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Fitting in vs Belonging

This is a theme that comes up often when I work with clients. Shame and “Trying to fit in vs. belonging”

Often loneliness drives poeple to try to fit in with others; fit in means conforming to what others want rather than being your authentic self. Belongingness on the other hand is truly being your authentic self and not trying to please others to get their approval.

When we try to fit in by people pleasing, trying to gain other’s approval and let go of our core values to fit in, shame sets in. We might also try to fit in by oversharing our stories with people who haven’t earned the right to hear our stories. This also leads to shame.When we don’t own our stories we feel awkward sharing them and yet want acceptance in the process. People with whom we share these stories often get confused, scared and overwhelmed when we overshare without having established a trusting relationship with them first. This further intensifies the shame and alienates poeple. It’s a loop you see!

Often when we are faced with shame, we disconnect or alienate from others, turn against others ( hostility) or become people pleasers. None of these strategies to combat shame works.

So in order to deal with shame, here’s what I’ve found usually helps:

1. Acknowledge the shame with compassion and listen to the message in shame.

2. The message in shame is to accept your story, own your past no matter how good or bad it was. A dysfunctional past can bring up shame and even a privileged background can bring up shame.

3. Acknowledge how your body reflects your shame, do you slouch when you’re sitting or walking? Do you slouch in the company of others? All bodily indicators of shame. Trying to appear smaller than you are. So my suggestion is to try walking taller and straighter deliberately. Changing the physiology, changes the mental state

4. Restore your dignity. Accept dignity and integrity as vital parts of you. You’re worthy no matter what you’ve done or been through. If you’ve made a mistake, take responsibility and let go of the guilt and shame. If you haven’t, let go of the imposed shame ( often imposed by culture/society/religion) and restore your dignity.

5. Connect with poeple who are authentic. Don’t try to fit in, find a tribe where you feel like you belong.

6. You have a right to love yourself/others, right to dignity, right to worthiness and right to be your authentic self. One thing I’ve learnt about being authentic is that it doesn’t mean that you have an attitude of, “I don’t care” or that you need to be brutally honest with others, which often shows up as rudeness and lack of respect for other’s perspectives. A kind and graceful honesty is more authentic than being brutal in your honesty. Think about it! ( It’s a topic for another day!)

7. Don’t play small. Let your light shine through.

8. And last but not the least tap on all the above! Lighten the ‘shame load’ and the tension that your body is carrying.


Client cases

Brene Brown’s work

Karla Mclaren’s work

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