Do you ever feel like you don’t belong? I have. I spent most of my life feeling that way. It was not until I chose to share my story with others—the life experiences that made me who I am—that I finally created my belonging.
I was 7 years old when I lost my sense of belonging. My dad sexually abused me. Then he forced our family to move to a new town and a new school. My dad kept sexually abusing me. And he kept forcing our family to move to new towns and new schools. I hid my shame and dirtiness in fake smiles and rambunctious antics to get attention and try to make friends. But nobody wanted to be my friend. I was poor. I wasn’t pretty. I tried too hard. Even when there was a girl, from time to time, who would play with me at recess, my dad just uprooted us, with no warning or goodbyes, and forced us to move onto the next place. I never belonged anywhere. Ultimately, I just stopped trying to.
As a young adult, although I had settled in Chicago and had many people around me personally and professionally, I still didn’t belong anywhere. How could I, really? I had not realized (or wouldn’t admit) that belonging requires reciprocal action. It requires sharing the experiences that make us who we are. And based on my life, sharing seemed impossible.
Ultimately, with the help of five amazing women, I chose to share. And through sharing my life experiences with others—and embracing the experiences that others shared with me—I finally created belonging.
It was not easy. It took courage and vulnerability to open up about my experiences. It took trust and compassion to listen to others’ stories and empathize with their struggles. It took time and patience to build meaningful relationships and connections based on mutual respect and understanding.
But it was worth it. Because by sharing my story, I found people who accepted me for who I am, who supported me in my healing journey, who celebrated my achievements and growth. By sharing my story, I found communities that welcomed me as a member, that valued my contributions and feedback, that offered me opportunities and resources. By sharing my story, I found myself.
Because nothing is more valuable to us as humans than who we are, and our experiences create those identities, one of the best ways to create belonging is through sharing, with one another, the individual experiences that make us who we are.
As Brené Brown once said, “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.” Sharing your life experiences can be a way of honoring and celebrating who you are and who you can become. It can also be a way of connecting and contributing to a community that values and supports you.
So, here’s my advice to you.
Start slowly and with curiosity. Ask questions, engage with the people around you. Help them feel safe to share with you. When you are ready, share with them.
When you share your identity-forming experiences with others, you never know who might relate, who might change their perspective, who might be inspired by your courage and authenticity.
And when you listen and embrace others’ experiences, you never know what you might learn, what you might feel, what you might discover about yourself and the world.
You are not alone in your quest for belonging. You have a story worth telling and hearing.
And so do I.
According to a study by BetterUp, published in Harvard Business Review1, if workers feel like they belong, companies reap substantial bottom-line benefits: better job performance, lower turnover risk, and fewer sick days. The study found that belonging can lead to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% reduction in turnover risk, 2X more employee raises, 18X more employee promotions, and a 75% decrease in sick days1.
Book Trish for your next conference or offsite to create belonging within your team and organization.
About Trish Kendall
Trish Kendall, an expert in creating enduring success, is proof that any one can transform their life and become the most successful person they know!
Inspiring people around the world, and providing a pathway to enduring success, Trish brings candid stories, humor in the face of true hardship, simple lessons, compassion and love to all her speaking engagements. Follow her on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook and sign up for her newsletter for regular inspiration and wisdom.
If you’re ready to book Trish as your next keynote speaker or if you want to learn more about her story and her message, please reach out.
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