I have always been a wanderer. From an early age, I wandered in the garden and forest. By my late teens, I began traveling to many places inside and outside of the US seeking a myriad of things. Through my 20s and early 30s, I continued to be a seeker of sorts in my personal and professional life. Throughout that period, I didn’t know what I was seeking (even with lots of amazing adventures or thoughtful sessions with my own therapist), but my heart longed for something I didn’t know how to name or even imagine. It wasn’t until I started to learn how to wander inside of my life and story (not matter where I geographically lived or worked) that I knew what I was seeking.
So what does belonging look like now for me-professionally? Until 2 years ago, I would have never imagined standing before my colleagues, mentors and well esteemed experts in my field presenting on my perspective because belonging felt so evasive an inaccessible to me. Last week at the American Art Therapy Conference in San Antonio, I co-presented with Megan Robb and Lisa Thompson-Gibson on Building Relationships with Authenticity and Vulnerability from a theoretical lens (Relational Cultural Theory & Shame Resilience Theory) and in practice with clients and supervisees. Presenting on vulnerability and sharing a part of my story and perspective with colleagues felt (by no surprise) incredibly vulnerable for me. How did I get through this presentation? I was able to anchor myself to my sense of belonging. I belong to my professional community even if what I was sharing was different or even radical. It mattered because I was offering opportunities for relationship building for therapists with clients, supervisors with supervisees, and for therapist outside of the therapy room.
So many of us have a wanderlust or longing for something deep in our souls. Most of the clients that I see have been wandering for much of their lives – wanting confirmation to know that they matter and are worthy of love and belonging. Their studies, research, careers, love for travel, or relationships have taken them to many places. Their intercultural experiences have transformed them, but no matter how much they enjoy the journey – they struggle to know how to really belong.
How do we learn to belong? Some of the keys to trusting ourselves around knowing how to love and belong can be found in cultivating practices of vulnerability and authenticity. As adults and even teens, we have often lost touch with knowing how to trust our selves or what it means to be real, vulnerable and authentic in boundaried and meaningful ways with people that we care about most or even how this might look in our professional world. Learning to trust ourselves through boundaried vulnerability and authenticity can be taught. In learning how to trust ourselves, we can also learn how to belong even to our own hearts.
As this time of year lends itself to wandering, you may want to take time while you are wandering or at home relishing in your travels by journaling or making art to notice:
~Where your sense of belonging is (does it live inside or outside of you and your story)?
~How you are trusting yourself on your journey or in your relationships?
~How do your boundaries allow you to be more or less vulnerable and authentic?
~What are small steps you can take or clearer boundaries can you set to support your sense of belonging?
Whether you are wandering or at home this summer, make time to navigate back to your own heart and sense of belonging no mater where you may be.
P.S.- If you’re looking to dig deeper this summer, I’m offering a 2.5 day weekend intensive on belonging.