Since my conversation about race with my friend Vernice (a mother of two African American boys), I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is to belong versus what it’s like to feel like “the other.” In our podcast, Vernice talked about how she didn’t feel comfortable talking about race outside the “family” (i.e., her black family and tribe). My sense is that whether we feel that we belong (in a group, a tribe, a team, a classroom) has both profound impact on our sense of safety and wellbeing as well as our contribution and impact.
I’ve been talking to many of my African American friends about how they experience belonging vs. otherness. I’ve also been reflecting about my own experiences of feeling like “the other” (often being the only woman in a roomful of male leaders). My reflections have given me a tiny glimpse of what it must feel like. I’ve often felt like I can’t make any mistakes. I have to work even harder. I am on guard about how I’m being perceived. I pay attention to whether I speak up or whether my voice is heard. These are some of the many micro glass ceilings inside my head. It’s tiring and lonely, and yet it is also a shared human experience. At one time or another, many of us have had a feeling of being “the other.” This is not meant to compare micro-aggressions but to feel into the experience.
On the other hand, when I belong, I can relax all the guards that are up. I can be more courageous, more expressive. What would it be like to belong to the human race? What would it be like to feel more belonging on a team I’m part of? I started a practice for myself of belonging. It’s in this podcast called COMPASSION. It’s a version of the loving-kindness meditation I learned from my meditation teachers. Try it out for yourself. And let me know how it worked for you in the comments below.
P.S. Belonging will help you shift Trust Agility. Take the quiz here from my new book Wired for Disruption, now a #1 New Release on Amazon.