Find Home Within Yourself Before Genuine Belongingness in the World.
Emotional intensity — feeling more strongly, and with more depth, as compared to most — is based on a difference in our brains.
It is an innate trait that makes one different from the normative way of functioning. Without the right understanding and support, having an operating system that is out of sync can bring many early experiences of shame. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have families that understand and respect neurodiversity.
If our parents, teachers or peers were impatient or critical of our idiosyncrasies, we naturally assume that we are in the wrong. We believe that not fitting in means there is something defective about us. So what did we do?
We learned, painstakingly, with all our life-force, to drown our inner voice so that we could fit in.
Being haunted by the threat of being ostracized, we spend our whole life constructing a facade that would allow us to pass normalcy.
We become hyper-vigilant and cautious, picking up the smallest negative social clues so that we could edit our behaviors accordingly.
Since our vibrancy and excitements were met with nothing but blind stares or puzzlement, we realised sharing makes us lonelier than not sharing.
The minute our achievement sticks out, it gets chopped down, so we learn never to reach high.
Opportunities became threats, and we self-sabotage before anyone could destroy us.
When we were small, belonging meant pleasing our parents.
Since we were dependent on them for survival, we were frightened of even the slightest risk of abandonment.
We learned to silence ourselves and minimize our needs.
When we were teenagers, belonging meant adapting ourselves to the environment.
We did everything we could to be accepted, to not be bullied, teased, or rejected by the group.
From a tender age, we learned the horror of being ostracized.
Entering adulthood, we went at length to build a socially-approved version of ourselves. We are not even aware of how many cultural shoulds we have taken in, and how much we have invested on a path that is not ours: the corporate job, the glamorous relationship, a well-endorsed extraverted personality, following what our siblings and peers do, winning through conventional success and recognition.
Our facade started as a means to survive, but somehow it overstayed its time and became the only thing we know.
Like a fish cannot see water, we have forgotten where we have come from.
We thought we could protect ourselves by playing small, but stifling our soul comes with huge costs:
The constant inner conflicts;
Feeling confused about our identities and desires;
Not being able to take in joy and pleasure;
Unable to continue on the path that we have been on;
Waking up every day depressed and unmotivated;
Doubting our relationships and becoming increasingly intolerant of others;
Existential guilt for whether we are living life to its fullest;
Fearing we are letting our life slip through without living it.
We are depressed because we have denied our soul’s truths.
We feel empty and numb because our soul has gone into hiding.
We are like wild animals trying to domesticate ourselves, trading our natural exuberance for the crowd’s approval.
To break free, we must learn to see the differences between true belongingness and false belongingness.
False belongingness is gained by drowning our needs to win social approval.
By silencing our truths to make others feel comfortable.
By hiding our gifts to trade popularity for real respect.
True belongingness looks nothing like that.
Being seated in our true home offers deep contentment and tranquillity.
It is the opposite of a roller coaster ride of social anxiety, perfectionism, and fear of rejection.
With true belongingness, we feel safe.
When we love only parts of us and reject others’ self-criticism, inability to forgive oneself, guilt, and envy could seep in through the cracks.
True belonging is embracing the fullness of who we are and rejecting none of it.
At the core, we find a deep friendship and sacred communion with oneself.
No matter what happens in the wild and precarious world, we have our own back.
We have the capacity to be alone — to have fun in a party of one, to seek support in a tribe of one, and to feel loved in a community of one.
Only when we have found home within ourselves could we be ready for genuine belongingness in the world.
By accepting ourselves fully, we earn self-esteem and self-respect. Then, we know where our boundaries are, who to invite in or keep out.
When we come to see how finite our time is in this world, we honor our own truths more than the mere need for fusion with the mass.
Deep down, we know that the most threatening thing in life is not that others would abandon us, but that we abandon ourselves.
Some of the most important endeavors in life are to peel off layers of social conditioning and find our true self, become our own best friend, parent, guardian. and to preserve the dignity of our soul at all cost.
Return home to you, your soul is waiting for you.
Imi Lo is an award-winning mental health professional, a psychotherapist, art therapist, coach, and author of the book Emotional Intensity and Sensitivity. Her mission is to inspire intense, sensitive and gifted individuals to rise from being the ‘misfits’ to being the leaders of the world. Leaving home at a young age, Imi has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, the USA and the UK. She has been a suicide counselor, social worker, artist, mindfulness teacher, Yoga instructor, holistic healer, art therapist, psychotherapy trainer, and lecturer. She has also enjoyed an art model career, during which she toured around the world. Her work reflects her passion for the emotional and existential themes that connect people. She founded Eggshell Therapy and Coaching, where she works with intense people around the world. She also owns over a thousand Japanese comics, and eats broccoli every day.