Belonging is a hard feeling to quantify. You can be welcomed somewhere and not belong. You can have the warmest reception and everyone be kind and gentle with you and still not belong.
Belonging requires that you not just exist in a space but that you have a right to it, that you aren’t just allowed to enter but to take up that space and be free to express yourself within it.
Talking about taking up space and claiming your own expression is a concept that is difficult for some people to understand. Those are people that have never had issues with that concept. If you’ve never felt like you haven’t belonged, it’s hard to imagine how others might feel.
There’s many reasons space is denied people, children are often denied space because as adults we feel they don’t use it the way we want them to. Beyond that there are countless reasons we deny space to our fellow humans, and in a lot of those cases I doubt there’s any credible reason. We deny space to women, we deny it on racial lines, we deny it on the basis of sexuality and gender, we deny it to the young, we deny it to the old. We deny it to the ugly, to the poor, to those that are sick, to those that suffer from mental illness, to those that are disabled, and to those that look different, act different, think different.
The elegance of belonging, the crux of politeness culture, of rules of professionalism, of guidelines for etiquette, is that it goes unspoken. Belonging is the responsibility of the unwelcome. Conform or move on. When you walk into a room and the conversation immediately stops until you choose to stop bothering others, or you choose to continue to take up space that is silently not offered to you. Each act you take after that reinforces the fact you aren’t’ welcome and that you are disrupting some unspoken status quo.
It takes an incredible amount of energy and nerve… yes it do take nerve, to claim space. To exist freely and openly, to flaunt that which makes you different, even where there’s no reason that you are different.
Sometimes it takes nerve just to exist, to belong in your own head. The pressure outside of your mind forces it’s way in sometimes. The internalized hate that infects your mind and makes you feel less then those around you. I’ve talked before about the shame that I feel about my own life, the weakness I felt growing up, the control I tried to exert because I felt helpless. Belonging starts in your own heart and head.
Finding places that you can just be, space that is given freely and without reservation is often rare, but it’s important to find those spaces, because I believe we all have an internal battle with our own issues to fight, and sometimes relieving the pressure on the outside is what’s needed to keep your own house in order.
As far as claiming space for yourself and being able to just exist.
Well I’m still working on that.