Fireside: Acceptance and Belonging

It was full house again as Dwelling community members and newcomers streamed into the cafe, filling up the space with lively chatter as they eagerly got back in touch with familiar faces and made new friends. And with a quick introduction from Julia, our discussions for the topic went into full swing!

Fueled with questions from the Question Bucket and those new to Dwelling, we broke into smaller groups to tackle issues such as self-acceptance, belonging in a group, rejection, and the necessity of acceptance. We agreed that obtaining acceptance from others required us to accept ourselves first. That put those of us struggling with self-acceptance in quite a fix because some of us realized that we rely on the acceptance and approval of others to accept ourselves. We also saw that acceptance within a group happens when people have things in common which unites them and holds them together. Still someone shared with us how he was even more surprised to find acceptance in a group when he was more himself instead of trying to be like others. So just what is a healthy relationship to acceptance then? And one person asked, “Do we even need it?”

To address that, one group agreed that acceptance is necessary but only when it is required for a specific objective for what we want to achieve, like when we need to be recognized for career advancement, or chosen to lead a group, or build better teamwork. But what if we have to build rapport with someone who doesn’t listen to us, or worse still, rejects us? One of the guests mentioned Steven Covey’s Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence from his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. He mentions that there are things we cannot do anything about (our Circle of Concern) but we can focus on the things we can control (our Circle of Influence), and work towards making things better. Yet, another question was brought up. Strategies to tackle the issue aside, is it really true that that someone wouldn’t listen to us, and under what circumstances was that the situation? We found that upon examination, it required more understanding, clarity and awareness of the different perspectives of that situation before we could move on to determining what we could be responsible for. In another group, the issue of who to go into a relationship with was brought up. Whichever way, someone would get hurt and face rejection. Not wanting to hurt others sometimes puts us in difficult situations of compromise or sacrifice so much so that we get confused about what we really want in relationships. But knowing who we are and what we want is precisely what we need to make choices in life with clarity.

With acceptance from others in mind, that led us to wonder how concerned we really were about acceptance from various people. Interestingly, a group of introverts said that they couldn’t care less about obtaining acceptance from strangers because they wouldn’t even remember who they were after they parted. However, they would be concerned about how they behaved in a group of strangers with a close friend or loved one around because they were worried about how he or she might judge them. It was quite clear that we change our behavior in the presence of different people.

Another group questioned if going against the norm and risking rejection was sometimes a better thing, since herd mentality often discourages new thinking and tall poppies get cut down. Some people identified with such situations where they spoke up and that caused them to be outcast by a group. Was it worth it? At some level, we thought it was if we stood on sound principles.

So that led to one of the questions in the Question Bucket: “How can I be the ‘real’ me while putting on different personas needed for different situations?” That brought out a slew of questions: Are you your real self when you’re alone? Is there even a real self or is it just alignment within yourself? Some of us felt a reliable indicator would be when we start straying from values that are important to us. Another felt that the concern about ‘real self’ was overhyped because there is no such thing. There’s more to acceptance than meets the eye! What do you think?

We wrapped up our discussions by crystallizing what we got out of the session. Our guests were grateful to hear different perspectives about acceptance because it provided them with higher vantage points. The session made us realize that others have their own acceptance issues too and we could just be real. Someone was intrigued by how people had their own reactions and perspectives about situations, and that only self-awareness and consciousness could bring us closer to the truth of what is.