January 3, 2012


It's human nature to want to be liked and to belong. This is something with which I struggle. I want people to like me--in fact, to love me. I want this from my family, friends, students,  and colleagues. Yet when I push for this--that is, external affirmations rather than internal centeredness--I lose sight of my authenticity.

In his book, The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer openly talks about a class where he fervently tried to engage one particular student; and in doing so, he lost his focus and the bigger-picture of learning. He lost the entire class by focusing on being liked by one student. Such is the human condition. And, as a teacher who really wants my students to learn (and to respect and like me!), I can relate.

Recently I read an interview with Desmond Tutu. When asked about the trait he least likes about himself: the fact that he loves to be loved. Yes, that external validation is SO alluring. Our egos can turn it into the reality--the thing for which we must strive. But, when we constantly search  for okay-ness outside of ourselves, we actually lose our connection. That is, authentic connection is a very different thing from belonging.

Connection comes from a deep self-awareness that we are okay just the way we are. When we are connected (to others & to ourselves), we believe in our basic goodness. When we long to be loved, we doubt our basic goodness. True connection is filling; the search for belonging is depleting.

Every day, I walk the path between wanting to be loved and knowing in my heart I am okay. When I'm mindful, I fully understand that trusting my authentic self actually leads to more connection, more learning, more loving, & more happiness. I know this in my heart, yet I must continue to remind myself. Such is the life path--a path on which I'm grateful to travel, and on which I know I have much (connected) company.


  1. I love the ambivalence of the opening picture. Do the socks belong? They are both argyles, BUT they do not match. Excellent visual selection to open the comments with!

  2. Somehow I have spent most of the afternoon revisiting your blog, Joy! Upon rereading this one, I am struck by a memory of one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament. As usual, I cannot quote the reference exactly, but one of the major players in the Old Testament is told by God to deliver a message to the people. So the person (Moses?) asks God, "Whom shall I say sent me?" God replies, " Say 'I Am' sent you."

    That is true authenticity! The I Am without which there is no other is certainly an interesting way to think about God. But each of us, in a small way is an 'I am.' We may not have all the capabilities of a god, but we ARE. And thus we are authentic. We just have to find that 'I am' within ourselves and cherish it.

  3. Yes, each of us is an "I am," just as each of us is the Buddha. Yet it takes great wisdom, mindfulness, and kindness to recognize and live from the I-am/Buddha, rather than the ego chatter in our minds. Difficult, yet incredibly rewarding work.