If you haven’t seen Brene’ Brown’s Netflix special “Call to Courage” it should make it onto your watch list. A continuation of her Ted Talk on Vulnerability and Shame, she is witty, authentic and full of wisdom (research-based no less.) When I watched this recently, I was reminded of the difference between “fitting in” and ”belonging.”

Ever thought about the difference between the two? Not sure how often men try to fit in, or belong, although I suppose when they are speaking “sports-ese” there is an element of both, depending on how much they actually care about the “play of the day”.

But women? These I am certain about. We know the difference between fitting in and belonging. The first is the one we have tried to do all of our lives: at school, work, home, with friends, with strangers… and the latter, is the fleeting visceral experience we have only glimpsed a few times, but get to more so the older and wiser we become.

Fitting in is the way we plan out what we will wear depending on who will be there. We don’t want to be too dressy, or too causal. Too sexy or too conservative. We want to appear confident but not look like we are trying. We don’t want our clothes to suffocate us but can’t show up in the below the belt wide wasted jeans our male counterparts pull off, so we settle for stretch jeans or skorts that tie at the waist.

Belonging, is the smell of the Chex mix Mom made while I was growing up, only a few times a year. It was the aroma of family. No trying. I belonged. Belonging is the sound of your old dog’s foot steps though not as loud and fast as they once were, the familiar rhythm of their pitter patter reminds us we belong. Belonging, is the look on your friend’s face when your eyes meet for the first time after learning something heart wrenching since the last time you saw each other.

The next time you are working hard to fit in, plan to arrive at that event about an hour late. Cue up “Call to Courage” and take a peek at Brene’s wisdom. When I did just that, I was flooded with the warm flow of comfort that I care less about fitting in, and far more, about belonging. I was reminded that feelings of connection increase, in direct proportion with my participation and presence in environments where I know I belong. Connectedness falls away, when I am busy being a chameleon.

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