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Self-Belonging

Paul Haury

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Ever find yourself saying, “If I could just fix… {fill in the blank}…, I’d do so much amazing sh!t at such a high level!”

Your optimal performance… STALLED!

We all have sh!t, that if we just fixed, we’d be amazing. Inside our head, our self-talk works for us or against us.

The story we tell ourselves is the story we live.

We all have an attribute or condition, situation, or something about ourselves, that’s really hard for us to look at and see a way to get past it. It leaves us in a “not-enough” space of shame, or unworthiness, that gets in the way of our self-belonging. Ok, maybe you have a laundry list, like me. That story, the one we’re telling ourselves, comes from our self-belonging.

I imagine you’re saying, “yeah, self-belonging, what the heck does he mean by that? And, what’s he mean by “that gets in the way of” it?

Self-Belonging

First, let me offer this alternate definition of belonging. Not the typical, you belong when you’re affirmed, accepted, included… etc, getting all the warm hug feels.

Belonging, it’s a state of being, in relationship with others. You belong when you feel, own, and care for them, in their successes, dreams, and failures. And, they feel, own, and care for you in yours. It’s a two-way street.

In Self-Belonging, you’re able to mix their world in and about you, with your own, and believe yourself worthy.

You self-belong when in your story, you tell yourself in your world, you feel, own, and care for yourself, in your successes, dreams, and failures, just as you would for the people with whom you belong.

Your self-belonging story requires two sources, 1, the story you directly tell yourself in your world, plus 2, indirectly, what those with whom you belong, share with you from their world.

We need to Self-belong with others

I know some of you’re saying, you gotta do this from inside yourself. Don’t depend on others. You have to start with yourself. You can’t depend upon affirmation from someone on the outside.

Newsflash, you were born into dependency upon others. You were born into your Us Story. It doesn’t start with you, and sure, it’s gotta have you, in ALL CAPS and bold, YOU! You grew from the dependency upon others. Somewhere along the way, you entered into interdependency, hopefully, to thrive. And ultimately, you’ll die in interdependency with others at some point. Further, you won’t want to die apart from those with whom you love and belong. And I say this as someone who’s died before. For those 5 1/2 minutes, I wasn’t with whom I loved and belonged (click here if you’d like to read about it).

You made it this far because you belonged. You continually edit your story in fear, belonging, and aspiration. So do I in my story. So does everyone in theirs.

And even if you still think you can, and should do it alone, sorry, but that’s not realistic for being human. The research is clear, solitary confinement leads to permanent neurological dysfunction and damage. So much so, that the United Nations recommends banning solitary confinement that exceeds more than 15 days, saying any longer constitutes torture (Scientific American). After only 15 days! WTF!

Without others, we go nuts

There’s only so much that we can draw upon before the well goes dry. Without others to replenish it in belonging, we go a bit nuts. I really believe that loneliness and burnout at work are the direct results of the chronic fitting-in that occurs when workplaces lack belonging.

And this is why, in the struggle for optimal performance or during hardship, whenever someone tells you, “you just have to be kind and support yourself… dig deeper…” it doesn’t help.

And in turn, you say to yourself,

“but I’m empty…”

“I gotta fix this first…”

“I’m not good enough…”

You know what that feels like. I sure do. Ever think to yourself and you’re sitting there looking at them, “Clearly, if I was being kind towards and able to support myself, you wouldn’t feel the need to say such a well-meaning, yet unhelpful thing. Thanks though.”

With others, a whole different story

Contrast that to someone who feels, owns, and cares for you, saying, ”I got you, we’re going to get through this. I believe in you.” After we hear something like this, our self-talk of doom shifts. Our self-talk of doom comes from our #innerittybittyshittycommittee, all those voices that didn’t feel, own, or care for us. We want to believe them, but there’s a hollowness that we know, if any of the three: feel – own – or care for, isn’t genuine, or is missing.

We needed to hear from those with whom we belong, that we can do it. That, if everything falls to shit, we still belong. And it’s those people that we actually belong with, we gather them into our inner voice. Co-opting them as our #innerittybittygrittycommittee!

Take some time right now, or after you finishing reading this, and text, call, or Zoom somebody who’s been in your innerittybittygrittycommittee. Thank them for being in your head and heart. Oh, and please come back and finish reading. This will be helpful to your performance!

And We all must belong, just not with anyone, nor everyone

In these two sides of belonging, there’s a you and a them. You matter, it’s reciprocal, bidirectional. They matter. But I want to stay focused on you, especially if you’re of the servant leader mindset. Unless you also choose you, you can’t choose both sides. You can’t belong. And your only remaining and next best option will be, to merely fit in. Unless you also choose you, you can’t choose both sides. You can’t belong. Our self-belonging comes from belonging with others, and it emerges in this paradox.

Belonging’s brain paradox:

You can’t belong with others unless you self-belong. You can’t self-belong unless you belong with others.

From two worlds we belong. Not in one, prevents the other.

