Family Lessons: We All Belong!

One of my favorite memories growing up was getting new shoes. I almost always took off my old ones, put them in the box the new shoes came in, and wore the brand new ones home. I particularly loved sneakers, and truth be told, I still do. I take pride in taking care of my sneakers, and having a variety to match my outfits. I still believe that shoes can make us feel better, give us a new sense of energy, and that hasn’t changed since I was a child.

In the fourth grade, I got a pair of high top pink and white L.A.Gear sneakers for Christmas. I loved those shoes. I felt sure I’d be the best player on the basketball court with those on my feet at recess, and even if I wasn’t, they made me feel like I could be. In my youthful mind, I believed they made me faster, and because of that I played with a belief in my speed and abilities that I didn’t have before I got those shoes.

My sisters could probably tell this story best, but I’m going to make an attempt to tell it here. High top Converse Chuck Taylor’s were all the rage my 6th grade year. I begged Momma to get me a pair, and my persistence paid off. But I just couldn’t get any pair; there was one requirement that had to be fulfilled. They HAD to be hot pink. Luckily, they had a pair in my size and in the right color. It was indeed my lucky day. I wore those shoes home just like I always did, and when I got home I felt it necessary to show my sisters just how much power these shoes had. I still remember jumping up and down and simultaneously exclaiming, “See how they make me jump higher? I’m jumping higher!” My sisters chuckled, but that didn’t matter to me. I was convinced that I would now be able to jump higher and my basketball skills would definitely be elevated because of these shoes. Nothing could change my mind.

My sisters and I laugh when we recall that story now as does my Momma. However, there’s definitely a lesson in all of this in my mind, and that is, we ought to put on the things that help us to be our very best selves. Whether that be shoes, self confidence, or an assurance that we belong, we all need to put ourselves in position to be our best selves daily. I still believe that when I am intentional about my dress, and especially my shoes, I set myself up to be my best self. When I believe I look good, I feel good, and consequently, I do good.

To be clear, this isn’t a post about material things. It’s about self love-not the kind of ego driven love of self, but the kind you need to have self confidence. There’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately that I think folks have twisted up: Humility is not the result of being uncertain about who you are or lacking self confidence and confidence isn’t about being self-centered. Instead, humility and confidence are the very two elements we all need in order to know that we belong, and so does everyone else. That balance between confidence and humility is what’s most important, and contrary to popular belief, you can have both. We’ve all been victims of the idea of fitting in, and fitting in doesn’t require confidence or humility. In fact, it pushes people in the opposite direction.

In this life, it is necessary that we have the confidence to attack our fears, take on challenges, persist in the face of difficulty, and do it with a belief that we can accomplish what we set our mind too. I fear, that far too often, we mistake those who have worked on themselves, their esteem, and their confidence to be their authentic selves as being self-centered rather than self-assured and comfortable in their own skin. I worry that so many folks shrink themselves because of this, working to make themselves appear unsure of who they are because it resonates better with the insecurities that others possess, allowing them to “fit in”-whatever that might mean. For me, belonging matters most,and I have done a lot of work to get to this point. My only regret is not having done so sooner. I know now, that self acceptance comes before the acceptance of any other person or group. Because of that, I choose to embrace my quirks, imperfections, and all that makes me…me, which allows me to do the very same for others. That’s the kind of peace and love I want to give and receive in my life.

In this season of life, I am on a mission to live as authentically as possible, and I hope the very same thing for every other human being I interact with in my work and my life. The idea that we allow what others might think drive who we are and what we do is perplexing to me, but I understand that human are social beings, and because of that the idea of fitting in takes a front seat in many people’s lives, but what we need to focus on is belonging. We need to tell ourselves we belong-regardless of what others think, and so does everyone else.The freedom to be yourself with yourself can not be underestimated. It elevates your peace, reduces your worries, and simplifies what really matters.

Imagine a world where everyone felt they belonged. How different would our lives be? How would that impact our work and our world? In this era of my life I’m not focusing on fitting in because I KNOW I belong, and it gives me such peace to let go of that part of life.

I belong. I say it to myself regularly, and especially on the days and in the moments when fitting in tries to rear its ugly head. In some of life’s hardest moments, my Mother has always offered the best advice: Be Who You Are! My goal is to live that way to the fullest each and every day, and give others in my life the freedom to do the same!

Y’all be easy,

Latoya

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