Have I Done Enough To Make You Know You Belong? | Blog

Have I Done Enough To Make You Know You Belong?

In a recent conversation with a friend and colleague, I was deeply moved when she shared how she is realizing that throughout her life, in her desire to belong, she has been denying a part of herself. She was seeing this as a young student, with friends growing up, in work environments and in certain communities. In her desire to belong, she has been trying to fit in. And for her, that meant denying and downplaying her blackness. 

This touched me deeply. As she shared, I could hear her clarity, wisdom and strength. She had seen something and as a result, she was no longer willing to deny any part of herself. It no longer made sense. She was no longer willing to put “fitting in” above being her authentic self. Her honesty, vulnerability and strength were palatable. 

What touched me, may not be what you think. Can I relate to the desire to belong? Yes. Have I downplayed something rather than express myself and stand in my own truth? Yes. Like many of you, I'm sure you can relate to thinking you had to be something “more” or something “less” to get that job, be successful, join a group or fit in. This is why I could instantly empathize, feel the pain and the truth of what she shared. 

However, what touched me, was not relating to her, but realizing I have unknowingly been complicit in her pain. You see, I had recently had my own insight. I had begun to see that I have, unconsciously, asked people to be more like me so I can hear them, see them, respect them, hang out with them and yes, include them. It's a bit of a hard pill to swallow to realize that while I like to believe I stand for love, inclusion and humanity, in subtle ways, I have been asking people to change who they are or how they come across. 

In my ignorance, my blindness, did I keep someone from feeling like they could be themselves fully? Did I play a part in making anyone, including a black person, feel like they didn't belong? 

While perhaps it has not always been intentional, it is no less true. I've done this. 

These questions and insights have required that I look and listen deeply. I've had to go beyond guilt, shame or denial and be willing to see and learn. I am at the beginning of my journey, I'm still listening, learning and in many ways unlearning.

It’s humbling and uncomfortable, but I'm grateful to be waking up in new and meaningful ways. It is pointing me and helping me to more powerfully align with what matters to me. I've come to appreciate the edges, the rubs and the moments of seeing.  I'm coming to know that my deliberate attention and intention is needed for my own evolution and the evolution of humanity.

I’m also grateful to know my spiritual nature is giving me what I need to handle the real, raw and honest growth of my humanness. While at the same time, it is empowering and fueling the rise of love and action within.

Over the last two months, I've connected with family, friends, colleagues, clients and strangers from around the world who are asking themselves similar questions. I've spoken to CEO's and business leaders that are looking to see how they can create cultures of belonging & inclusiveness. These explorations have been heartfelt, uncomfortable and fearless.

I have appreciated and been inspired by how many people are looking, listening and taking stock. I’m grateful to know we’re on this journey together.

While my experience is my own, I share it here in the hope that it leads me and you closer to true belonging. That by getting honest and real, it opens us up to create more space in our minds and hearts for others. For revolutionary love and belonging.

These last few weeks, there have been more tough questions than answers.

For example, even though I relate to and experience the same desire to belong; to be loved, accepted, appreciated for all of who I am – how have I also, consciously or unconsciously, excluded, dismissed or put conditions on your belonging?

How can I love the incredible uniqueness of humans while also consciously or unconsciously asking you to be more like me? How can I say, “Be you!” but also say, “Can you tone it down a bit or see it my way?”

How can I say I care but not want to stay present in your rage and pain?

How can I sincerely love you but not make it safe for you to be fully heard or seen?

And one of the most powerful questions I’ve had to consider for myself – how can I believe that all lives matter but not fully engage with and fight for Black Lives to Matter? How can I say racism is wrong and believe in the equality of all humans and yet be on the sidelines rather than doing the work to create change?

I'm learning to get comfortable navigating this time of reflection. While it is not always pleasant, what I know to be true is that beyond defensiveness, shame, guilt or feeling bad, is our deeper truth. When we look with the wisdom of this deeper truth, our true nature, we align and move forward with clarity.

Facing that I am not living the embodied image I had of myself and how I want to be in the world, has been humbling, to say the least. Stopping myself from saying, “Yeah but look at all the ways you are doing good, you do love, etc.” has not always been easy. I find myself wanting to ease the uncomfortable feelings. However, by not brushing over these insights and truths, I’m stepping more authentically into aligning wisdom, love and action. I’m a beginner and I’m in unknown territory but what I do know is, we are made for this. 

These last two months of seeing more, waking up more, have been incredibly powerful and freeing. I cannot un-see that in my comfortable life and bubble I was not fully aligned in action and words with what really matters to me. 

This is what's possible when we look with truth, compassion and clarity. We don't have to be afraid to see our self-image, our conditioning or our biases fall away. We can handle it. We can handle the falling away of what no longer serves us. And in the end, we are strengthened by it.

As Maya Angelou says, “When we know better, we do better.”

When our blind spots come into view, when biases fall away, we fall into love and understanding. We naturally connect and see our common humanity. We engage with one another; we stand for one another. We see our connection. When preconceived ideas, unconscious biases, preferences or what we've learned fall away, we are left with love.

We discover that we belong to one another. We belong to ourselves. We belong to all of life. 

Looking, learning and growing is not always comfortable but it has the potential to wake us up to the deeper truth of who we are. It has the potential to powerfully change us; to change our lives, the lives of others and our world.

Love, connection and belonging is our core. Belonging is our birthright, yet it also requires we consciously create space and environments in our minds, our lives and our communities for one another.

Where can we, you and me, intentionally create more space for others to belong?

“We belong to one another. We belong to ourselves. We belong to all of life.” 

“I show up for you, because I see you as part of me. Your liberation is bound to my own.” ⁠⠀
– Valarie Kaur

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Barbara Patterson is the owner of a global coaching and consulting company helping solopreneurs, entrepreneurs & leaders access more clarity, creativity, have greater impact and higher levels of fulfillment in work and life. She is the founder of Beyond Limits in Business, a global platform and community designed to point people to the source of human potential. That potential resides within and is experienced via our minds. Barb is also the host of the Real Business Real Lives podcast. You can follow Barb on Linkedin and Instagram. You can also subscribe to her weekly blog on her website at barbarapatterson.com 



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