I don’t belong.
Uttering these words leaves a bad taste in our mouth—and scars on our hearts. Nevertheless, I would venture to say we have all felt them even if we did not verbalize them.
I don’t belong.
Painful for sure and not quite “normal” despite the fact not belonging—for most of us—is part of the human experience
From an anthropological standpoint, humans are designed—and equipped—to live in supportive groups. Until recent history, living in groups ensured our survival.
Since modern times, we have had a sense that groups are optional. Theoretically, we can live on our own.
Our families and support systems have shrunk leaving many of us vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and despair.
Belonging to a group no longer appears necessary. Likewise, interdependence is no longer a must for survival.
Except, it is.
While we can subsist alone, we do not thrive alone.
From birth, humans depend on each other. Babies left to themselves are labeled failure to thrive and while we have no such labels for adults—as far as I know—this fact is no less true for all humans no matter their age.
Sadly, many of us don’t feel we belong—anywhere. When this is the case, it makes it hard to blossom and reach our full potential.
Rejection is painful and all too common.
I am no exception to such feelings.
I left France—and therefore—my family at the young age of eighteen. Throughout the years, I have dealt with guilt over this decision. The more I matured, the more I acknowledged I had inadvertently caused my parents pain by leaving.
The strange thing is that leaving for me was easy.
I didn’t belong in school. I felt different.
I didn’t belong in France. I felt different.
I didn’t belong at home. I felt different.
For me, being able to fully embody—and be—Florence meant I either had to conform or leave. At least, these are the options I saw at the time.
You know my choice.
Even though I left, I still wanted to know I belonged at home or at least somewhere. I wanted to feel part of.
Do these desires ever leave us?
I don’t think so.
Sadly, I have felt on the fringe of almost any group I have encountered. I am either too much for some and not enough for others. Either way, I miss the mark and very rarely feel “just right.”
While not feeling “just right” used to bother me, I have come to accept it. Really I am okay with it. It is part of being me.
I don’t belong everywhere.
However, now I do belong somewhere.
Welcome to my World
Not belonging and not feeling like I fit, I created worlds all of my own where I was the undisputed Princess. And, in my childhood, there was one place that resonated with me.
This place was not a sanctuary because the people made me feel welcome. Nor was it the village itself which drew me. Rather it was nature which called to me like a siren’s song.
Brittany’s chant was the anthem of my soul.
I belonged there.
As a very young girl, I saw this little village in Brittany as mine. It was my Happy Place and I was mistress of this domain. I felt an incredible sense of belonging in this world. I can’t fully explain it.
It is in this sacred space that a defining moment occurred for me.
It took place during the summer at my cousins’ school fair.
I spent every summer with my aunt, uncle, and cousins—my grandparents lived next door. I tagged along with my aunt and cousins to almost everything. This time, it was their elementary school fair.
I did not mix with the crowd and go from booth to booth. Instead, I stayed out of everyone’s way and I happily played alone.
I perched myself on the wide granite stone wall of the schoolyard. Lost in a world of my own design I was having a grand time as the undisputed heroine.
I still recall this day clearly. Defining moments are not easily forgotten. I experienced such joy at being me, playing on the wall.
Lost in space and time.
In a state of flow.
My delight was crushed upon leaving as I entered my aunt’s car and she felt the need—why? I shall never understand—to share these words with me: “Mrs. Border says you are the most stuck up little girl she has ever seen.”
Mrs. Border is not her real name and while I doubt anyone reading this post will know her, I still felt the need to protect her identity.
While being a kid, staying out of the way, and playing by myself, I had somehow managed to displease an adult. A teacher. A friend of my aunt. Someone who deemed it necessary to vocally share her displeasure about me to a family member.
I Don’t Belong
My world stopped and then tilted a bit.
Blood rushed to my ears and I felt my face flush.
What were these feelings?
Shock? Pain? Shame?
This verdict was made all the more impactful because my beloved aunt put much stock into the words of this “educated” woman, a teacher. Mrs. Border’s declaration was not just words strung together, it was a verdict of my being-ness.
The decree was thus: you are NOT enough.
I had missed the mark and I couldn’t fathom why.
What could I say?
No place was safe.
Being me wasn’t safe.
Nor was it acceptable.
Staying quiet, wasn’t safe.
Staying out of the way, wasn’t safe.
In the end, I belonged nowhere.
I don’t belong.
This painful lesson became knitted in the fiber of my being along with other judgments. None of them uplifting,
It stayed with me for decades tucked in the corner of my heart.
Maybe, it still is with me.
When I get afraid. I am quite certain I still hear the whisper of I am not enough.
When I anticipate unkind words or rejection. I still hear Mrs. Border’s words blaring at me from the past.
In these moments, I want to shut the door to my heart and pull up the drawbridge.
Use the moat if you must.
Good luck with that.
