Belonging Imperfectly

I’m currently in development for a camp for young people, aged 11-17 who belong to Village of Promise (VOP). VOP is a San Diego based 501c3 that works with young people whose parent either has been or is incarcerated.

Each summer, this being our 10th, myself and a small team of 3-4 adults create a new theme and all the workshops and activities that will showcase the theme—and give Villagers an experience of hope, fun, vision, and continuity.

This summer, we are using several of Brené Brown’s concepts and her extensive body of work that specifically will be touching on “Belonging.” One of the values we developers bring to this process is that we don’t ask the “kids” to look at things that we aren’t willing to look at ourselves. During a recent meeting, we members of the development team went deep into looking at how we actually see ourselves, and within minutes, emotions were flowing and previously untold stories were being shared. The voicing of this was clarifying in terms of our own opinions of ourselves and the opinion others had of us. We exposed underlying feelings of rage and one member’s insight that she honestly did now know who she was. With the tenderness of being present with one another and listening without judgment, we further understood what we needed to create for the Villagers.

Belonging, as defined by Brené Brown, is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. She further states that belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

The imperfect description about belonging is what caught my attention. People often say things like, “No one is perfect;” and “You don’t have to do it perfectly.” The truth of the matter is that there is a subtle, but consistent message in society that perfection is expected. And if there is something that isn’t done quite perfectly, it is at the very least mentioned, and at worst, you are turned away, demoted, or in some way held back from reaching the highest acclaim. So, how do we belong and feel accepted as our authentic, imperfect selves when the expectation is otherwise?

We explore our own truths with purpose and intention. We take the time to look at who we believe ourselves to be and notice if and when it matches our behaviors and how we show up. We take the time to share and let people in to hear our private thoughts, and we do this with as much honesty as we can abide. This is the beginning of being authentic. Once we begin to know our authentic selves, we notice how much easier it is to let go of the illusion of being perfect. It is in our authentic selves that we begin to make friends with, or at least to form tolerance for, all our imperfections. We learn to generate ease with the things we’re not very good at, not even a little. We learn to count on others to fill in the gaps in our own beings and share their innate skills and talents without jealousy or envy. We come home to the idea that we are indeed, All One.

One of the VOP developers this year talked about how we could convey the notion among the Villagers that “we all belong to one another.” We kept that theme in the foreground each week, and in every meeting, we explored it a little deeper. We talked one day about “that one person” in our lives that we just couldn’t find a way to love and accept. It was not an easy conversation to have, but again, we held fast to not being judgmental of one another, and just allowing the words and emotions to flow. And while we may not have had any major breakthroughs, it created movement, an inching forward towards manifesting the utopian Oneness and living like “we all belong to one another.”

It is with admiration that I work with capable women who come face to face with injury, surgery or a difficult diagnosis. I guide them holistically to navigate the medical trauma and maneuver through the emotional mayhem so they can return to a vibrant, independent life. If you or someone you know has such a challenge, I would deeply appreciate you sending them to to contact me to see if we are a good fit to work together.