Trading authenticity for belonging
What rules do you think you need to follow to fit in or belong? Many of us are terrified to break the societal rules we've soaked in like a sponge that say: you’re not allowed ask for what you need, be grateful for what you have. Be small, stay quiet, don’t disappoint or hurt anyone. Don’t get too big for your britches. Don’t rock the boat. Be available for everyone’s needs. Don’t ask questions, don’t be high maintenance, don’t be sensitive.
Why do we follow these rules? To fit in and to belong. In Brené Brown's recent research published in Braving the Wilderness, she found that fitting in was the biggest barrier to belonging. Why? When we try to fit in to the common mold of rule followers, we lose the sparkle, shine, and edge that is uniquely ours. However, deep down, we don't feel like we belong because we've exchanged authenticity to fit in, and now have to pretend to be something different to be liked. Naturally, this can give you whiplash: as soon as you get somewhere, you have to quickly switch and change directions depending on which group you're trying to be a part. You have to eject out of what makes you who you are, what is unique and authentic about you identity and personality, and find yourself stuck in the muck of pleasing, pretending, and perfecting in order to FIT IN.
In Glennon Doyle's Love Warrior, she writes about the rules of the world that are akin to toxins in the air we breathe. When she begins to break the rules she believes she MUST follow, she is scared of what her husband will think when she expresses her true feelings:
I stand and stare out the window and wait for the world to crumble because I’ve just admitted out loud that I have ice running through my veins. I’ve just disturbed all the unspoken rules of the universe about how peace depends upon a woman’s agreement to suffer small and large indignities with a smile. I have broken the code that insists I just be grateful for whatever I get and pretend to need love more than I need freedom. But as I stand there, I feel my thrill mixed with my fear. I’ve wanted to say these words since I was fifteen years old. And there I am. I just introduced myself. I might be a bitch but I’m free. I’ve gotten my insides out and I allow myself to consider that maybe my inside feelings are valid, simply because they are mine. –p. 238
Breaking rules in the real world, not in books
While breaking the rules and being yourself at the risk of disapproval might be great for some people (especially published authors), things are different in MY life- you may think. It’s going to piss people off if I start telling them what I really think. It will break the delicate dance of expected social interaction. If I break the rules, people will be mad at me, or they'll judge me. If people are mad at me, I’ll feel guilty and horrible, and want to fix it. If they judge me, I'll feel so ashamed that I will not be able to continue on that path.
To belong to ourselves and each other, we clearly cannot subscribe to this list of rules anymore. We need to be RULE BREAKERS and CHANGE MAKERS. We need to be willing to stand up for ourselves, have our own backs, and risk others’ disapproval. Brené found that those who have the courage to stand alone actually have a strong sense of belonging, as they belong nowhere and everywhere, but they belong to themselves. I may not be articulating it as well as she does, so I encourage you to check it out if you're curious (I'm not an affiliate, just a fan).
where to do I start?
Breaking these rules can start with giving ourselves permission to do so.
Permission to rebel against a system that values perfection and achievement over reality and authenticity.
Permission to believe that others are tired of following these rules too but are too afraid to admit it.
Permission to believe that you will survive someone else’s disappointment or disapproval.
Taking these steps to be a Rule Breaker and Change Maker is a courageous endeavor. It begins with a small daring moment where you choose change instead of doing the same old thing. Stringing these moments together over days and weeks will being to lead to a more authentic way of living, loving, and relating to others. All you have control over is the NEXT thing, so just focus on changing that to fit with you you are, and not who you think you HAVE to be.