Lately, I have been listening to a lot of Brene Brown’s podcasts regarding “Daring Leadership.” One of the key attributes of Daring Leadership is the idea of cultivating a belonging culture, as opposed to a fitting-in culture.
I have been reflecting a lot about the idea of a fitting-in culture vs a belonging culture within an environment. When I say organization, I mean any group that you are a part of, like your household, place of employment, or any other community group you are part of.
Many people hear the word “leadership” and automatically think of their professional life at work. But you must also consider yourself a leader of your children and home. You are a mom. I think most people can agree that Moms make the household function, in most cases.
What Brene Brown means when she discusses “fitting in” at an organization, is the idea of fostering the inclusion of an individual that behaves and acts the same way as the group. The person becomes what they think they should be in order to fit in with the others. The individual accepts and embraces the culture of the group. “Belonging” to an organization is when the organization accepts you for being yourself, giving you respect and acceptance. The person can be who they are without fear of being considered an outcast. This is tricky because the person has to have the confidence to be who they are, which most people struggle with in all aspects of their lives.
“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
The great advantage of being part of a belonging culture is that you being YOU increases creativity, well-being, and accountability. It is expected to have more disagreements because everyone has the freedom to speak their mind, but because of the belonging culture, there is an absence of judgment.
On the other hand, in a fitting-in culture, you are expected to have the agility to adapt, to absorb the behaviors of the group, and to always take into account the perceptions other people have about you.
These differences in definitions blew my mind and gave me such clarity!
I never thought that the two terms were completely different, and I realized I have spent my whole life trying to fit-in!
All my life, I have been adapting to the organizations I have been a part of. I tried to bring my best self to the group, but not always my authentic self. I find the most surprising is that no one has ever told me I needed to behave like that, but that is my automatic response.
In my own work life, I don’t think we have a true, 100% belonging organization. We have a hierarchy, and we have ground rules regarding how to behave, how to fit in. Honestly, I think they serve us well. They do their best to make me feel as comfortable as possible. But the truth is, I sometimes feel like I have to hold myself back. I am afraid of being judged or not being perceived as “correct.”
But here’s something really amazing I thought about. At home, it is in my control to have a belonging culture within our organization. I have the power to create a safe environment for my family, where they feel like they can be themselves without fearing like they will be judged for not being “who they should be.” I want my children to be themselves and have the confidence to follow their dreams.
This is my foundation.
I do everything to make sure my son is successful at school, has passing grades, excels at sports, and has some kind of hobby, like playing an instrument.
If he does all this, I am happy!
If he does not, I start to worry!
And this is so scary! But that’s what being a parent is all about! We have our wishes for our children, but ultimately, it’s up to them! We just try to give them all the tools they need!
It’s within our human nature. We all crave that sense of belonging. We feel complete when we become part of a tribe. We get validation from others, celebration, and reassurance that we are worthy.
So, where do you want to be?
Fitting-in or belonging?
I think we all want to be accepted in an environment where we can be ourselves, be accepted, and loved.
And this is belonging.
How can you find this in your life?
I have a great real-world example to illustrate this: Social Media.
Are you posting as your true self, or are you posting to get the most likes?
Are you trying to belong or fit-in?
More likes means we are accepted. There is something validating when you open your social media post and see that number grow and grow! It’s tempting to post what you think will help get your numbers up.
But are your posts representing your real personality? It’s so much harder to put your true self out there and risk negative comments or a smaller like count.
And that’s why people give up so quickly. It’s easier to be adored than to be judged.
I think in the end, this is a journey!
There is a lot to unlearn to learn again, and be confident in being who you are, finding your true self without expecting anything in return!
Would you rather be in an environment where you fit-in, blend in to the crowd, and never cause any conflicts, but you’re hiding your true self?
Or would you rather be in an environment where you have the complete freedom to be yourself, but will encounter the occasional, but hopefully productive, uncomfortable situation?
My advice? Don’t give up! Be aware of your environment and determine if you’re in a belonging or fitting-in culture. If you’re not where you want to be, do everything you can to change the culture or move on to a place where you are comfortable. And if you’ve found it, appreciate it! You can live your best life without the fear of failure or judgment!
My final message, you are worthy! Unique! And with so much to contribute to the world!
Can you share a time you felt true belonging? Was it worth the effort to be who you truly are? Or have you had more experience fitting-in? Share a comment below!