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March Blog:

Belonging, just saying the word makes my insides both yearn and feel off kilter. This one simple word comes with so many different emotions. So, what does the word belonging mean?  The dictionary says, “… a connectedness to a social, spatial, cultural, professional or other type of group or community.”  When I think about the word, I have always thought in terms of the dictionary definition, where I connect to an outside group. However, today I want to think about the definition by Dr. Brené Brown; she says, “Belonging is being part of something bigger than yourself. But it’s also the courage to stand alone, and to belong to yourself above all else.” Wow, belong to yourself…what a concept.  

I have moved over 35 times in my life (yes, that is not a typo, 35 times) and to me, the one thing that every move came with was this idea of belonging. When I moved, what community would I belong to? What church? What school? What people? In most of these moves, the one thing I did not consider was how do I belong to myself.  In order to understand how to belong to ourselves, we need to develop our self-awareness. (Those of you who are thinking that this sounds like social emotional learning, you are right!)

Developing our self-awareness is knowing our most authentic self. Don’t shy away from that person! They are amazing and wonderful.  Getting to know who we are at our core and seeing the good, the bad and the ugly. Yep, I said it! All of it. We are complicated humans and none of us are perfect, in fact, that is what makes us human. So, who are you? Do you know? 

This is an ongoing process and there are lots of things that can get in the way of us seeing and loving our authentic selves.  All too often we look to others to give us value by saying we are good, kind, fun or any other adjective you are trying to be. We also hear a lot of “should-be’s” – you know you should be like this or you should be like that. Those “should be’s” are given to us by our community, society, school, and lots of other groups of which we are a part.  So, you are going to need to take the time to reflect and think about who your authentic self is. 

Dr. Brené Brown also talks about the idea of true belonging (you can see all of her amazing definitions on her website https://brenebrown.com/definitions/ ). She talks about it this way, “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”  (By now you may see why I love reading anything that she writes!!) This concept puts both definitions of belonging together. You are part of a group or community AND you belong to yourself. It requires you to be who you are.  

Like I said at the beginning, the word belonging makes me feel lots of different emotions. I am learning that the belonging I yearn for needs to start with belonging to myself-knowing who I am at my core and loving and accepting me for all those pieces. Then, when I belong to myself, I can go out and find communities, groups, and people who accept me for myself and don’t require me to put up a façade just to be in their group.  

If you are looking for something to read to learn more about this concept, I recommend Braving the Wilderness by (yes, you guessed it) Dr. Brené Brown.  

For students, try reading the book A Kid’s Book About Belonging by Kevin Carroll. This book tackles, head on, the emotions and concept of belonging and shares the idea that we need to belong to ourselves first! 

Jennifer Terry 


Culturally Responsive Minds has a new look, a new partner, but the same mission for 2021!!!  Stay tuned for more information.