Self-talk & Sourcing

Maybe it’s that the two worlds, the one in your mind and the one in theirs, can only be truly shared in intense vulnerability, which makes belonging messy and tough to do at times. Our gator brain reacts, “I don’t want to unbelong and die!!! Or, I got to belong or I’m going to die. And, if we’re in an environment that doesn’t support belonging, from how the tribe lives its values in pursuit of its purpose, fitting in becomes the only survival tactic for our self-talk:

We believe we need to fix whatever’s wrong with us before we’re worthy, or good enough to continue moving toward our promised land.

Separate worlds

Yep, I can’t see your world from your eyes, memories, and emotions. Nor, can you see mine from your eyes… My world and your world, both exist, but in our respective heads and hearts. Each of our worlds doesn’t exist because of the “facts.” Each exists in the story we tell ourselves. My world does not exist in you. Your world does not exist in me. But…

Here’s how our worlds collide: (a little neuro-nerding required here)

My world

my self-beliefs land on me from my direct story I tell myself

my self-beliefs land on me from the indirect story I tell myself when we talk, and I experience your beliefs, towards and of me

Your world

your self-beliefs land on you from your direct story you tell yourself

your self-beliefs land on you from the indirect story you tell yourself when we talk, and you experience my beliefs, towards and of you

4000 to 40, where we share our worlds

This is how we share each other’s worlds. In a collision at 4000 words a minute when alone in our own minds, and also when we talk together, at 40 words a minute. We’re designed to survive together in belonging. And for good and bad, we’re designed not to unbelong. To unbelong is to die. Well, to our brains. This is the superpower that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. It doesn’t come from the intellectual judging mind, though it is informed by it. That judge part of our brain simply takes too long, and over an extended period of time, exhausts the brain. We’d get hit by a bus before getting out of the way. Not catch a cue from an ally that we needed to see in an instant.

We get saved by our high-speed gator mind that evades danger in an instant. We get saved by our high-speed gator mind that grabs opportunity in an instant. The speed to relate in belonging from and for our personal Us Story.

Self-belonging gets hard, because, when it’s done outside of belonging with others, our self-talk happens only at 4000 words a minute, and most often from a place of fear.

Inside of belonging, our purposeful conversations at 40 words per minute rewire our brains as we experience (feel, own, and care for) each other’s worlds. At this speed, the more dominant and pessimistic brain pathways can be avoided by choice. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. The more of this we do, the more we burn in our positive pathways of choice, into easier availability for when they’re needed. And this is where our performance begins to really shift. Our gator brains, where our performance reactions and autonomic decisions are made, love these easier-to-access neural pathways of least resistance. These pathways get the nod. Your experience with them in your self-belonging head space, when reflected upon, or, in future anticipation, gives you a boost of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, your high-performing, Team OS neurochemicals. Here’s the kicker, you start getting access to those positive pathways at the 4000 words a minute speed.

Optimal Performance

Remember the shit that your self-talk said you had to fix before he could move forward? In self-belonging, your self-talk now comes from your innerittybittygrittycommittee, and, from your gator brain at 4000 words a minute. In a split second your capable self-talk speaks, “you don’t need to be perfect, just keep forking going, you got this. Hell, it might even just skip to, “you got this, GO!”

A Little Self-Talk Exercise

We’re going to avoid the “what would you need” to do something question. That sets the stage for, you can’t do something until the need is met? Kind of an accidental fixed mindset trap that happens with our language. Words matter.

Start with this question: (do the whole exercise speaking out loud, at 40 words per minute)

What would it take for you to be ok with your (fill-in the blank- sh!t)? And still go forward.

Probe everywhere? Internal things, external? Self-acceptance, outside affirmation? There are no wrong answers here. In my experience with clients, they start shifting into being ok with their sh!t as they move into self-belonging. It’s kind of funny how naturally it happens also. The mere talking about the sh!t at the slower speed, allows us to see our self-judgment, the un-belonging of ourselves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “you know, when I listen to myself saying this out loud, I don’t deserve this.”

No, this isn’t an easy space to belong when our self-condemning talking practices have been historically so self-shaming. It’s hard to feel, own, and care for ourselves when we haven’t for so long. When we’ve told that story to ourselves, for too long.

But you will shift.

And when you land in the felt space of, “I’m ok, and I’m enough, with this sh!t,” ask yourself this question:

Do I have to be fixed to continue moving forward toward my dream?

If you want to experience this sometime, reach out to me. We’ll spend a little time together in belonging, dig a bit into your self-belonging, and see where your self-talk, can move you to the next level of your performance.


Originally featured on BizCatalyst360°
Benjamin Hotel
Benjamin Hotel

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Haury

Paul is a Belonging Coach & Evangelist for Heart-Based Leadership in Workplace Culture & Happiness. A coach, a mentor, an optimist that nerds-out on all things in the social-behavioral and neurosciences for what motivates us in how we can be better, and, get us to with whom and where we belong.

The paths that get us there follow roads of vulnerable togetherness, kind and honest challenges in personal accountability, and a deep curious appreciation for being wholly human in full potential. It’s here, where we land on the good side of our fears and aspirations, and make our dreams happen.

We’ll never do anything as well, as when we’re doing what we’re doing with and for those we love. I help people create their own unique spaces to go farther and higher in their individual brilliance than they ever could alone.