Emily Esfahani said that, “Belonging comes from being in relationships where you’re valued for who you are and where you value others as well. But some groups and relationships deliver a cheap form of belonging; you’re valued for what you believe, for who you hate, not for who you are. True belonging springs from love. It lives in moments among individuals, and it’s a choice — you can choose to cultivate belonging with others…Belonging is the most essential source of meaning.”
Every human being has this need to feel like the belong. We need to have that connection in our lives but this is also tough because it puts us in a pretty vulnerable place. When we put ourselves out there hoping that they’ll value us for who we are – it’s vulnerable. This is where we get in trouble most of the time.
We’re looking for others to give us the green light that, “Yes, you’re safe here. You belong here. You can be yourself here.” But the problem is, as we’ve talked about on numerous occasions, we can’t control what others do – ever. So this then becomes an issue for SO MANY PEOPLE. We need to feel that connection, yet, we feel powerless to do anything because we’re waiting on THEM to tell us we belong. But it doesn’t have to be like this. You don’t have a wait another second to feel that connection and belonging.
The key to belonging is going to stem from our thoughts. How do you know if you belong? BY WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT. If I think that I belong with group A over there and I think loving thoughts about them because I love them and I feel that I can be myself around them – then I belong. I don’t NEED them to tell me anything. They don’t need to change a single thing they’re doing for me to feel that love and belonging right now. Likewise, the more loving I show up and the more I show up as my authentic self – chances are they’re going to as well.
We gain confidence and courage to forge these connections when we strengthen our personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and with His son, Jesus Christ first. President Thomas S. Monson tells us that,
“Your Heavenly Father loves you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is SIMPLY THERE. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you deserve love. it is simply always there.”
You will always belong to your Heavenly Father and that pure connection and pure love teaches us how we can reach out to others as well. If we strive to be like Him then what do we need to do to connect with others and create those special bonds of belonging?
Love. Our love for others needs to be present whether the other person is happy or sad, discouraged or hopeful, whether they deserve our love or not. It needs to simply always be there. (This is not to say that we don’t need to set up boundaries or be safe – totally not what I’m saying – but even through that – you can still love others – even with boundaries).
You get to choose to cultivate that belonging. You choose to forge a connection with others by what you choose to think about them. Ask yourself how you’re seeing them. When I think of them what am I thinking? This is first because what you think about them is going to generate how you FEEL about them. Then that is going to determine what you chose to DO, how you act around them.
If I think Sally is annoying and I don’t like to be around her because she does annoying things – I’m going to feel irritated around her and annoyed. I’m not going to want to be around her. That belonging isn’t going to happen there because I’m not willing to choose loving thoughts. Everyone has annoying traits – I do. But when we love others we can let them be themselves and see through a different, more loving and patient lens. Can I get to a point where I love Sally? Where when I see her I don’t only see those irksome traits but instead I see a friend who is a little quirky?
What if instead of thinking Sally is annoying and then letting all my thoughts be clouded by that one label – what if I try to find things I DO love about her? Maybe I can see that she is really good in her calling with her primary kids. Maybe I see that she smiles at everyone. Seeing her in a different light will help me to cultivate that love for her and from there, belonging.
We choose belonging in how we show up with one another, in the acts of kindness we show towards one another. When someone reaches out in love towards me and I refuse or reject that kindness I’m hurting that connection, that bond of belonging. We need to be able to both give and receive kindness. We tend to have a hard time accepting others kindness but it’s essential to feeling connection and belonging.
I used to teach music lessons for many years and several years ago a friend of mine was complaining that she couldn’t find a music teacher that she could afford for her daughter. I thought about it and decided that I wanted to offer that for them. They lived a little ways away from us – not too far but not 10 minutes away either. I loved this family so I offered to teach her for free because I wanted to be kind and loving and I wanted their daughter to have the opportunity to learn. This was a big offer for me because at the time I was really limited on availability and the time I did have to teach I needed to fill it was a paying client. But my motivation to show and offer love was strong so I extended that offer. I was surprised that they said no and I was a little hurt. I’m sure they had a lot of reasons why it wouldn’t work for them at that time but to me I just felt rejected and hurt and it changed how I showed up in that relationship for a time.
We reject people and that connection more often than we think too. “I think we all reject people in small ways like this without realizing it. I do. I’ll walk by someone I know and barely acknowledge them. I’ll check my phone when someone’s talking to me. These acts devalue others. They make them feel invisible and unworthy. But when you lead with love, you create a bond that lifts each of you up.” – Emily Esfahan
We all need to feel connection and belonging and we don’t realize how much of a part we individually play in that bond. It starts as an individual thing.
Belonging starts with you. It starts with how you choose to think about the other person. It starts when you “lead with love”. It starts when you choose to see someone and offer a smile or words of kindness. Think about how good it feels to get a hug from someone? This week I went to a church meeting and in passing I saw this woman that is always so cheerful. She walked a little out of her way and offered me a quick hug and it warmed my heart. That connection was strengthened by that little act. At Time Out For Women* last year one of the speakers asked this poignant question: What if everything you did was MOTIVATED BY LOVE?
How different our world would be. We wouldn’t have so many people half starved for connection and belonging because belonging stems from love. It stems from our personal choice to start by thinking loving thoughts about others.
Today, try to align your thoughts, feelings, and actions to be MOTIVATED BY LOVE. See what happens. Watch as connections are made and bonds are forged. Feel that special link of belonging start to form in unlikely places. It’s amazing.
Time Out For Women: https://www.tofw.com