A Journey of Belonging

At some point, we’ve all judged someone without understanding their circumstances, and no one enjoys feeling like an outsider. Everyone experiences exclusion in their own unique way. This shared experience highlights the importance of fostering a sense of belonging, where empathy and acceptance can bridge the gaps between us and create a more inclusive community.

“Never underestimate the power of being seen – it’s exhausting to keep working against yourself when someone truly see and loves you….I was filled with grief and longing. Grief for the girl who never belonged anywhere and a longing to figure out who I was, what I liked, what I beloved in, and where I wanted to go.” ― Brené Brown

I recently spoke at an event for women called Invisible Women’s Syndrome. Before the event, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this concept and I kept coming back to who and why do some women feel invisible? Of course we do not want to be excluded from job promotions, CEO appointments or medical research, and being excluded impacts us in many ways. When looking at specific roles, women are particularly underrepresented in CEO positions, with only 9% of CEOs in the S&P 100 being women. Furthermore, traditional CEO feeder roles such as CFO and COO also show significant gender gaps, with women holding just 18% of CFO roles and 10% of COO roles​ (Harvard CorpGov Forum)​. This underrepresentation in key leadership roles makes it challenging to achieve gender parity at the highest executive levels.

However, women have made more significant inroads in emerging C-suite roles like Chief Diversity Officer, Chief Sustainability Officer, and Chief Learning Officer, where their representation is higher compared to traditional roles. For instance, women account for 86.7% of Chief Diversity Officers and 50% of Chief Sustainability Officers​ (Deloitte United States)​. Despite these gains, these roles often do not lead to CEO positions, which remain dominated by men.

There are many other spaces where women are underrepresented. To name some, STEM Fields, Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship, Politics and Government, Corporate Boards, Film and Media Industry, Sports, and Healthcare Leadership.

Although I have been made to feel small many times and not been taken seriously because of my gender, and perhaps my gender and age;  I am also aware of my many privileges. In a room of void of black or brown women, I realise that we are making some women invisible in our own way.  Black and brown women are significantly underrepresented in C-suite roles. As of recent data, women of colour hold only about 4% of these top executive positions. In the feminist movement and women’s events historically have sometimes failed to fully include the voices and leadership of women of colour. This further creates an association between non-whiteness and not belonging.

Our interconnectedness fosters a profound sense of belonging.

This belonging, however, requires a deep and enduring commitment, one that can manifest in diverse ways for different people.

Belonging is not a one-size-fits-all concept. For some, it might be found in familial ties or close-knit communities; for others, it might be discovered in personal achievements or creative pursuits. It’s about recognising where we fit in, understanding the spaces where we feel most at home, and nurturing those connections.  This journey is about belonging—being keepers of one another and the world. In doing so, we also find our place and feel kept.

Belonging isn’t just a feeling; it’s a commitment. It looks different for everyone. For some, it’s found in family and friends; for others, in moments of personal discovery. It’s about finding where we truly fit and nurturing those connections.

“We are all walking each other home.” – Ram Dass 

The Faces of Belonging

As we walk together, we encounter different aspects of belonging. Sometimes we feel out of place or realise we’re in situations that don’t resonate with who we are. Recognising these moments is key to finding where we genuinely belong and it is easier to recognise when we spend time with ourselves. This can be done in many ways and is the deep commitment to your own personal journey.

“Any thoughts which come to your mind, let them go, breathe them out along with the out-breath. Any feelings, sensations, memories, plans… This is only going to take five minutes, you can set aside five minutes out of your busy life just to connect with a place of no place. To get behind your melodrama. Just keep the focus in the middle of the chest. Breathing in; breathing out.” – Ram Dass

Inner Knowing: Part of our journey is about understanding ourselves deeply. It’s about harmonising with who we truly are and finding peace within.

Exile and Presence: Sometimes, belonging means stepping away for a while. This can help us see more clearly and come back with a stronger sense of where we fit.

Time as a Circle: Rather than seeing time as a straight line, we can see it as a circle. Our past and future are shaped by how we live now. This perspective encourages us to be mindful of the present, knowing it impacts both where we’ve been and where we’re going.

A Natural Pace: In our journey, nature can guide us back to a more natural rhythm. Nature teaches us to slow down and listen to our bodies, which often know more than our minds. Finding this balance requires both effort and stillness.

New Perspectives:  Walking each other home means seeking new perspectives. This might mean stepping out of our comfort zones or taking time to reflect. By balancing action with stillness, we learn and grow together.

The Power of Stories

Storytelling is a fundamental aspect of human life and has been crucial to our development as individuals and societies.

Stories allow us to see the world from different perspectives. By putting ourselves in the shoes of characters, we develop empathy and a deeper understanding of the experiences, emotions, and motivations of others. This helps build social bonds and fosters a sense of community.Stories can simplify complex concepts, making them easier to understand and remember. They engage listeners emotionally and intellectually, enhancing learning and retention. Stories are a universal language and help to create connections between people by conveying shared experiences and emotions. Effective storytelling can build rapport, trust, and a sense of belonging, whether in personal relationships or larger communities.

Stories can also be therapeutic. They provide a way to process and make sense of difficult experiences, offering comfort and healing. Sharing personal stories in supportive environments, such as therapy or support groups, can help individuals cope with trauma, loss, and other challenges.

Identity and Self-Reflection

Through the stories we tell about ourselves, we construct and understand our identities. Personal narratives help us make sense of our experiences, define our place in the world, and communicate who we are to others. We’re made of stories. The stories we tell and share shape who we are. These stories connect us, creating a shared experience. By being mindful of our stories, we can build a stronger sense of self and deeper connections with those around us. Reflecting on our own stories can also lead to personal growth and self-awareness.

Belonging is about finding our true home within ourselves and with each other. It’s about being present, embracing solitude and connection, and understanding that we’re all walking each other home. By committing to this journey, we enrich our lives and those of the people around us, creating a world where everyone feels they belong.

“The problem with the world is that we draw our family circle too small.”

-Mother Teresa

Hope this reads as an invitation to get in touch if looking for community and belonging.