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“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who you are and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.”
“Most birds were created to fly. Being grounded for them is a limitation within their ability to fly, not the other way around. You, on the other hand, were created to be loved. So, for you to live as if you were unloved is a limitation, not the other way around.”
William P. Young
“Love will never be certain, but after collecting thousands of stories, I’m willing to call this a fact: A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all men, women and children. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved and to belong.”
#10 All love given returns.
I am learning to know that I am loved.
For years before New Life, I morphed into whatever was needed to fit in. Changing into something I wasn’t hurt in ways that I could not grasp at the time. I was rejecting myself to fit into something–anything, just to feel a sense of belonging. Alcohol was the one thing that I thought would bring connection, after all it was everywhere and at so many functions, yet over time there were parts that slowly disappeared altogether. Statement #10 in action changes that.
Women for Sobriety offered a new way to view and live life that felt connected from the moment I first discovered this life-saving program. I felt value in reading the Statements, and quickly made connections through the WFS Online Forum, then through face-to-face, and the annual WFS Conference. Each of us was looking to learn how to live without our substance of choice and it was in those moments that life-long friendships were made. While we were busy focusing on Statement #1, love was being freely given and received again and again.
There are certain actions that we can take to increase a sense of belonging and practice Statement #10. I would like to share 4 ways to achieve belonging written by Elizabeth Su:
1. Challenge Your Core Beliefs
According to Talkspace therapist Joanna Filidor, LMFT, people who struggle with a poor sense of belonging have likely struggled with it for most of their lives. For example, if you grew up feeling different, you might hold a core belief of “I do not belong.” These types of core beliefs become sticky and begin to shape how you view the world. “As you begin to go through life,” explained Filidor, “your brain only pays attention to the evidence that will support the core belief ‘I do not belong’ so even if the overall experience is one where you do belong, you might give more weight to the one interaction with a coworker where you didn’t belong.”
The more inner work I do, the more I realize the extent to which I crafted my life around fitting in with those around me rather than developing my own sense of self. It’s easy to do, especially if you are super sensitive like me. For example, I grew up in a household of academics — my dad is a retired physician and my mom is a scientist — so, of course, as a little girl I did what I needed to do to fit in and be seen. I excelled at school, focused on pursuing a traditional career path, and kept my creativity side over in the “hobby” category. Without being able to express my authentic self, I unknowingly developed a narrative that I didn’t belong because I never felt free to be myself.
2. Practice Unconditional Self-Acceptance
In her book “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone,” Brené Brown says, “I don’t think there’s anything lonelier than being with people and feeling alone.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surrounded by people and felt completely alone. It’s hands-down one of the worst feelings. Because the logical part of you is screaming “How could you possibly feel alone right now? There are so many people to talk to!” but your heart is saying, “But I don’t want to talk to anyone. No one understands me here.”
I’ve found that a lot of my feelings of loneliness stem from a deeper well of unworthiness. That people don’t understand me, don’t get me, don’t see me, and don’t appreciate me. One of the only ways I’ve been able to pull myself out of the painful feelings of not belonging is to practice self-love and unconditional self-acceptance. Filidor reiterates that experiences like trauma, dysfunctional childhood, and unhealthy relationships can lead to a feeling of not belonging. “These experiences cause a person to chronically experience a lack of unconditional self-acceptance,” shared Filidor, “leading them to rely on external forces for validation.” If you can feel worthy all on your own, then the feeling of not belonging won’t sting as much.
3. Make Room for “And”
There are times when I feel like I belong with my friends but not with my family. Or my work but not my company. Or my marriage but not the location in which we live.
Belonging is multi-faceted and it’s important to respect the complexity of your feelings about the spaces in which you feel you do or do not belong. When you have different and conflicting identities, Filidor stresses the importance of using the word “and” instead of “or.” As she explains, “We can be one thing and another at the same time, even if those contradict.” Understanding that you can feel multiple ways — even if contradictory — allows room to feel accepting of yourself and who are.
4. Prioritize Healing Yourself
I never would have been able to articulate the roots of my loneliness without the help of therapy and other expert resources. Investing in your own inner work and making your healing journey a priority is critical to achieving a sense of belonging. After all, we can’t change behaviors, relationships, or mindsets that we aren’t aware need changing.
It is hard, especially in our increasingly divided world, to feel a sense of belonging. Social media makes it even harder by painting an unrealistic picture that no one else ever feels lonely. However, it’s completely normal to feel lonely at times. And if that wave of loneliness washes over you, remember that you are loved, you are worthy, and you don’t have to be anyone else but yourself.
Dear 4C Women,
Karen has shared such phenomenal ways to love ourselves and know that we are loved. This might be the most challenging Statement to internalize as we begin our recovery journey. When I used alcohol to numb my feelings, it had a lot to do with feeling unlovable, unworthy, and unacceptable. Practicing unconditional self-acceptance was extremely challenging as I struggled with self-love and actually believing others loved me just as I was. There was a time when I would be crushed if I felt unaccepted by others. I did everything to win their approval and acceptance even when I knew my actions/behaviors didn’t match my core values. I wanted so much to belong that I lost myself. I wanted respect and yet didn’t respect myself. As I began to feel self-love, I also felt my worthiness grow. I didn’t need others’ approval to approve of myself. I didn’t need to be validated as I began to feel self-acceptance. At one time I craved recognition which was just another way of validating what I didn’t feel or believe. Through WFS, I was able to put into practice this empowering Statement. It became such a feeling of freedom to love myself authentically. I didn’t and don’t need to be validated by others. In my life, I never would have thought that possible. I encourage each of you to think about how you define yourself with total honesty. It took a lot for me to acknowledge my lack of self-worth and the lengths I went to in order to be validated. My greatest fear was REJECTION and yet I was the biggest rejector of me. The more I practiced this Statement, the more I realized my role in hurting myself unnecessarily. I learned I needed to validate myself and that was the beginning of self-love and self-worth. I was worth it and so are you!
As you continue on your recovery journey, think about how you define yourself. How your people pleasing that doesn’t match your core values is keeping you stuck. How loving yourself will bring self-worth, self-respect, and even healing as you both love yourself and know that you are authentically loved.
Bonded in knowing you are worth loving yourself and receiving love, Dee
Join us next week, September 1 @ 9pm Eastern for the kick-off of Recovery Month 4C style!!
Our Executive Director Michelle knows how to have a sober … good … time!! She will host this celebratory event complete with connection, laughter, and a fun game (prizes up for grabs)!