I’ve been thinking about belonging a whole lot these past few weeks, and how much it has everything to do with finding clarity about what you can and cannot live with, as much as it is about realising what you absolutely need in your life right now. As I sit in Goa, every day tossing about a new sense of comfort in this very space that has been a source of anxiety and has tested me for too long now, I actually have found more and more clarity about where I truly belong, and what makes me feel at home. Right now, that is Bangalore. Because in Bangalore, I have all the things I need at this present moment in my life, to feel safe, secure, worthy, happy and most of all…like I belong.
S and I have been directly and indirectly talking about this a whole lot. And just this morning I said to her, this idea that what I want is tied to a place has dictated my movements for so long now, and I am only now realising how limiting it has been to diminish this discovery to geography alone. Very soon after relocating from Goa to Bangalore two years ago, I realised what I was really in search of was absolutely not related to the city I was in or where I was going to. It had everything to do with me, what was going on with me, and how I would choose to respond to those inner cues. That shift in perspective has made all the difference and has been so enriching.
And so while I use Bangalore and Goa as markers to distinguish two very separate parts of my journey, the real journey has been with myself. I’ve said many times before, how every small step, every big milestone in the two years since, the little changes, the monumental shifts, all feel like taking one step closer to coming home to myself. And that’s what true belonging has come to mean to me. To know myself, to dig deeper into an authentic experience of being me, to find comfort in all that I hold within.
At this point, VC is on a similar path too, and it’s fascinating to watch what is emerging for him, and how it is so similar to my own journey from 3-4 years ago. As much as I have been talking about this — with VC, with S, with D — in direct and tangential ways, and as much as I have tossed thoughts about in my head on my own time, I realise this idea of belonging and all the acrobatics we do to understand it and get behind it has been a huge preoccupation for me in recent time.
In my own life, in my body, in my being, I have sensed a change too. And it is undoubtedly having a massive impact on the relationships in my life. Both, really close and immediate, and those that are on the fringes threatening to fall away. This is natural. This is a byproduct of knowing belonging in oneself. It is frighteningly isolating and empowering all at once. I have struggled to talk about this coherently, choosing to talk instead about everything from exercise and food, to plants and the beach.
So imagine my surprise, and relief, to wake up this morning to this beautiful piece of writing by N, that put into exact words just what I have been feeling viscerally these past few weeks. This has been the journey for as long as I remember, before I even gave it actual conscious meaning and an actual place in my life. This search for worthiness, for love, for purpose — has all been about finding a place to belong. And I have spent so long trying to look for it all over, in places, in cities, in people, in groups, when all along I was right here waiting to welcome myself. N recaps this journey — coming home to myself — succinctly, touching every emotion that I’ve felt, every milestone, and beautifully conveys how scary yet exciting the journey has been.
It has been like bursting forth to new life. Like blooming anew. Like shedding skin. Like finding new reserves of self and self-worth. Like growing.
Sharing her words here, with permission.
You’ve felt unworthy of love your whole life so you cling onto anything that will help you feel accepted, loved, and respected.
Friends who don’t feel like friends but meet social requirements for friendship.
Careers that don’t fulfill the soul but look and feel shiny and successful on the outside.
Dysfunctional relationships with people who seem to dole out bite size portions of respect and love .. but only when you meet their expectations.
Money, power, expertise, a beautiful face, a fit body, your work, toxic relationships, social circles hold you hostage. All because they make you feel like you will hear the magic words one day: I love you. You are worthy.
Well-meaning loved ones seem puzzled by your constant need to be right, to be praised and to get credit for anything and everything you do right.
Then one day you decide you’ve had enough.
You stop trying so hard. You begin to tune out the noise and look for worthiness within yourself. Turns out there was enough within you and you didn’t need to go out looking for it in all the wrong places.
You begin showing up as yourself in the world: self assured & confident yet vulnerable and authentic. Love and acceptance begin finding you from unexpected places.
A stranger sees the light in you minutes after meeting you.
New relationships come together out of thin air – they satisfy your every need and make you feel supported and held. Like you always hoped you would be held.
Some old relationships take on a new meaning and depth.
You begin finding what you’re passionate about and what makes your soul sing not sigh.
You hope your newfound wisdom will help you mend all your wounds from the past. But you find that the residual pain, the wounds, the scar tissue will take a long time to heal.
The loved ones, the society, the work fraternity, the workout buddies – your former source for scraps of love have moved on without you.
They could throw you a bone while you hustled for their love but now that you’ve given up on that game you don’t meet their expectations.
You’re surrounded by love but it’s hard to give up seeking approval from the same old places. The places where you know you won’t find your worthiness.
This hurts. You howl in pain. Your wounds awaken and torment you. “If only they loved me as much as I want them to” you tell yourself between sobs.
You’ve been through this before. Looking for love and worthiness in the wrong place.
But this time is different.
You’ve already found a well spring of love and acceptance inside you. It would be wonderful to have it pour in from everywhere but the amount you need is right there in your heart.
No more no less.
Life and its players will continue to fail you with their expectations and conditions on love.
That’s their role in your life.
They are here to remind you that they are a poor substitute for that undying love you can feel for yourself.