And the Importance of Identity and Belonging in a Community You Want to Call Home
It took Deirdre over eighteen months to begin to socialise, following on from when the Covid-19 Pandemic had first brought about imposed periods of isolation. When the various lockdown restrictions had been lifted, she had mixed only with her social bubble. Living alone, for Deirdre that meant seeing her children and grandchildren as soon as it was allowed. She was happy with that. They were the people she loved and felt loved by. They were the people with whom she felt comfortable in their company. The people with whom she felt she could be herself.
Then Deirdre received an invitation to an art exhibition, her good friend, Zehra, was curating. The show featured the work of artists and their direct experience of mental health struggles.
Wanting to support Zehra, the artists, the importance of their work, the exhibition, and the world of arts, Deirdre ventured for the first time outside of her social bubble.
The two friends had an easy relationship, and despite not having seen each other for close to two years, they effortlessly reconnected. Zehra showed Deirdre around the exhibition, introducing her to the work of the participating artists and sharing their individual stories.
Then when they had finished, they grabbed a coffee and sat on the bench outside the exhibition in the unexpected and much appreciated October London sunshine.
Their conversation led them to talk about the impact the pandemic had had on so many aspects of their lives. Their WorkLife and their social life and relationships. The importance of community and the sense of belonging it gave to people who, like Deirdre and Zehra, lived in London far away from their home country and family. Deirdre was born and grew up in Ireland. Zehra was born and grew up in Turkey.
Zehra shared that she had been extremely anxious about curating the exhibition because it had been her first venture back into being around people. She was concerned she would be able to interact well. She voiced what had been holding Deirdre back from getting back to spending time with people. They were both questioning their ability to socialise and interact with people.
Now each of them thought it was strange that the other was experiencing this because they both thought of each other as being really good at socialising and interacting with people. But the impact of being isolated for so long had caused both of them to question how they came across socially.
They felt their ‘Irish’ or Turkish’ ways or mannerisms weren’t always accepted or understood, which had caused both of them to question their identity and whether they belonged within the groups and community that were part of the country that they called home. They were questioning if the UK was, in fact, home for them, if they didn’t feel that sense of belonging.
Zehra said: “It’s good we’re questioning this, right? Because it shows, we have self-awareness of our situation and who we are in that situation.”
Deirdre agreed, saying she had spent a lot of time reflecting on that. She said her time in isolation had caused her to think about her behaviour in situations where she had felt she wasn’t accepted or understood for who she really was. Being Irish was very much part of how Deirdre identified herself. Her behaviours were very Irish — warm, friendly, accepting and welcoming of others. She has a droll sense of humour and appreciates irony.
Zehra identified with the behaviours Deirdre had described as being Irish, as also being Turkish. They laughed and said that’s probably why they had connected so quickly and had gone on to become such good friends. They found each other’s company very easy, and as importantly, accepted each other’s quirky or different ways — for example, the ability for each of them to say something (especially after a few drinks) that might have been intended as being funny, but was received as being unfunny at best, or weird and strange at worst, causing people to react negatively towards them.
The two friends had spent just an hour in each other’s company.
But that hour had a significant impact on Deirdre’s thinking.
As she walked back home from the exhibition, the words Zehra had spoken: “It’s good we’re questioning this, right? Because it shows we have self-awareness of our situation and who we are in that situation,” helped Deirdre realise that her time in isolation, had helped her self-awareness. It had helped her realise that she wanted and needed to only spend time with people who accepted and respected her for who she was — her weird and strange ways included. That’s part of her identity, after all. Being with people who accepted and respected her identity was the community she wanted to be part of because that she believed would give her the sense of belonging she wanted and needed.
Use Time Out to Help Your Self-Awareness Assignment
There may be times in your WorkLife when you question your belonging and how your identity is accepted and respected within the community you want and need to call home.
When you do, take a step back and reflect on what’s bringing this up for you. Is it something about your behaviour, your way of being in company, that is part of who you are?
Words of Wisdom
Because here’s the thing, as long as your behaviour is not unkind in any way — and time spent reflecting will fine-tune your self-awareness to allow you know if something you said or did could have been misunderstood, following on from which you have the responsibility to put things right by clarifying what you meant by your words or actions.
Once you have clarity on who you are in situations that have caused you to question your belonging and identity. Experiences that have caused you to question that you’re being accepted and respected for who you are.
This clarity through increased self-awareness will enable you to know what you want and need to do. It will let you know who you want to spend time with and what activities you want to be part of. The community that will honour your identity and give you the sense of belonging you want and need.
As a WorkLife Learning Practitioner and Writer, I create learning programmes and resources to help people manage, develop and transition their WorkLives in good, challenging and bad times.
The focus of my work begins by helping people identify a WorkLife path that’s true to their core values, purpose, and motivation. This is followed through by creating meaningful short and long-term WorkLife plans while enabling self-coaching, self-directing, and self-leadership to drive these plans.
I bring you stories created from questions and answers drawn from WorkLife lessons. What I’m trying to do is to highlight different solutions, to provide you with a pathway so that even if a particular story doesn’t apply to you, you understand there is a path to follow.
Whatever you want to do, there is a clear path to it, and once you understand those steps, it becomes much more intuitive, and hopefully, it motivates you to get started. Because that’s what you need most, the motivation to get started. The motivation to follow your vision.
I created The School Of WorkLife book series to help people continuously fine-tune their learning, development and growth in the areas most important to them. Click on the series to see all the books available and previews of what’s inside each book.
How To Embrace The Superpower Of Self-Awareness is book 8 in the series. Click on the title to see a preview of what’s inside the book.