There is a little rabbit, nose twinkling, sitting next to me. He is all fluff and soft and calm right now. His name is Wild. He became part of our family yesterday. Karki, Wild’s brother, hop steps from the hutch. They hop around me, over me, on me, then sit so still, then dart here and there. As I watch them I wonder how we can make sure that our new family members feel safe and that they belong.
This question goes beyond these fluff balls with ears: How I can nurture belonging for everyone in my family, including me?
Belonging fascinates me. I wonder if it is possibly one of the big questions of our time. How do we cultivate and nurture belonging? How do we feel that we are part of something and that we are accepted for who we are? How do we feel included and considered? How can we stay connected?
And the one I ask myself every day: How do I create belonging for my children?
So what happens, why is it so hard to belong? Can you remember a time when you didn’t feel like you belonged? I can.
“You can’t play with us today” one girl said to me over a game of hopscotch. “We aren’t playing with carrot tops today.”
I remember my heart sank, I felt alone and sad. I wanted to belong and be included so much. All I wanted to do at that moment was to dye my hair so I could fit in.
Ahh and there it is, where we fly off track. I wanted to belong and I was prepared to change who I was so I could fit in.
Honouring authenticity is the key to belonging
Sounds simple, hey? Just be ourselves. Simple, yet I believe it takes a great deal of courage and it is a gentle and slow process of getting to know ourselves again.
Show up as yourself
Tears were streaming down my face as my four-year-old skipped into the room.
“What’s wrong mummy?” She asked, full of concern.
At this point I could have replied with
“Nothing’s wrong love, I am fine.”
But I choose to show up…
“I am feeling a bit sad love, I am ok and I am sad.”
My intention behind this was to let her know that sometimes I feel sad and that is OK. But it was scary to tell her, I didn’t want to worry her. There are times I want to hide away what is my truth in that moment. But who am I kidding, my daughter would see through that and only see me hiding.
So how about you, when do you feel like hiding part of you?
Are there times that you don’t want to show a part of yourself?
When that happens, what are you worried about?
See all parts with acceptance
“Wild? That’s not a good name for a bunny!” the pre-school teacher said to my daughter when she was telling her about our new rabbits.
“You should call it Cuddles because rabbits have a way of living up to their names” she continued.
This may be true, sure, but what my daughter saw in the rabbit was a similarity to the wild guinea pig that lives in our neighbourhood. She honoured part of what she saw by naming the bunny ‘Wild”. She believed that the bunny could be wild and cuddly.
“I think the name that you gave your bunny is really honouring,” I told my daughter.
What happens if we always say that it is ok to be who you are… all the parts, the wild parts, the cuddly parts, the sweet parts and the ferocious parts? How can we honour all of our parts?
What parts of yourself and of your children are hard to see?
How do your react when you see that part?
Don't take on others' stuff
The other side of being authentic is not taking on other people’s emotion, reactions, and general ‘stuff’ as you own.
“You make me so mad” he roared at me, “this is all your fault.”
With this dialogue directed at me, I have a choice. I can either take on his anger and believe that is all my fault, or I can see his anger as his own. I can still look at what I have done and take responsibility for it, but his anger belongs to him and fault rarely belongs all to one person. This was such a hard lesson for me. I am not responsible for how everyone I deal with feels. Continuing to learn this helps me to step more into being the authentic me.
How about you, are there times that you take responsibility for how someone else feels?
Who are the people in your life that you do this with?
What effect does this have on your ability to truly be yourself?
Belonging feels a bit like a dance that we continue to move to as we slowly find our way back to ourselves. Back to a self that is strong and can stop scrambling to fit in. I believe that slowly finding ourselves can lead to creating belonging not only for us, but can help model and nurture that for our children.
Please visit www.connectful.me/ to read more about developing your relationship with yourself