This month’s theme at Roma Loves Yoga is all about belonging. Knowing where you belong whether it be with friends, family, work colleagues can be a huge source of happiness but also a source of discomfort.
When we feel like we belong, we feel warmth, acceptance and love. We can be our true selves, let down our walls and let others in.
When we don’t feel this sense of belonging, it can feel lonely, we remain on guard, protecting and shielding ourselves in case someone see’s the true you and casts you out of the group.
I will share my journey I have with belonging and the journey I still find myself on today. I am a mixed-race brown woman and although it sounds a bit silly; it took be a long time to figure that out and understand what that meant to navigate the world.
Both of my parents are Mauritian, from this utterly beautiful island off the coast of Madagascar. This island was colonised by the British and celebrated it’s independence on March 12th 1968. Mauritius has a diverse array of people, which makes it a truly beautiful place (in my opinion).
My dad comes from Indian descent, Hindu, his skin colour sets him apart, deep brown, like his mum and dad… like his brothers and sisters… My mum comes from French and British decent, Roman Catholic. Her skin is fairer… like her brother and sisters…
They came to England when they were 19, separately but following a similar journey. They left their families and flew 6,079 miles away from everything they knew to try and make a better life for themselves and their families. I think about how scary this must have been, how sad their parents must have been to let them go. Not knowing when they would see them again. When I was 19, I was bar hopping and getting my degree at Reading and STILL taking my laundry home to be lovingly washed by Mama Choo.
When you’re young, you so desperately want to fit in, to be accepted even if this means compromising who you feel like you really are. Somewhere deep in your bones you feel it’s wrong, but u do it anyway… because acceptance is the MOST important thing. At least this is how I felt.
The friendships and relationships you form over this time look ok from the surface but there are very few people who actually know you and that can feel pretty lonely.
Over time, your bones start to scream at you that not being your entire self is exhausting and can you please stop pretending. I remember getting some feedback at work that I was a chameleon, I could adapt easily to the people I was faced with and my environment. I thought at the time that this was a good thing. It meant I was good with people. Or does it just mean that I am not authentic? Is this why I find it hard to connect with people on any real level, because they don’t know who the real me is? Do I even know who the real me is?
When you are a blend of things, it means you are obviously unique. You don’t fit neatly into a box… you spill over into several and make everything messy. When you spill, you don’t quite fill the quota in any box to be welcomed with open arms… and this repeatedly shakes your sense of belonging.
For years I identified as “black-other” as that’s the box I ticked on Job application forms. I knew I was a minority, but even in that minority, I was the alternate, I wasn’t the main thing. The world doesn’t see me as black though. They see me as Asian… but I don’t quite fit in here either…
I would quickly discover that I was not the ideal for beauty standards either… when the first boy I had a crush on told me to “get away from me you P***i.” I didn’t understand what it meant but I knew it wasn’t nice. I remember asking Mama Choo what that word meant and seeing her face fall. I don’t have children yet, but I can only imagine the pain she felt on my behalf.
These accumulations of things, things that your friends, partner or colleagues don’t experience sometimes leaves you feeling without a sense of belonging. When the BLM movement happened in 2020, it shook me in a way I had never experienced before and sent me on a path of discovery.
It was and still is a lot to process and I started speaking to someone to help me through it. She recommended I read “Braving the Wilderness” by the truly amazing researcher and author Brené Brown and oh my god… I felt like that book was written for me!
There was something that spoke to me so loudly that I want to share with you:
Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.Brené Brown – Braving the Wilderness
The definitions that kids in year 8 came up with to distinguish between fitting in and belonging just nail it on the head for me…
- Being somewhere you want to be, and they want you
- Being accepted for you
- If I get to be me, I belong
- Being somewhere where you want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other
- Being accepted for being like everyone else
- If I have to be like you, I fit in
What a bunch of highly intelligent year 8s… I mean, jeez if I’d have been told that, at that age… (I may have still desperately tried to fit in), but wow!! That was such a revelation to me. That true belonging comes from within, no-one else can give it to you.
Searching for it in others is somewhere in the “fitting in” category.
You have to “belong to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world.”
So I will stop looking for the confirmation that I don’t belong in situations and instead show up as the “me” that I am and know that if I do that, I will ALWAYS belong to myself.