Do I belong here?
Yesterday I was feeling a bit out of sorts. I received some feedback from a group of sister-owls and it did not feel good.
I don’t remember feeling this way since I joined Anne’s organization and I wanted to talk to her about it. As I approached her office, I could hear the keys clicking as she worked furiously on something she was writing. I was tempted to just keep on walking when Anne looked up and called me into her office.
“Hey, Edna. What’s wrong? You don’t look happy” she said.
I wasn’t sure how to begin. I am not usually a complainer.
“Earlier today, I was meeting with my owl friends, and I was told that I don’t smile enough, that I don’t dress properly to fit in, that my ideas are stupid and that I have an English accent. Remember these are other owls saying these things, and I am very hurt.
“That started me thinking about the Dunvegan Tribe. If I don't belong with my sister-owls, do I really belong here?
“I don’t look like anyone else; I don’t have the same capabilities as others, I don’t always understand what is being said to me, or what is expected of me.”
Anne looked at me and smiled. “Oh Edna, I am sorry. No wonder you are feeling discouraged. Of course, you belong here!
“You make a difference by helping me tell my stories. It is true that you look different from others – you are an owl after all. We have a diverse tribe that includes men and women of various heritages and skin colours, who wear different garments, some sport headwear, and some have accents while others don’t. We have Priscilla with her motorized wheelchair, Shauna with her visual aids and Terry who wears hearing aids. And every one of you makes a unique and valuable contribution.
“Each member of the Tribe brings their own knowledge, skills, abilities, experience and perspectives. Some are good with numbers, others are better at writing, some work well in a group, and others work better in solitude.
“Your ability to look at situations from above,
to consider and consolidate information, to see patterns and small details makes a terrific contribution to our success.
“As for not always understanding what is being said or expected of you, you are not alone. Several members of our tribe are not native English speakers; they frequently ask for clarification, and you can too.
“Your inability to smile like humans is completely understandable. While your beak won’t bend, your eyes tell us when you are smiling!
“So, you see, you definitely belong here! We value and appreciate you!”
I turned my head away so Anne wouldn’t see the tears that well up in my eyes and took a deep breath. When I had composed myself, I replied, “Thank you for reminding me. I am very happy to be a member of the Tribe; I know I am always included in conversations whether I have something to contribute or not, and I feel that I belong in the Tribe.
“I am sure you are going to tell me that whatever those other owls think or say is none of my business. And I know you are right, but it is hard when my own community criticizes me.”
Anne was still smiling at me as she reminded me that none of us are in control of the thoughts, words, or actions of adults. What we do have agency over is ourselves ~ what we think, say and do.
I know I am different from others. I know I am included and valued in the Dunvegan Tribe. And I know I belong here.
I hope you remember to be kind to yourself, to be your authentic self, and to find a community that is inclusive, where your differences are valued, so you can feel safe and belong too!