You Belong Here

 

״בשבילי נברא העולם״

“For my sake the world was created.”

-Rabbi Nachman

Dear friends,

This is a love letter to everyone who feels like they don’t belong.

Thank you for finding the courage to be here.

Here, in your body.

Here, in this moment.

Here, in the comfort of discomfort.

Today, I want to challenge us to understand what it means to belong. But first, a definition:

Merriam Webster defines belonging as “be[ing] a member or part of a particular group, organization, or class.”

Eh. What a flimsy definition. Let’s bridge the gap.

Belonging is an innate part of existence. It’s as ingrained in our psyches as success and happiness. And, like its friends, it’s often difficult to define.

I can’t “define” it, but I know what it feels like to belong. It’s alive. It’s electric. It’s downright terrifying. There is nothing more fueled in faith and insecurity than showing up and showing the world who you are.

Belonging is being seen. As you are, where you are, what you are.

There’s nothing like it.

Ever find yourself shrinking away from it? Yeah, me too.

In order to belong in the world, you have to belong to yourself.

It’s easy to believe in other people, to look out at the world and recognize their strengths, as we should. A life worth living is a life spent celebrating others.

However!

We shouldn’t turn off our own lights to make room for others. There’s plenty of space in the world for your light, in addition to others’.

There have been times when I have snuffed out my own light–it’s a battle that I fight everyday. Be seen. Be heard. Be real. Belong. For a long time, I confused belonging with “fitting in.” I’d cut myself down to size, hold my thoughts, and hold my tongue. My posture would change. I’d smile less. Please others more. It never felt good, but it felt like I was a part of something.

I really wasn’t a part of something. The roles we play in order to fit in are dangerous. Secretly, I was looking for proof that I didn’t belong, that I didn’t fit in, that I wasn’t wanted.

Why did I do that? Why do we do that?

We equate belonging with confirmation from the world that we deserve to be here.

Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work!

Belonging means knowing your true self—by stripping away layers to reveal heart and soul.

You deserve to be here.

You belong here.

We’re taught to love our fellow as we love ourselves. We learn this early on and repeat it often. In order to love your fellow, you first have to love yourself.

 

In order to belong anywhere, you must first belong here, in your own heart.

Here, in your own spirit.

Here, as you are, where you are, what you are.

I’ve always grappled with this concept. “Love your fellow as you love yourself.” It seems flimsy, airy-fairy, like a trap. I recently completed a course on Jewish education, in which this phrase played a starring role. It changed the narrative, and helped me connect to this long misunderstood concept.

A young child can’t truly comprehend what it means to love someone else unless they treat that person equally to themselves. They love themselves, unapologetically so much so that they can reflect a similar light onto others.

Love yourself. Shine your light. Unapologetically. Fully. Wholeheartedly. The world will be that much brighter for it.

You. Belong. Here.

A final note, my dears: Often, we’re responsible for holding ourselves back, We’re the ones putting out our own lights…I know that I’ve been the culprit of my own dimming many, many times. The world is simply following suite of my example.

Don’t hold yourself back. Protect yourself—from yourself. Step out into the world. Show up. Show yourself who you are. The world will follow suite.

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