Belonging - 4 Emotions for Mental Health Awareness (Part 4 of 4)

May 23, 2024

4 Emotions to Focus on During Mental Health Awareness Month (Part 4 of 4).

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month! Time to turn our attention to mental health and check in with ourselves. It’s a great time to ask: How am I doing? What have I been feeling lately? How can I course correct to live a little more authentically this month?

This May, I am centering my goals around acceptance by focusing on four authentic emotions:

  • Eustress (vs. Distress)
  • Injustice (vs. Anger/Hatred)
  • Humility (vs. Worthlessness)
  • Belonging (vs. Fitting In)

In the previous articles of this series, we talked about Eustress, Injustice, and Humility, which brings us to the last emotion: Belonging (vs. Fitting In). 

Eustress and Injustice have to do with accepting our emotions for the helpful response that they are. Humility and Belonging are authentic emotions that come from being accepting of ourselves. 

When we accept ourselves, we understand that we are imperfect and that our imperfect actions do not have any connection to or impact on our worth. We are divinely made beings that slip up often because we learn by experience. Experiences, positive or negative, both contribute to growth–they are both necessary. The divine worth within us is unchanging. It does not fluctuate with how bad or good we’ve been behaving.

“Fitting in” too often masquerades as Belonging, when in reality Belonging is much different than simply following a status quo. 

Belonging

“Fitting in” is commonly mistaken for Belonging. However, fitting in with a certain community is not the same as belonging to that community. When we “fit in,” we alter our behavior to match that of the group we are trying to fit with. We may start to change our style, language, and mannerisms to match what other people like. “Fitting in” becomes especially damaging when we change our beliefs, standards, and values to fit with what other people believe.

It is not always unhealthy to alter our behavior to be more like someone else. It is completely okay to emulate someone you admire or follow an inspiring peer's example. Learning from each other in this way is natural and a very helpful tool. Learning from each other in this way is different from Fitting in. Fitting in is driven by fear. When we alter things about ourselves because we are afraid we may not be liked for who we are, that is Fitting in.

True Belonging doesn’t come from a place of fear.

In an interview with TODAY, Brené Brown said, “The thing is that we are wired to be a part of something bigger than us so deeply that sometimes we will take fitting as a substitute, but actually fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging because fitting in says, ‘Be like them to be accepted.’ Belonging says, ‘This is who I am. I hope we can make a connection.” If you must change who you are to be liked, you will never be liked for who you are.

Belonging isn’t about being similar. It is about being accepting of our uniqueness because that is what makes relationships valuable. We belong when we are connected to each other, and our individuality makes those connections worthwhile. We seek out friends and family to add more to our lives, not to add the same things we already have in ourselves. 

This is what belonging sounds like:

  • I don’t seek to be like other people, I seek to understand other people.
  • I respect my own beliefs.
  • I respect the beliefs of others.
  • I appreciate different perspectives.
  • I accept myself for who I am.
  • I accept others for who they are.

We are each meant to be something wonderfully different because we are each meant to contribute something wonderfully different to the larger whole, that is, our families, our friend groups, and the human family. 

As I have gotten better at accepting my own perspective and personality, my connections with other people have grown deeper and more meaningful. Our differences do not divide us, they allow us to contribute to each other’s lives.

When we accept our own differences, we make a space for ourselves to contribute our uniqueness to the world.

Belonging begins with accepting ourselves, and it continues with accepting others. 

 

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