Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

What is True Belonging?

Posted on 02-1-2019 by Fiona Cosgrove

Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Brené Brown starts her latest book, Braving the Wilderness with this profound statement.

It is a statement that resounds with many health and wellness coaches, as experience has shown that most people are drawn to this profession, with a strong desire to connect with and to help others – to be part of something bigger than ourselves. 

Yet there are steps to be taken before this can happen and Brené clearly articulates this by following up in her opening chapter with the statement, Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance. 

This idea has always intrigued me. Many years spent training people to coach others to improved wellness has reinforced my belief that there is a journey that we need to go on - before we can effectively support others. Or to rephrase this, there is a journey that we need to be on, before we can help others on their own individual journey.

This book really brought home to me that an understanding of human nature is essential to our profession if we are to humbly offer our services and respect the many stories we will hear. Although this book is a wonderful one to read for anyone who seeks to grow and learn how to be authentically themselves, I feel it has particular significance to the profession of health and wellness coaching. I will try and succinctly explain why, below, without spoiling what will be an excellent read for all.

To belong we need to stand alone at times in our decisions and beliefs. This can often be painful and requires us to "be vulnerable, get uncomfortable and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are".

Trust is at the heart of belonging – trusting others but also trusting ourselves. Brené quotes Feltman in her explanation of trust ;choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions”. Self trust allows you to share your most authentic self with the world. This is what we want our clients to do. 

We are all inextricably connected, yet radical thinking and fear of differing opinions have caused conflict and unrest in today’s world where sometimes, belonging has become confused with “siding” with one group or another. 

The most powerful part of this book is the chapter where Brené describe occasions where people have come together to share collective joy or pain and by doing so get reminded of what is true about the human spirit. “We are wired for real connection.” (This chapter is very moving.). She reminds us that we seek out social connection and the positive effects of it last longer than the actual event. In a world where everything can be done online we run the real risk of missing out on these opportunities to connect face to face with others. We know that coaching delivered by automated prompts can have a positive outcome but what is it missing that can’t be measured? 

Social interaction is essential for our health. In-person interactions bolster our immune system, send positive hormones through our system. Something as simple as a high-five releases dopamine and lowers cortisol level. (Or a hug if you’re not the high-five type.) 

One final section that I loved is when she wrote of asking 8th graders the difference between belonging and fitting in. Here are their responses:

  •  “Belonging is being somewhere where you want to be .. and they want. You. Fitting in is being somewhere you want to be, but they don’t care one way of the other. 
  • Belong is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. 
  • If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” 

Such wisdom from young people. We use this knowledge to live our own lives authentically but how valuable to share this kind of information with our clients! 

Which brings me to that long held realisation that we don’t just coach to change behaviours (although that is a big part of our work), we coach to connect and to help others connect with themselves, with their wider community and ultimately live a longer, healthier life. 

Enjoy the read! 

References: 
Brown, Brené. (2017) Braving the Wilderness. Penquin, London.’ Feltman, C. (2009) The Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work, Bend.



About the Author - Fiona Cosgrove

Fiona Cosgrove’s 25 years experience as a business owner, a trainer, lecturer, coach and presenter, positions her well to identify and employ the strengths of your staff making your business a pleasure to work in and deal with. 

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