This past spring, I had the pleasure of participating in the Belonging Matters Conversations for Leaders series. Beyond the immense joy I gained from collaborating with brilliant leaders across a variety of sectors, I learned some key skills in developing and maintaining my sense of belonging. One such skill included developing a sense of inner safety so that no matter what type of situation I am in, I always feel safe within myself.  

In the Belonging Matters framework, we spent a great deal of time discussing how to cultivate a sense of belonging, both within ourselves and within our communities. We discovered that a sense of belonging is key if we wish to make long-lasting social change, both within our communities and the world at large.

Belonging for us (my cohort) meant that:

  • We can be our authentic selves with others.
  • We feel grounded in the world around us and have purpose and direction in our lives.
  • We feel inner strength and peace with ourselves and others.
  • We are in the right place at the right time with the right people.
However, creating a sense of belonging is only one part of this work. I learned that we must also develop skills that maintain our sense of belonging, especially in situations where our values clash with others.

What I have discovered from the Belonging Matters Conversations for Leaders series is that to maintain a sense of belonging, I must first create a sense of inner safety within myself. Inner safety is what we draw from when we feel disjointed from the world around us or when we feel our values have clashed with others.

Creating inner safety works towards building positive mental health & well-being. Of course, creating inner safety will look different for everyone, but below are some of the lessons I have learned during my time with my leaders’ cohort.

How do I create inner safety?

Here are 5 tips that have helped me develop a sense of inner safety within myself:

#1 Create boundaries.

Know your expectations for the relationships you have and clearly express your limitations with the people in your life. Healthy boundaries help others know what to expect from you and how they are expected to treat you.

#2 Know your trigger points.

Get to know your own triggers and develop strategies for how you will deal with them when they come up. It is valid to feel the emotions you feel when you are triggered; however, it is still your responsibility to choose an appropriate way to respond and not unload your emotions onto others.

#3 Know that you are enough.

You are enough. Full stop.

#4 Take care of the body, not just the mind.

Take care of your body. As a society, we spend a lot of time focusing on our minds and our emotions, but don’t forget to take care of your body as well. Go outside for a walk, do a bit of light yoga in your living room, stand up and walk around the office every few hours. Taking a few minutes to focus on your body helps your mind focus and think clearly.
I am enough

#5 Create your own story.

You are the creator of your own story. When we face difficult situations, we must choose how we want to respond. By focusing on being the person we want to be (instead of the person someone else might assume we are), we take control of our own story. When we shift our focus and create our own story, we frame ourselves through the lens of opportunity; that is, we get to choose how we want to be in the world.

Inner safety & more... Next steps:

These are just a few of the valuable skills I learned during my time with the Belonging Matters Conversations for Leaders cohort. There are many more lessons to be learned and many more valuable connections to be made. If you are curious about these lessons and the many others you can learn in this course, join a Belonging Matters Conversation today!
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About the Author

Karlie Tessmer

Karlie Tessmer is a Master’s student in the department of anthropology and sociology at Simon Fraser University. She currently studies the impacts of COVID-19 on families with school-aged children who live in social housing. Karlie works as a research assistant on several projects including how young people imagine kinship formation in light of climate crises, how parents are coping during the COVID-19 pandemic, how policy changes have impacted Inuit housing in Nunavut, and how the City of New Westminster implements decolonization efforts in their heritage and commemorative practices and policies.

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