I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about belonging. It’s not something I recall thinking about much when I was a child. At that time, I knew where I belonged, and who I belonged to. (Although I must say, there were times I wondered how I ended up in the family that I did, haha.)
But, I think there comes a time in one’s life — perhaps it’s when your parents die, or your kids grow up and leave, or your marital status changes, or your job ends— when you wonder to yourself, “Where do I belong? Who do I belong to, if anyone? Do I belong here? Do I belong at all?”
I believe that having a sense of belonging is critical to your emotional, spiritual, mental and physical health. Belonging is grounding. It’s reassuring. It’s calming. It gives your life a foundation.
Not feeling like you belong creates loneliness, unhappiness, fear and anxiety. And I must say, I feel like I’ve been having lots of conversations lately with different people — men and women of all ages and from all walks of life — about their fears, their anxieties and about where they belong.
“What do you think is happening in our politics and in our country?” people ask me. “Are we going to be ok?” “Did you hear we just bombed Syria? What will happen now? Does this mean we’re at war? “I just saw this on my Twitter feed and OMG, what does that mean?” “My kid is so anxious… My husband is so anxious… I’m so anxious…”
In my new book “I’ve Been Thinking,” I write about the power of the pause. And these days, I think it’s never been more important for us to collectively try and take a moment to pause.
“Easy for you to say,” you might be thinking. Well, not really.
I’ve had my fair share of anxiety over my lifetime. No doubt, growing up in a political family and then choosing to work in the highly anxious world of TV journalism did not help. But, what I’ve learned is that anxiety breeds more anxiety. Chaos breeds more chaos. Dysfunction — and dysfunctional people— thrive in confusion and division, and they only survive if we allow them to.
I am aware that anxiety is a crippling medical condition that is all too real for some people. But, I also think that our culture has bred a new level of anxiety amongst all of us — as a people and as a nation. The question, as always, is how did we get here? And what can each of us do to change our energy and the energy around us?
I know that for me, when I don’t check my phone the first minute I wake up, my day starts with a better energy. When I don’t sit and listen to people screaming on TV, I feel calmer. When I don’t check the news every second, I’m clearer about what I think. When I don’t compare my life to others who are parading around on social media, I feel more grounded, more content, more hopeful, and yes, less anxious. When I choose to surround myself with people who paint a picture of unity and belonging, my anxiety just melts away.
So, think about what is causing you to feel so anxious. If certain news shows flame your anxieties, then switch to shows that report the facts. If you’re worried that someone else’s life looks better than yours on Instagram, then unfollow that person or remove yourself from social media altogether. If your boss is fueling your anxiety, respect your health and look elsewhere for work that emboldens you.
Don’t tell me that’s not possible. I’ve had lots of conversations with people who have said, “I want to live differently and feel differently” and then made changes to their lives to reflect what their hearts and their bodies were telling them.
Look, I’m anxious about our response to Syria and how they will respond. I’m bothered by all the disruptions and turnover at the White House. I’m anxious about all the noise that surrounds us, too.
But, that’s why I am always trying to shift my attention and keep my mind focused on what I can control and what I can change for the better. I try to keep my home calm and I try to spend time with people who are positive, focused and centered. I strive to surround myself with people who make me feel safe and like I belong.
Feeling like we belong — to ourselves, to others, and to our country — is something we all need to feel less anxious. Belonging is calming. Belonging is powerful. It’s at the root of our being. To belong is to feel safe. It’s about being accepted and cared for. It’s about being at home in a family, in a community, and in a country.