This week I have a professional conference. I’m excited to be in a room again with professional colleagues and new friends. Investing into my own development is a form of self-care and self-love. This event brings back a memory of the last time I was at an a similar type event. At the event, a person at my table shared that they almost didn’t come because they didn’t think they would fit it. They were intimated by the other people in the room. They shared their struggles with believing that other people’s gifts and abilities just dimmed their own gifts and abilities. They believed that they didn’t belong and that they should come back when they’ve done more to deserve to be there.
When we say no to things that are good for us because we don’t feel that we belong or that we aren’t worthy is not ok. Hearing this smart and talented person say this broke my heart. I was devastated because I know all too well what that felt like. Not even ten years ago, I had an executive coach tell me the same thing. He said “Elena, I think you struggle with self-love. As a result, I think you feel that you owe the world something in order to receive love from them or in order to love yourself. You don’t owe anyone anything.” I immediately dismissed his comments in an effort to self-preserve. When I look back now, it was one of the earliest nudges that got me on the path to examine my self-love and eventually on the path to fight for it. I knew I needed to fight back. I knew that in order to really believe that I belonged, I had to believe that belonging wasn’t the most important thing. The most important thing was loving myself whether I belonged or not.
I knew that in order to believe that I belonged, I had to believe that belonging wasn’t the most important thing. The most important thing was loving myself whether I belonged or not.
The table conversation wouldn’t have bothered me so much if I thought this were an isolated issue. It’s not isolated. Some of you might be reading this and realizing for the first time that sincerely loving yourself is even an option. You might really struggle with believing that you belong. The world has reinforced in every way that you need to be something else for someone else. That unless you’re on a mission to change yourself, you don’t have the right to even be here. This isn’t a female issue. It isn’t a male issue. It’s a people issue. When you really think about it, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been the person feeling like we just don’t belong at the table. If we just changed this one thing, we’d fit it. We often laugh as adults about the feelings of insecurity in middle school or high school. That feeling exists now and is stronger than ever. That feeling exists in the workplace, in the home, in the PTO meeting, on the football field sidelines where parents sit, at the gym, at the golf course, at the book club, and in the church. That feeling is often woven into every place where there are people.
About ten years ago in my professional life, I remember seeing this alive and well when the funky sock trend originated. It was a trend where many men in the professional workplace decided to ditch the traditional black professional socks and transitioned to the funky socks. I loved it. I still do. It was a creative expression to start, and it caught on like wildfire. Men I knew that hadn’t done their own clothes shopping for decades, started proactively going out to order their own unique funky socks. While you might downplay it as a trend, it was a reminder to me that people just want what makes them unique to be celebrated. When that happens, they feel like they belong. My male colleagues would find the craziest and most unique socks, many of which aligned with their hobbies, their interests, their sense of humor. The more their socks celebrated their uniqueness, the more they actually belonged. Funky socks aren’t isolated in this way, really most trends that catch on are an expression of people wanting to be part of something. People want to be special and unique, and also belong.
I feel like in my short time of writing this blog, this is a message that just keeps coming back to me. When I feel something so strong on my heart, I have learned to just share it. Every day, I want to tell whatever audience reads this blog that you are an amazing and gifted person that is unlike anyone else. Hearing this message every day wouldn’t be enough. I wish you could hear this message a thousand times a day. I wish I could hear this message a thousand times a day. Because we need to fight against the thousands of messages we hear and see every day telling us we aren’t enough and that we need to change who we are in order to be enough or to belong. I want you to know that you deserve self-love and God’s love, no matter how you define God in your life. I want you to know that it isn’t a decision that you make once and the fight is over. You need to make the decision to love yourself every single day. It doesn’t matter what you offer this world. It doesn’t matter if you wear funky socks. The fabric of who you are is unique. You are worthy and enough. When you truly do the work and take the time to fall in love with yourself, you will realize that you always belonged.
I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!