By Greer Dokmanovic
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
One of our basic needs as human beings is to have a sense of belonging. We are relational beings that need to feel a certain level of connection with other human beings. We have a need to be seen, heard, understood, appreciated and, in effect, to feel welcome and to feel like we BELONG. Ask any of our 2013 HSC students about what it means to belong and they may just grimace – they will probably need a little more time to recover before they can see the word ‘belonging’ without feeling as though they need to write an essay. Belonging has been one of the core concepts that they have studied as a part of their HSC English course. The topic is BIG and it is common to all of humanity (and hence a great topic of exploration for English).
“Our children need to know that they are valued and that they matter”
As parents, we want our children to know that they belong, within our family structures and within their community. We want our children to know that they have a place at our tables and a place in our world. For this to happen, they need to know that they are valued and that they matter. They need to know that their voice will be listened to, that their experience and their story is valid and valued and that who they are is ok. There are days when this is easy as a parent. But we all know that our children have an incredible capacity to surprise us as they find their own path and as they discover and express who they are. No matter how much we seek to shape and influence our children, they will be who they are. As parents we have the incredible opportunity to allow them to flourish in their fullness by consistently reassuring them on their journey that whoever they are, whatever they do, they are loved and valued and they belong.
“No matter how much we seek to shape and influence our children, they will be who they are”
When our children can know with deep confidence that who they are is ok, they can then have the courage to engage and connect authentically and deeply with others.
May we have the courage to be ourselves and to let others be themselves. Together, may we have the wisdom and grace to create families and communities of acceptance and belonging.
This article was written by Greer Dokmanovic, the Chaplain of Pymble Ladies College in NSW. It originally appeared in the College’s weekly newsletter and has been reprinted with permission.