Hello, Dr. Anita Johnston again. And I’m here on the Big Island of Hawaii. And what is behind me that you can’t see (because the fog is rolling in) is Kamalala.  I am at the site of our new intensive outpatient program for ‘Ai Pono that we’re getting ready to launch.

I’ve been here meeting with the team and everyone’s been getting to know each other. The thing that really came up as the theme of our meeting was this whole sense of connection.  And even more than that, a deep sense of belonging.

Understanding How Important the Sense of Belonging Really Is

The thing that really came up as the theme of our meeting was this whole sense of connection.  And even more than that, a deep sense of belonging. Because when you meet the people that are your Tribe, what comes into mind is an understanding of how important that sense of belonging really is.  You feel it. You know it. I think one of the things that happens to most of us is we all hunger for a sense of belonging. I think that’s one of the deepest longings that any of us have — to feel that deep, deep sense of connection.

What happens, mostly because of the culture we grew up in, is we’re really not taught the difference between belonging and fitting in. We feel the hunger for belonging but we confuse that with fitting in.  A sense of belonging comes when you stay connected to your authentic self, the uniqueness of your very being. We are all as unique as our thumbprints. There’s never been another Anita on the planet like me. And there never will be. And that’s the same for all of us. Each and every one of you, you come to this planet with a unique constellation of attributes and gifts and, of course, challenges.

When you can accept that this is your lot in life. This is your fate. This is the body that you were given. This is the family you were born into. This is your ethnicity. This is your socio-economic group. And this is the part of the planet you landed in …

When you can start to accept that, then you can start to feed this longing for belonging. Because you can stay connected to yourself, your true essential self, while you connect with others. What happens when we try to fit in, when we get the two confused, we abandon our connection to true self. We try to act like, and feel like, and look like and think like who we think, and how we think others want us to look and act and feel and think like. And so, what happens is we lose that connection to self. And the longing to belong gets even greater. Gets even louder. We actually experience it as a hunger.

But again, confusion comes in, because if all you know of hunger is its connection to food and you don’t recognize that there are all kinds of hungers that we can experience, then you confuse this deep hunger for belonging (that never goes away), with a hunger for food (that you’re terrified is never going to go away). This begins the process of thinking that food is the problem. And your appetite is the problem. Because it’s insatiable. Because you think that the hunger you are experiencing is for food.

And so, as you regroup, as you pull back, and as you connect and accept your essential self, who you really are with all your gifts and all your flaws, and appreciate the uniqueness of this particular constellation that is you, that’s the beginning of being able to connect with others in an authentic way. In an intimate way. Because when you can accept the things you’re not so great at, it allows for a deeper connection as you accept those aspects of yourself as just a part of a whole big picture.

I’ve had to accept that, for whatever reason, I’m one of those people for whom numbers just tumble out of my head. I can remember a story. But hmmm, remembering how to do long division is a bit of a stretch for me. I mean, I can do it, but I have to stretch. And there was a long time that I felt so ashamed of that, and thought, oh my gosh, there was something really wrong with me, that I was really stupid.

But as time went on, I just came to accept that, oh, I have to work a little harder at that. When numbers are in the picture I have to pay attention a little more closely than somebody else might. And that’s the way it is. It doesn’t mean that I’m damaged or broken or stupid. It just means that’s part of the package. And maybe, just maybe, it’s an important part of the package. Perhaps, my difficulty with numbers kept me from being an accountant and pointed me in the direction of being a psychologist and a story teller. Because I can remember stories.

And so, sitting here, feeling that sense of belonging. Of knowing that this is where I’m supposed to be at this point of time. And these are the people I’m supposed to be with at this point in time. This really feeds me. It feeds that hunger to belong.

And so, I would invite all of you to pay attention to that. To pay attention to the ways which you may abandon yourself in order to give you a sense of fitting in and recognize how that doesn’t quite satisfy the real longing to belong. Even experiment a little bit with staying connected to your true self and see how different it is to stay connected to self — to be who you are, all of who you are — while you connect with others.


I would love to hear what you think, share a comment below!

Till next time,