That’s no solution.
I know what I must choose to do.
I need to let myself be seen.
I need to let myself be heard.
I must announce to the world that despite the fact that I may not be everyone’s cup of tea—which is okay—I am nonetheless enough and indeed, more than enough.
Mrs. Border—and people like her—can take me or leave me as is anyone’s prerogative. She neither can make me less nor can she make me cower, disappear, or hide.
While no one stood up for that little girl in the ombré pink dress perched on top of an old wall eons ago. I, on the other hand, shall certainly stand up for her.
I shall not hide.
I shall not be quiet.
While I do not intend to harm and be unkind. I shall not change like a chameleon to ensure everyone is happy, content, and comfortable with me.
While words and deeds may pierce and hurt, I won’t allow them to stick and define me.
Why—as human beings—are we so willing to believe the negative while we are so slow at embracing the positive? We will take a mean comment to heart while denying ten deserved compliments.
While we are not—nor will we ever be—everything we are enough.
We are not perfection. We are still enough.
As individuals, we strive to do our best.
We all do our best.
At this juncture, I will admit that to an impartial observer, sometimes our best stinks.
In truth, it does.
For instance: a four-year-old who makes a flat cookie with too much salt did her best. Nevertheless, the end product—namely, the cookie—may be subpar. Even if, this batch of yucky cookies is destined for the trash—unless we are an absolute ninny—we will praise her efforts.
Solely because we are recognizant of her ability and we know that this pint-sized girl did her darn best and that is enough.
Perfection is not enough.
Perfection is insanity.
Moreover, perfection is a lie.
Being yourself is enough.
Yes, even if….
…you are average.
Because I’ve got news: most of us are average in almost every area of our lives.
Less than average is also enough if that is your best.
What you bring to the table is enough, thank you very much.
Yes, admittedly, some days our best is abysmal.
Our best is pathetic.
Some days getting up and putting one foot in front of the other is all we can muster and that is indeed our best. And, that darn well better be good enough.
Take it or leave it.
It is what it is.
Others’ judgments are not mine to wear as a cloak.
They are not mine to embody.
They are not mine to believe.
They are not mine to listen to and entertain.
Letter to Mrs. Border
I won’t judge you as you have me.
In truth, I know little about you. Nevertheless, I know enough to know that life has not been easy.
It isn’t for anyone. As death is a guarantee to all who breathe, so is hardship however it presents itself.
I can give you the benefit of the doubt because you are human as I am. I, too, have said some dumb things in my day. The grace I desired—and often received—I can now extend to you.
I can stand boldly.
I can be me even if my knees knock together and my voice trembles.
The beauty of this deal is that you get to be you as well.
And, if you do not have space for me, I will nonetheless make space for you.
Ultimately, my acceptance of you is acceptance of me.
It is in my unfolding from the restrictive cocoon which held me far too long in the clutches of fear and shame that I now emerge a new creature. My acceptance is my freedom to be me.
And that, my friend, is enough.
Enough is Enough
You are and that is enough as well.
Maybe I was stuck up. It is unimportant now. I doubt you remember the words spoken so long ago while I have pondered them far too often. I doubt harm was meant. And, when I saw you on occasion after that time, you were kind enough.
I am no longer ten.
My goal is neither to please you nor to have you accept me. Although it would be lovely. I do not need your stamp of approval to be ok and to know I am enough.
My intent is to stand bravely and be seen.
To love and to be loved.
To be accepted and to accept.
Blessings to you as your life continues to unfold. You did teach me well after all.
I read a saying once which said that everyone is either a blessing or a lesson. At ten, you were a lesson. Now I see that this lesson was a blessing. As much as I abhor the thought, I will undoubtedly be a lesson to someone as well.
Such is life.
So, I will now straighten my tiara, pick up my train, hold my head high, and pursue my journey—meanwhile praying I don’t trip on my dress as I go forward.
I Don’t Belong
If you too whisper these words: I don’t belong. I understand.
However, I pray you can see that your feelings—while real—may not be true.
The lack of acceptance you will encounter is not a reflection of your worthiness or lack thereof. It is not a sentence.
In truth, as much as we hate rejection, we have rejected others as well. There are some people who aren’t our cup of tea. We just don’t click. It doesn’t mean we—or they— are not enough. It just means we aren’t meant to share this journey together.
Be bold and brave and show yourself.
Yes, some will walk away.
In truth, others will be attracted.
We live in a big world with many individuals. We are not all meant for each other.
Your tribe needs not be large. If you have a handful of real friends, you are blessed.
Trust me, the worst kind of condemnation does not come from outside of us but rather from inside. I know this all too well.
Speak kindly to yourself and about yourself and tell yourself—until you believe it—that you are enough.
I will leave you with the song below.
This is Me
This song from the movie The Greatest Showman really spoke to me. Enjoy!