Kelly Foreman Founder, Owner, and Creative Genius behind MopTop Junk-Free Haircare Last week I blogged about the primal need humans feel to connect and “belong”. I have continued to reflect on this concept over the past several days, especially at a time of year when there are so many gatherings and so much emphasis put on being a part of the festivities – whether it’s family, friends, neighbors or colleagues. But as we all know, what may appear to be jolliness from the outside can sometimes mask a sense of isolation, a lack of belonging, a low self-worth. For this reason, I am moved to revisit this topic and share a bit more of my own story. When I was a child of 9 or 10, I remember having a conversation with a grown-up about my appearance. This is an age when you become more aware of who you are and how you belong or fit in. I asked this person, “Do you think I’m pretty?” and did not receive an answer, so I asked again, as young kids will do. “Do you think I’m pretty?” A long pause followed, and then the answer: “You’re a natural kind of pretty, not model pretty." Translation: you are NOT pretty! I was crushed. As a girl, I thought looks defined me. Let’s be honest – we all want to be pretty, and as much as we say, “You’re beautiful, exactly the way you are created,” we tend not to believe that deep down when someone says it to us. By that point in my youth, the mean girls had already started to circle and even some boys had started to chip away at me and who I thought I was. The hair-related name-calling had also begun. “Fuzzy, Brillo, Poodle… MopTop”. I decided I would focus instead on other things – school and kickball, and the freedom of running. I was not great, but at least I felt I was better off there than on the scorecard of what I thought I looked like. My mother was BEAUTIFUL, and where ever we went she drew appreciative looks. My father was also handsome. I felt out of sync in my own family. And once I started listening to the mean girls and boys, I felt I did not fit in at school either. It’s tough to be sorted and judged on something you have no control over, and which the world places so much value and worth on. It wasn’t until I was older and more experienced, and less reliant on others to tell me how I should feel about myself that I was able to find true belonging, in my own skin, and on my own terms. And it wasn’t based on outer appearances – it was based on character traits – integrity, courage, humility, imagination, inventiveness, bravery, kindness. Last week I also introduced you to Brene Brown , a research professor at the University of Houston and prolific author, who has spent the past 16 years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. One excerpt from her book “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone” especially resonated with me. “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” (Brown, p. 40) I have sought the sense of belonging for a long time. (For me, it has often revolved around hair!) I believe people make choices in life based on HOW they feel about themselves. Everyone is on a journey and when they are able to embrace who they are created to be, then and only then can they hear that they truly are BEAUTIFUL exactly the way they are created, and that they’ve always belonged. I'll leave you with a beautiful thought from Maya Angelou: “You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” Embrace your natural beauty!