Our minds are incredibly powerful. In the recesses of our mind, every interaction, every minor experience, every little detail is stored away in our unconscious mind. According to Sigmund Freud, our conscious mind, the part of our brain that we actively put to use every day, is estimated to only make up 5% of our mind. That means that 95% of our thoughts, actions and habits happen on autopilot without our conscious awareness. 

The formation of our autopilot starts in our childhood during our formative years. When we’re very young, we’re highly narcissistic. Not in a demeaning kind of way, but we simply don’t have the cognitive function to understand that there’s a separation between ourselves and the world around us. We think and feel like the world revolves around us. Therefore, we make a direct correlation between what’s happening around us to be a reflection of who we are and our worth. 

Our childhood experiences get stored away in our unconscious mind and become what we seek evidence for throughout life. For me, the experience of last seeing my dad when I was 5, caused me to seek evidence that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t worthy and I wasn’t wanted. 

When my half-sister was born (although it feels super strange to call her that because I’ve never referred to her as anything but my sister) I saw the evidence of not belonging – my mom, my step dad (also strange to call him that as he’s the only dad I had and later adopted me) and my sister – the real family, and then there was me, the outsider. 

In elementary school when two of my best friends froze me out. When my mom got sick and passed away. Complicated and immature romantic entanglements. When I moved to a new country. All I wanted was a sense of belonging and to be part of a community, but my unconscious was too busy looking for and finding evidence that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t worthy and I wasn’t wanted.  

The solution or coping mechanism that I had come up with really wasn’t serving me. I would spend so much time trying to figure out who I needed to be for people to accept me. If I could figure this out, surely I would belong, be worthy and wanted. It’s such an exhausting way to live because you actually have no clue who you really are – you’re simply too busy managing how you show up based on the people around you and their expectations of you. 

No wonder I couldn’t find a sense of belonging or a community when I didn’t even know who I was – when I felt like I didn’t even belong in my own skin. I had left my authentic true self so long ago I had no idea that I had spent my life being someone else. 

As I was going through the pain and suffering of discovering who it was that I truly was, it was within the unconditional acceptance of a community that I felt safe and supported to excavate the old wounds in the recesses of my soul.  

In this community, I was on the receiving end of unconditional acceptance and a complete lack of judgment. As I shared my deep-seated shame, something profound shifted in me. For the first time, I felt safe to be me. That I had value despite my shame. That I had always held the key to belonging that I sought – the belonging to myself. It was such a profound experience that it put my whole life on a new trajectory – to be able to provide the same safe-haven for people who need it.

When I attended my first heart circle, this feeling of unconditional acceptance was multiplied by as many people that were in the circle and holding the space. It is absolutely profound to share in their struggles and triumphs, and them in mine, from a deep, authentic and vulnerable place where we feel safe to be seen for who we truly are.

True community is not about making friends or being social, it’s a connection to self first and allowing a deeper part of us to honored and witnessed in the presence of others on the same path. 

True belonging can only take place when we belong to ourselves. And through the power of a community around unconditional acceptance – when you have someone reflect back your worth and value for long enough – you’ll eventually start to believe it, and feel it, for yourself.