Belonging is a basic human need, just after food and shelter, and safety and security.
We can understand how our sense of safety and security might wobble or crash around a big life change, but why is it, that during times of transition we often feel so exiled from ourselves and so separate from others?
Poet David Whyte remarks, "To feel as if you belong is one of the great triumphs of human existence … But it’s interesting to think that … we are the one part of creation that knows what it’s like to live in exile, and that the ability to turn your face towards home is one of the great human endeavors and the great human stories."
What is belonging and why is it such a critical element in our journey toward growth and flourishing?
Belonging is a core developmental competency that we are wired to pursue through social connections. Ideally, those connections reinforce our truest expression of self and invite us into spaces that reflect our vibe and share our values.
If you are a parent, you know what it is to worry about how your child will find belonging with each new classroom they enter or team they join. You hope they'll find "their people," and feel safe enough in themselves to "spread their wings." You yourself will remember those dark nights of the soul when you felt utterly worthless, useless, lost and confused, clear of nothing but the longing in your heart to belong somewhere.
As a coach I am often a witness to these moments of exile that we fear in transition from one identity, one way of being, to another. My job is to champion, guide and resource you toward your desire for authentic connection and creative expression. Your job is to take those tentative steps forward (and inward) with curiosity and courage.
What makes it possible to "turn our face toward home?" How do we find belonging when we feel so separate, lost and misunderstood?
There is no one answer to that. In my experience and in my practice, I understand such a turn as a process of creativity. My Five Transformational Coaching Pillars -- liberate, navigate, play, empower, and flourish -- are how I see the artist's journey through transition after big change. For any transition to meet its creative potential, we first have to accept that it will be hard at times, and that it will take time. Transition is a process, not a quick fix. Real transformation requires a willingness to try new things, compassion for our stumbles and fortitude to begin again on our path to belonging.
Right now I am observing (mostly, I'm trying not to interfere with) my daughter as she readies herself for her freshman year of college. She already in transition and a new trial of belonging is just a few steps away. In my book, Braving Creativity, three artists tell stores about how, inside of their own process of transition, they tested assumptions, took risks, identified and honored their values, learned from mistakes, received guidance, logged their insights, and honed their intuition on their path to find belonging. For them, ultimately, belonging didn't reside inside of a creative community only, but inside of themselves. They trusted themselves enough to eventually believe that their heart would lead them home. What is one thing you can do today to light the torch of belonging that will bring you home to yourself?