I grew up moving. A LOT. This made it a struggle for me to make friends.
That's not entirely true. I had friends. I wasn't a total loner with no one to talk to.
But I didn't let anyone in.
No one really knew the real me.
I was really good at putting a smile on my face as the new girl, and joining in with the crowd.
But I never felt like the girls in this picture.
These girls remind me of my sophomore year of high school. I was entering my 11th school... and I made it to the cheerleading team. All of my cheerleading "friends" looked like these girls. They could be found smiling and laughing and telling stories in a circle everywhere they went.
They "accepted" me into their group, but I was never really in the circle. The more they leaned into one another to talk, the more and more I began looking at the backs of their heads and shoulders.
This "outside the circle" feeling followed me throughout most of my life. It wasn't a very good feeling.
In a nutshell...it felt like Un-Belonging.
Did you know that we have a psychological need to belong? Your brain experiences pain when that need isn't met.
Actual physical pain.
Every year that went by in my life that I didn't feel like I belonged, my brain was feeling the pain of it.
Eventually I stopped looking for friends. I was afraid of the pain I might feel when they leaned in forward to their other friends. I believed it was better to just not have friends than to feel that pain again.
But do you know what.... even though I was choosing to "not belong".... it still hurt.
God designed our brains to need each other. Choosing to go against that design didn't make life any easier.
Over the past few years, I've noticed that God keeps putting other people in my life to develop relationships with. People that are friendly, people that are not so friendly. People that are stronger than me, and people that are weaker than me. People that are flawed, just like I am, and people that also need to connect with me.
I've discovered that I can only meet that need of belonging, when I let people in.
That need to belong won't be fooled by fake relationships.
Surprisingly, being myself has led me on a journey of making friends.
Or maybe it's not so surprising. It's the way God designed us to live.
How about you? Are you choosing to "not belong" or to "belong"? How's that working out?