies to hopefully alchemize the right space for a group. And that that group enters the space post bathroom pep talk or post “video-on” pep talk ready to engage. Feeling like you belong is something that drives our work at SOWA. And though we are far from perfect and learning right along with you, we have dedicated energy to curating spaces that will hopefully encourage and remind folks that you belong here and we’ve built this with you in mind.