I’ve been thinking about “belonging” a lot lately. It came up as the topic that felt right when I planned the next Raw Storytelling for Women event. It’s the topic that came up as Carol of Asha Blooms and I planned our workshop for Washington Women in Need’s Empowerment conference next year, which we named “Fear & Belonging.” But the truth is, I’ve always struggled with belonging. I wasn’t Korean enough for my parents or American enough for everyone else. I remember my dad yelling at me when I was a kid for gleefully praising the U.S. medal count in the Olympics because I should be rooting for the Koreans instead. I also remember dozens of encounters with strangers on the street making racist assumptions about me and yelling “ching chang chong chang” for no apparent reason. It stung and stirred deep feelings of inadequacy and shame about who I was. I wasn’t smart enough to really feel smart at all, falling right in the middle academically of my graduating class in high school. I wasn’t good at sports so didn’t belong on any team. I didn’t feel a sense of belonging inside my family or outside of it so I grew up feeling like I never really belonged at all.

When you grow up feeling this way, you feel small and you shrink. You do other things that pull you farther away from who you really are. You put on a mask, you try to be perfect, you change and alter who you are so you can fit in, hiding your true feelings and beliefs. You self-censor because you fear someone won’t like you or what you have to say. We’re afraid it will stir up those deep feelings many of us carry inside that somehow, there is something wrong with us and that we don’t belong. But here’s a truth that I’ve discovered along my journey when I decided to start belonging to myself first and showing up as my true self. We belong not because we are perfect, or have status, or the right clothes or live in the right neighborhood. We belong because we are flawed and human and because we all struggle with the same feelings of not being good enough.

Brené Brown says, “True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” So show up as your true self. Speak your truth. Belong to yourself first.

Join us for an empowering and inspirational evening to share your story of “Belonging” at Raw Storytelling for Women this Friday. Speak your truth or come and just listen to support the speakers. The event is donation based and benefits Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. There’s only a few days left to reserve your seat so do it today! I hope to see you there.

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Photo by John Price on Unsplash