The Magical Connection Between Self-Acceptance and Belonging

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Throughout history and across cultures, we, as people, all have a deep need to feel love and to belong. I believe our need for love and belonging is as essential as the physiological and safety needs. Without love and belonging, we don’t survive.

This need for love and belonging must be fulfilled before we can experience esteem, that is, our sense of contribution, value, or respect from the world. It must even be fulfilled before we can seek self-actualization, that is, the desire to become the most you can be or achieve your potential, whether for you that means to become a nurse, be a better parent, or create a new invention.

While you may achieve a level of success, without having that foundation of love and belonging you will likely feel unfilled, and that your success is not enough because you believe are not enough. That’s why we have the adage “money can’t buy happiness,” and hear about individuals who seem to have all the money and success in the world, but are still unhappy inside. When you lack the feeling you belong, your personal growth will be stifled.

To truly feel love and belonging, we must start with self-acceptance.

Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect.
— Brené Brown

We can’t feel like we belong with others in our community if we don’t feel like we belong within ourselves, if we have doubt about our worth, or animosity toward aspects of our lives we can’t control. When we don’t love ourselves, that negative energy seeps into all areas of our lives — from our jobs to our relationships with ourselves and others — and prevents us from growth.

Self-acceptance is the most powerful tool we can have in our arsenal to nurture our bodies and protect ourselves from the negative energy that causes us to fall into the habit of comparing ourselves to others, getting jealous, and feeling judged.

The path to self-acceptance and belonging starts with mindfulness.

You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.
— Maya Angelou

The first step toward self-acceptance is becoming more mindful of our negative thoughts, and to simply notice them with non-judgemental curiosity. When you find yourself engaging with a negative thought, notice what the thought is about. Are you feeling judgment? Comparison? Notice how your actions change and how you respond to others when you’re having that thought. Do your shoulders get tense? Do you become defensive?  

By acknowledging the thoughts themselves and your reactions to them, you are empowering yourself to take back control of how you respond rather than automatically shutting down or pulling away.

Next, think about what it that look like to simply reject the thoughts that aren’t serving you. In the words of Louise Hay: “You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” What would it look like to reject the thought that your body is imperfect? What would it look like to reject the thought that you are not good enough and instead have more kindness for yourself?

Then, think about what it would look like to accept your life, your body, and your choices as they are in this moment. What would it look like to accept all the unique experiences that make you who you are?

Nurturing ourselves in this way helps improve the relationship we have with ourselves and others, because the more we are able to be truly present and feel accepted for who we are with no malice, the more we will be able to feel present and acceptance with others, and enjoy deeper, more meaningful relationships.

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