A sense of community is something everyone craves. From birth until death having connection with others fulfills a basic human need. Everyone wants to be loved. Each human being wants to belong somewhere. Those who are isolated with no sense of community usually do not do well.
Being part of a group of like-minded people means you have a home.
Throughout your life you will belong to many communities. Your first community was likely your family. The next was likely your school friends, the peer circles you encounter as you travel though the different levels of your education.
As an adult, you’ll be part of different communities because of work, a common interest, a lifestyle choice, political views, or a spiritual affiliation.
But all communities have one thing in common.
All Communities Have Their Own Rules
As your communities come and go, you’ll discover every community has its laws. They may be somewhat flexible or they may be very strict. They may seem arbitrary or unreasonable but whatever the character of the laws, if you break one of them, you’ll have no doubt of what they are.
Everything from your style of dress to a particular view of the way the world works can be part of branding one a member of a community.
And this is all good as long as your individual development runs parallel to the laws of the community. But what happens when you have to sacrifice what you need to grow personally in order to belong? What happens when you have to make the choice to leave the security the community offers you as a member?
When you know it’s time to go?
I experienced leaving my community years ago, continue to experience in various ways, and it’s what I want to explore here.
Groucho Marx famously said he wouldn’t want to be part of any club that would have him as a member.
But let’s set aside the kidding and examine what happens the moment you first become aware that to follow your own destiny, you must make the very painful decision to leave your current community.
First Comes an Awareness You No Longer Belong
The awareness that you no longer belong will sneak into your consciousness like a shy creature unused to human contact.
You’ll notice an uneasiness, or you start to have uncomfortable thoughts. You may refuse to see or admit there’s anything wrong for a time because you know it would signal big changes.
But what’s on the line here is your birthright and your responsibility to know yourself as you truly are and to know the true vision for your life.
You will begin to question the rules of the community. Whose rules are they? Are you living out those rules even though they go against the grain? Did you have a say in creating them or did you ‘go along’?
Are you staying in the community only because you fear the consequences of leaving?
The minute you’re aware enough to question the laws, you’ve begun the process of moving on. How deeply you continue with that process depends on how much you’re willing to risk.
Acknowledging You No Longer Fit In the Community
When it’s no longer possible to grow as individuals within the community, it’s time to acknowledge you must move on without them. Moving on can take days, months or sometimes even years. It may be particularly difficult for women to face being on their own.
Leaving is not merely a geographical separation although that certainly may be part of it. Leaving is an emotional separation, because as soon as you let the community know your intention, you’ll discover in many cases they are not cheering you on. In fact there could well be active disapproval and overt attempts to keep you from leaving.
This is another sign it’s time to leave.
There’s a familiar story that illustrates one of the negative aspects of leaving a community. When multiple crabs are put into a large metal pot without a lid, they won’t escape. The lid is not necessary because as one crab tries to climb the wall of the pot and escape, the others pull it back down.
How the Community May Attempt to Keep You From Leaving
A human community can be much more subtle than crabs in a pot. What form will their resistance take? They’ll withdraw their approval or emotional support. They’ll try to make you believe you’re making a big mistake. Most importantly, you’ll no longer have access to inside information or be part of the inner circle who are ‘in the know’.
Even though in their deepest being they may long to stand on their own, for many the cost is just too high. Their trying to hold you back is the perfect way of saying, “If I can’t, then you can’t either.”
Making the choice to leave a community behind can seem like the loneliest and most difficult thing you’ll ever do.
But once you know, you will find the courage because the cost of staying is too high.
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The Courage to Leave What’s Familiar
Does leaving mean you’re doomed to walk alone? This is a big fear for women. There may indeed be a period of time when you feel very alone. Finding your true self may mean changing jobs, losing your circle of friends through divorce, or moving across the country. But like will always be attracted to like, and given time, you will find your belonging again.
It’s absolutely possible to engage deeply with others who will give you that sense of belonging and who will at the same time, bestow on you the blessing to go out into the world and try your wings. Nay, they will do more.
They’ll encourage you as you file your flight plan. They will stand and cheer as you spread your wings for each solo flight.
If you have temporary setbacks, they’ll soothe you and encourage you to try again. They will applaud and welcome you back when you return from your flight. Most importantly, they will want the challenge of flying themselves and the comfort of returning home.
When your desire to belong and your desire to become are aligned, you will know you’ve found your community.
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